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Mary Celeste

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Author Topic: Mary Celeste  (Read 1099 times)
Tiffany Rossette
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« on: August 14, 2007, 09:03:48 pm »

Fateful Voyage


On November 7, 1872, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, the ship picked up a cargo of industrial alcohol shipped by Meissner Ackermann & Coin and set sail from Staten Island, New York to Genoa, Italy. In addition to the captain and a crew of seven, she carried two passengers, the captain's wife, Sarah E. Briggs (née Cobb), and two-year-old daughter, Sophia Matilda, making 10 people in all.

On December 4, 1872 (some reports give December 5, due to a lack of standard time zones in the 19th century), the Mary Celeste was sighted by the Dei Gratia, commanded by Captain David Reed Morehouse, who knew Captain Briggs. The Dei Gratia had left New York harbour only seven days after the Mary Celeste. Dei Gratia's crew observed her for two hours, under full sail and heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. They concluded that she was drifting, though she was flying no distress signals.

Oliver Deveau, the chief mate of the Dei Gratia, led a party in a small boat to board the Mary Celeste. He found the ship in generally good condition, though he reported that "the whole ship was a thoroughly wet mess." There was only one operable pump, with a lot of water between decks and three-and-a-half feet of water in the hold. The forehatch and the lazarette were both open, the clock was not functioning and the compass was destroyed. The sextant and marine chronometer were missing, and the only lifeboat appeared to have been intentionally launched rather than torn away, suggesting the ship had been deliberately abandoned.

Stories of untouched breakfasts with cups of tea on the cabin table, washing hung out to dry and a cat found asleep on top of the gallery locker are totally without any substance.

The cargo of 1701 barrels of alcohol was intact, though when it was eventually unloaded in Genoa, nine barrels were found to be empty. A six-month supply of food and water was aboard. All of the ship's papers, except the captain's logbook, were missing. The last log entry was dated November 24 and placed her 100 miles west of the Azores. The last entry on the ship's slate showed her as having reached the island of Santa Maria in the Azores on November 25th.

Crewmen from the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar where, during a hearing, the judge praised them for their courage and skill. However, admiralty court officer Frederick Solly Flood turned the hearings from a simple salvage claim into a de facto trial of the men of the Dei Gratia, whom Flood suspected of foul play. In the end, the court did award prize money to the crew, but the sum was much less than it should have been, as "punishment" for suspected, but unproved wrongdoing. Captain Morehouse was awarded one fifth of the ship and cargo
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