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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, 09:06:32 pm »

Speculation

Dozens of theories have been proposed to explain the mystery, ranging from the mundane and plausible to the fantastic.

The most plausible theories are based on the barrels of alcohol. Briggs had never hauled such a dangerous cargo before and did not trust it. Nine leaking barrels would have caused a buildup of vapor in the hold. Historian Conrad Byers believed that Captain Briggs ordered the hold to be opened, resulting in a violent rush of fumes and then steam. Believing the ship was about to explode, Briggs ordered everyone into the lifeboat, in his haste, failing to properly secure the lifeboat to the ship with a strong towline. The wind picked up and blew the ship away from them. The occupants of the lifeboat either drowned or drifted out to sea to die of hunger, thirst and exposure.

A refinement of this theory was proposed in 2005 by German historian Eigel Wiese. At his suggestion, scientists at University College London created a crude construction of the ship's hold to test the theory of the alcohol vapor's ignition. Using butane as the fuel and paper cubes as the barrels, the hold was sealed and the vapor ignited. The force of the explosion blew the hold doors open and shook the scale model, which was about the size of a coffin. Ethanol burns at a relatively low temperature with a flash point of 13 C or 55.4 F. A minimal spark is needed, for example from two metal objects rubbing together. None of the paper cubes were damaged, nor even left with scorch marks. This theory may explain the remaining cargo found intact and the fracture on the ship's rail, possibly by one of the hold doors. This burning in the hold would have been violent and perhaps enough to scare the crew into lowering the boat, but the flames would not have been hot enough to have left burn marks. A frayed rope trailing in the water behind the boat is suggested to be evidence that the crew remained attached to the ship hoping that the emergency would pass. The ship was abandoned while under full sail and a storm was recorded shortly after. It is possible that the rope to the lifeboat parted because of the force from the ship under full sail. A small boat in a storm would not have fared as well as the Mary Celeste.

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