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The Mystery of Mary Celeste

Updated on April 20, 2012

Mary Celeste

December 4 in 1872 proves to be, until this very day, the greatest maritime mystery of all time upon the discovery of the famous unmanned and abandoned merchant ship Mary Celeste. Built in 1861 as the brigantine Amazon, she has had terrible luck in her early career as three captains had died on board and after it ran aground in 1867 after a bad storm, it was repaired, resold and was renamed the Mary Celeste.

Mystery of Mary Celeste

The mystery of Mary Celeste lies with the condition in which it was found by the crew of brigantine Dei Gratia. Mary Celeste was found drifting towards the Strait of Gibraltar by the captain of Dei Gratia, who knew Mary Celeste was heading towards Italy and wondered why, even after a seven day head start, was caught up by the Dei Gratia. After motioning a crew on board Mary Celeste, it was discovered that while the whole ship was wet, the ship was very much seaworthy.

Mary Celeste

The Mystery of Mary Celeste
The Mystery of Mary Celeste

Rumors that the crew of Mary Celeste could have abandoned the ship in panic after a bad storm was deemed to be unlikely since the crew was made up of experienced seamen. The cargo on board Mary Celeste was found on board; almost untouched and personal possessions of the crew were found, debunking pirate myths. There were damages, however, as the ship’s compass, clock, chronometer and sextant was found to be missing, indicating that the ship could have been abandoned for fears that without its navigation equipment, the Mary Celeste had lost its direction and heading.

The Last Voyage of the Mary Celeste

Over the years, many have speculated on why and how the crew of Mary Celeste had disappeared without a word. Some have speculated the work of pirates but the possessions of Mary Celeste were found to be intact so piracy seemed unlikely. Many believed the crew ran overboard and left the ship as an act of mutiny but the ship’s First Mate and crew were some of the most loyal seamen so it was discarded. Some believed the disappearance of the crew of Mary Celeste could be due to natural disasters such as a freak storm (the ship was found taking a lot of water), an earthquake (seismic activity is known to exist around the Straits of Gibraltar), a waterspout (a freak mini tornado that could explain the mess the ship was in) or a tsunami (crews have been known to be washed overboard during strong tidal waves). In more recent years, the theories to the disappearance of Mary Celeste’s crew have gotten even more bizarre with some speculating the work of aliens, or the Bermuda Triangle.

Whatever the cause of the disappearance was, the Mary Celeste was considered to be bad luck amongst superstitious captains and crews and traded ownership over 15 times in almost 15 years. With its infamous reputation and poor state of condition, its final owner deliberately wrecked Mary Celeste to file an insurance claim but even then, the reputation of Mary Celeste as the most misfortunate ship preceded itself as the ship failed to sink.

Since the fated day on December 4 1872, the Mary Celeste has been the talk of many pirates, captains and crews and has been largely popularized in the media. Perhaps the most popular being the fictional rendition of Mary Celeste written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, other forms of usage of the iconic ship has been of several movies, depicted as part of a horror scene in books and even comic books. However it is depicted in the media, one thing still holds true, the Mary Celeste is still, till this very day, very much a mystery.

Since the fated day on December 4 1872, the Mary Celeste has been the talk of many pirates, captains and crews and has been largely popularized in the media. Perhaps the most popular being the fictional rendition of Mary Celeste written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, other forms of usage of the iconic ship has been of several movies, depicted as part of a horror scene in books and even comic books. However it is depicted in the media, one thing still holds true, the Mary Celeste is still, till this very day, very much a mystery.

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    • jeanihess profile image

      jeanihess 

      6 years ago from Cape Town South Africa

      Lovely:) I played a game based on the Mary Celeste.

    • profile image

      Jocelyn 

      6 years ago

      We are learning about the Mary Celeste it is very interasting.i want to learn more about the mary celest for it is goin to interest me

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Interesting hub and William F. Torpey's comment link was interesting too. I knew of the Mary Celeste but it was a nice reminder of the details. I think I also remember a very old poem about the ship, which I believe a teacher used to introduce the story of the Mary Celeste.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I've heard of the Mary Celeste before, SunSeven, but I enjoyed hearing the whole story. I have a special interest in shipwrecks because my great grandfather died of injuries suffered while attempting to rescue survivors from the Moresby near Dungarvan, Ireland. The story can be found here:

      http://www.waterfordcountymuseum.org/exhibit/web/D...

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