Wednesday, December 4, 2013

This Day in History: Dec 4, 1872: The mystery of the Mary Celeste

 File:Mary Celeste as Amazon in 1861.jpg

The Dei Gratia, a small British brig under Captain David Morehouse, spots the Mary Celeste, an American vessel, sailing erratically but at full sail near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was seaworthy, its stores and supplies were untouched, but not a soul was onboard.

On November 7, the brigantine Mary Celeste sailed from New York harbor for Genoa, Italy, carrying Captain Benjamin S. Briggs, his wife and two-year-old daughter, a crew of eight, and a cargo of some 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol. After the Dei Gratia sighted the vessel on December 4, Captain Morehouse and his men boarded the ship to find it abandoned, with its sails slightly damaged, several feet of water in the hold, and the lifeboat and navigational instruments missing. However, the ship was in good order, the cargo intact, and reserves of food and water remained on board.

The last entry in the captain's log shows that the Mary Celeste had been nine days and 500 miles away from where the ship was found by the Dei Gratia. Apparently, the Mary Celeste had been drifting toward Genoa on her intended course for 11 days with no one at the wheel to guide her. Captain Briggs, his family, and the crew of the vessel were never found, and the reason for the abandonment of the Mary Celeste has never been determined.

con tàu ma

More taken from Wikipedia:

 File:Mary Celeste engraving.jpg

The Mary Celeste (or Marie Céleste as it is fictionally referred to by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others after him) was a British-American merchant brigantine famous for having been discovered on 4 December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean, unmanned and apparently abandoned (one lifeboat was missing, along with its crew of seven), although the weather was fine and her crew had been experienced and capable seamen.
The Mary Celeste was in seaworthy condition and still under sail heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. She had been at sea for a month and had over six months' worth of food and water on board. Her cargo was virtually untouched and the crew's personal belongings were still in place, including valuables. None of those on board was ever seen or heard from again, and their disappearance is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time.

The question of why the crew left the Mary Celeste has been the subject of much speculation. Theories range from natural causes (alcohol fumes, underwater earthquakes, waterspouts) to human actions (piracy, mutiny, errors of judgment) to paranormal explanations (extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects (UFOs), sea monsters, and the Bermuda Triangle, although the ship is not known to have sailed through that area of the Atlantic).


The Mary Celeste, with a history of misfortune, was said to be "cursed" even before she was discovered derelict with no apparent explanation, a classic ghost ship. In 1885, the Mary Celeste was destroyed when her last owner intentionally wrecked her off the coast of Haiti in an attempt to commit insurance fraud.

Early history

The Mary Celeste was a 282-gross ton brigantine. She was built by the shipbuilder Joshua Dewis in 1861 as the ship Amazon at the village of Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia. She was the first vessel of many larger vessels to be built at the Spencers Island ship yard. Amazon was owned by a group of eight investors from Cumberland County and Kings County, Nova Scotia, led by Dewis, and William Henry Bigalow, a local merchant.[2] The Amazon was registered at the nearby Nova Scotia town of Parrsboro, the closest local port of registry.
The Amazon's first captain, Robert McLellan, son of one of the owners,[6] contracted pneumonia nine days after taking command, and he died at the very beginning of her maiden voyage. He was the first of three captains to die aboard her.[7] John Nutting Parker, the next captain of the Amazon, struck a fishing boat, and had to steer her back to the shipyard for repairs. At the shipyard, a fire broke out in the middle of the ship. Her first trans-Atlantic crossing was also disastrous for her next captain, after she collided with another vessel in the English Channel near Dover, England. This resulted in the dismissal of the new captain.
After this inauspicious beginning, the brigantine had six profitable and uneventful years under her Nova Scotian owners. She travelled to the West Indies, Central America and South America, and transported a wide range of cargoes. In 1867, the ship ran aground during a storm off Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. After she was salvaged, she was sold for $1,750 to Richard Haines of New York, and was repaired at a cost of $8,825.03.
In 1868, Amazon was transferred to the American registry, and the following year was renamed the Mary Celeste.[8] The new owners' intention was to take her across the Atlantic and make a profit trading with the Adriatic ports.
The ownership of this sailing ship was divided into 24 shares, owned by four partners:[9]

Disappearance of crew



While waiting in New York City for a cargo of raw alcohol to be delivered to the Mary Celeste, Captain Benjamin Briggs wrote a letter to his mother in Marion, Massachusetts, who was caring for Briggs' seven-year-old son Arthur. Briggs' wife Sarah and their two-year-old daughter Sophia would accompany him on the voyage. The letter, dated November 3, 1872, revealed his optimism.

On November 5, 1872, under command of Captain Briggs, the Mary Celeste docked on New York City's East River and took on board a cargo of 1,701 barrels of commercial alcohol intended for fortifying Italian wines on behalf of Meissner Ackermann & Co. It was worth about $35,000; the ship and cargo together were insured for $46,000. The Mary Celeste then set sail from Staten Island for Genoa, Italy.[citation needed]

In addition to her captain and a crew of seven, she carried the captain's wife, who had sailed with her husband many times, and their two-year-old daughter. Thus ten people were aboard. Briggs had spent most of his life at sea, and had captained at least five ships and owned many more. The crew for this voyage included a Dane and four Germans, all of whom spoke fluent English, had exemplary records, and were considered experienced, trustworthy and capable seamen. The first mate and cook were Americans.[citation needed]

Before the Mary Celeste left New York, Captain Briggs spoke with an old friend, David Reed Morehouse, from Nova Scotia, who was captain of the Canadian merchant ship Dei Gratia, also a brigantine. Briggs, Morehouse, and their wives had dinner together on the evening of November 4.[10] Briggs and Morehouse had served together as sailors when they were young. During the conversation, they discovered they had a similar course across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean.[citation needed]

However, Morehouse was still waiting for his cargo to arrive when the Mary Celeste left port on November 5. Morehouse's cargo eventually arrived and on November 15, the Dei Gratia finally set off with 1,735 barrels (275.8 m3) of petroleum in her hold. The Dei Gratia left New York harbor seven days after the Mary Celeste (some sources say eight days later).[11]



Sporadic bad weather had been reported in the Atlantic throughout October, although the Dei Gratia encountered none and her journey across the ocean in November was uneventful. Just short of a month after leaving port, on December 4, 1872 (some accounts state December 5, which is the equivalent date in nautical days), at approximately 13:00, the helmsman of the Dei Gratia, John Johnson, sighted a ship about five miles (8 km) off their port bow through his spyglass. The position of the Dei Gratia was approximately 38°20′N 17°15′WCoordinates: 38°20′N 17°15′W, some 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Portugal.


Johnson's keen, experienced eyes detected almost at once that there was something strangely wrong with the other vessel. She was yawing slightly, and her sails did not look right, being slightly torn. Johnson alerted his second officer, John Wright, who looked and had the same feelings about her. They informed the captain. As they moved closer, they saw the ship was the Mary Celeste. Captain Morehouse wondered why the Mary Celeste had not already reached Italy, as she had a head start on his own ship. According to the account given by the crew of the Dei Gratia, they approached to 400 yards (366 metres) from the Mary Celeste and cautiously observed her for two hours. She was under sail, yet sailing erratically on a starboard tack, and slowly heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. They concluded she was drifting after seeing no one at the helm or even on deck, though the ship was flying no distress signal.[12][13]


Oliver Deveau, chief mate of the Dei Gratia, boarded the Mary Celeste. He reported he did not find anyone on board, and said that "the whole ship was a thoroughly wet mess". There was only one operational pump, two apparently having been disassembled, with a lot of water between decks and three and a half feet (1.1 m) of water in the hold. However, the ship was not sinking and was still seaworthy.[12]


All of the ship's papers were missing, except for the captain's logbook. The forehatch and the lazarette were both open, although the main hatch was sealed. The ship's clock was not functioning, and the compass was destroyed; the sextant and marine chronometer were missing. The only lifeboat on the Mary Celeste, a yawl located above the main hatch, was also missing. The peak halyard, used to hoist the main sail, had disappeared. A rope, perhaps the peak halyard, was found tied to the ship very strongly and the other end, very frayed, was trailing in the water behind the ship.[12]
Popular stories of untouched breakfasts with still-warm cups of tea on the cabin table are untrue and most likely originated with fictionalized accounts of the incident.[14] At the inquiry, Oliver Deveau stated that he saw no preparations for eating and there was nothing to eat or drink in the cabin.[citation needed]
Deveau returned to his ship and reported to the captain. Two men, Charles Augustus Anderson and Charles Lund, then boarded the Mary Celeste. The cargo of 1,701 barrels of alcohol Deveau reported was in good order. However, when it was eventually unloaded in Genoa, nine barrels were found to be empty.[11]
A six-month supply of uncontaminated food and fresh water was still aboard, and the crew's personal possessions and artifacts were left untouched, making a piracy raid seem extremely unlikely. It appeared the vessel had been abandoned in a hurry. There was no sign of a struggle, or of any sort of violence.[11]

Admiralty inquiry

As Dei Gratia was a Canadian vessel of British registry, Captain Morehouse sailed the Dei Gratia to Gibraltar; his first mate Oliver Deveau sailed the Mary Celeste to the same destination, arriving a week-and-a-half later. An investigation was held in the Vice Admiralty Court in Gibraltar to determine the circumstances of the Mary Celeste and apportion marine salvage rights.[citation needed]
During the sitting of the Vice Admiralty Court, the judge praised the crew of the Dei Gratia for their courage and skill. The Attorney General of Gibraltar, Frederick Solly-Flood QC, in his role as Queen's Proctor to the court, deemed it necessary to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the vessel and determine the causes of its abandonment in the middle of the ocean. Copies of the several log entries were made. The inquiry lasted three months and attracted media attention worldwide.[citation needed]
The Mary Celeste was visited by John Austin, surveyor of shipping in Gibraltar, assisted by an inspector, John McCabe. A local diver and marine expert named Ricardo Portunato was sent to examine in detail the exterior of the hull on the behalf of the Vice Admiralty Court. Austin discovered what he believed to be a few spots of blood in the captain's cabin, an "uncleaned" ornamental cutlass in Briggs' cabin, a knife (without blood), and a deep gash on a railing that he equated with a blunt object or an axe, but he did not find such a weapon on board. Portunato believed the damage was recent.[citation needed] Part of his testimony reads:
Affidavit of Ricardo Portunato, Diver
In the Vice Admiralty Court of Gibraltar. The Queen in Her Office of Admiralty Ag't. - The Ship or Vessel name unknown supposed to be called the Mary Celeste and her Cargo found derelict.
I, Ricardo Portunato of the City of Gibraltar, Diver make oath and say as follows:
1. I did on Monday the 23rd day of Decbr. last by direction of Thomas Joseph Vecchio Esqr. Marshal of their Honble. Court and of Mr. John Austin Surveyor of Shipping for the port of Gibraltar proceed to a ship or vessel rigged as a Brigantine and supposed to be the Mary Celeste then moored in the port of Gibraltar and under arrest in pursuance of a warrant out of their Honble. Court as having been found derelict on the high Seas for the purpose of examining the State and condition of the hull of the said vessel below her water line and of ascertaining if possible whether she had sustained any damage or injury from a collision or from having struck upon any rock or shoal or otherwise howsoever.
2. I accordingly minutely and carefully examined the whole of the hull of the said vessel and the stern keel, stern post and rudder thereof.
3. They did not nor did any or either of them exhibit any trace of damage or injury or any other appearances whatsoever indicating that the said vessel had had any collision or had struck upon any rock or shoal or had met with any accident or casualty. The hull Stern, [sic] keel Sternpost and rudder of the said vessel were thoroughly in good order and condition.
4. The said vessel was coppered the copper was in good condition and order and I am of opinion that if she had met with any such accident or casualty I shld. have been able to discover and shld. have discovered some marks or traces thereof but I was not able to discover and did not discover any.[15]
Horatio J. Sprague, Consul of the United States in Gibraltar, also wanted an investigation because American citizens were involved in the Mary Celeste incident, and Americans had possibly been murdered. He asked immediately for a visit to the ship by his personal representative, United States Navy Captain R. W. Shufeldt of the frigate USS Plymouth.[12] Shufeldt's brief visit aboard the Mary Celeste led him to challenge the report of his British colleagues. For him, the cuts were mere scratches that could have been caused by anything, and the "traces of blood" did not appear to be so to him, but instead were rust. "Blood" seen on an "uncleaned" sword was also rust according to Sprague and Shufeldt, who conducted scientific tests on it to prove it was rust.[citation needed]
There was no evidence of piracy or foul play, nor of mutiny, struggle or violence. Eventually, the salvagers received payment, amounting to one-sixth of the $46,000 ($733,000 in current money) insurance covering the ship and its cargo, indicating that the authorities were suspicious of the Dei Gratia crew.[11][16] The commercial alcohol aboard the Mary Celeste, being heavily insured, was sailed to Genoa by George W. Blatchford, as originally intended; as previously stated nine barrels were found to be empty on being unloaded.[citation needed]
The results of the commission of inquiry encouraged the authorities in Washington, D.C. to send instructions to all consuls and officers in their ports to report anybody matching the description of Briggs or other crew members of the Mary Celeste, or any group that could have landed sailors belonging to the Mary Celeste. Word was also sent to look for any of the items missing from the Mary Celeste, such as the two pumps or her navigation equipment. No information was reported. Locals at ports in the Azores were questioned, but none was able to provide assistance.[citation needed]

Later history and fate

James Winchester considered selling the Mary Celeste after the mysterious events for which she was now notable. His mind was made up when the vessel claimed the life of his father, Henry Winchester-Vinters, who drowned in an accident in Boston, Massachusetts, when she was brought back to America. Winchester sold the Mary Celeste at an enormous loss. Over the next 13 years, the ship changed hands 17 times. By then, the Mary Celeste was in very poor condition.[citation needed]


Her last captain and owner, identified as G. C. Parker, made no profit whatsoever and deliberately wrecked the Mary Celeste in an attempt to commit insurance fraud in the Caribbean Sea on January 3, 1885. She was loaded with an over-insured cargo of scrap, including boots and cat food. The plan did not work, as the ship failed to sink after being run onto Rochelais reef[18] off the western coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and south of Gonâve Island.[19] Parker then tried to burn the wreck, but even after the fire the vessel remained intact, although the ship's log was destroyed along with Benjamin Briggs' prior entries in it.[citation needed]
Parker then filed an exorbitant claim for a cargo that never existed; a subsequent investigation revealed the fraud.[20] Parker sold the salvage rights for $500, claiming that there were 125 casks of Bass ale on board, 975 barrels of herring and $1000 in cutlery among other items. None of these items were actually on board. The ship and its cargo was insured by five companies for a total of $34,000.[17]
Captain Parker was arrested, and put on trial for barratry (the intentional destruction of a vessel). At the time, the sentence for doing so was death, so despite the clear evidence of the fraud and of Parker's guilt, the jury deadlocked, with five of the twelve jurors refusing to send him to death. Jurors routinely refused to convict people of this crime due to the death penalty, and the law was revised three years later so that it was no longer a capital offense.[17]
Despite Parker's acquittal, nearly everyone indicted for actions related to the shipwreck went bust, and Captain Parker himself died three months later.[17] The partially burnt hulk of the Mary Celeste was deemed beyond repair and she was left to eventually slip off the shoal and sink.[citation needed]
On August 9, 2001, an expedition headed by author Clive Cussler (representing the National Underwater and Marine Agency) and Canadian film producer John Davis along with divers from the Nova Scotian company EcoNova announced that they had found the remains of the brigantine where Parker had wrecked her. A detailed magnetometer survey of the bay, off the Isle de Gonâve, revealed that only one shipwreck was present - and that it had run onto Rochelois Reef with great force. The damaged coral from its impact delineated a battered channel with the wreck firmly set onto the reef. Maritime archaeologist James P. Delgado identified the wreck as Mary Celeste based on the location (Decimal Degree 18.641238, -73.206750), the fact that no other wreck was present in the bay and by analyzing vessel fastenings, ballast, timber, and evidence of the fire. All of the evidence, including a mix of Nova Scotian and New England and Southern U.S. timbers matched the wreck with historical accounts of Mary Celeste.[21]
One researcher has disputed Cussler's claim. Scott St. George of the University of Minnesota and formerly of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona analyzed samples from pine wood fragments recovered from the site in order to reconstruct the year the timber in question was harvested using dendrochronology. Based on this, St. George concluded that the wood was cut from trees still living at least a decade after the Mary Celeste sank,[22] putting the authenticity and identification of this shipwreck in question. St. George's reconstruction of several fragments to assemble a tree ring sequence has also been questioned; the preponderance of evidence is that the wreck lies at the historically documented site of its loss.[citation needed]

Speculation and theories

Since her discovery in 1872, many theories have been proposed to explain the mystery of the Mary Celeste.

Vapor emission from barrels of alcohol

The most plausible explanations are all based on the barrels of alcohol.[11] Captain Briggs had never hauled such a dangerous cargo before, and did not trust it. The idea was put forth by the ship's major shareholder, James Winchester, and is the most widely accepted explanation for the crew's disappearance.
Nine of the 1,701 barrels of alcohol in the hold were later discovered to be empty. They had been made of red oak, not white oak as the others.[11] Red oak is more porous and thus more likely to emit vapor. This would have caused a buildup of vapor in the hold.[11] Poorly secured barrels could rub against each other, and friction between the barrels' steel bands could cause sparks. The possibility of explosion, however remote, might have panicked the crew into abandoning ship.[11]
Historian Conrad Byers believed Captain Briggs ordered the hold to be opened, resulting in a violent rush of fumes and steam. Believing his ship was about to explode, he ordered everyone into the lifeboat, failing to properly secure it to the ship with a strong towline. The wind picked up and blew the ship away from them. Those in the lifeboat would either have drowned or died of hunger, thirst or exposure.
A refinement of this theory was proposed in 2005 by German journalist Eigel Wiese. At his suggestion, Dr Andrea Sella at University College London created a reconstruction of the ship's hold in 2006 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. 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. But none of the paper cubes were damaged, or even scorched. This theory may explain the remaining cargo being found intact and the fracture on the ship's rail, possibly by one of the hold doors. Perhaps this fire in the hold would have been violent enough to scare the crew into lowering the boat, but the flames would not have been hot enough to leave burn marks. “What we created was a pressure-wave type of explosion,” says Dr Sella. “There was a spectacular wave of flame but, behind it, was relatively cool air. No soot was left behind and there was no burning or scorching."[23] Brian Dunning in a Skeptoid podcast on this subject adds, "The ethanol vapors in the Mary Celeste's hold would burn even cooler and quicker than butane, though probably much less dramatically, with a blue or invisible flame, unlike like the butane's yellow flash. But it certainly would have been every bit as alarming to the crew, if it had happened."[24]
A frayed rope trailing in the water behind the ship is suggested as evidence that the crew remained attached to the ship, hoping the emergency would pass. The ship was abandoned while under full sail and a storm was recorded shortly thereafter. 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. This is perhaps the simplest and most convincing explanation that was expounded in a 2008 investigation and television documentary that both featured and satisfied one of the descendants of the original ship's captain.[25]
In recent books, Brian Hicks and Stanley Spicer revived the theory that Captain Briggs opened the hold to ventilate it while becalmed. The release of noxious alcoholic fumes from the hold might have panicked the captain and crew into abandoning ship for the yawl tied to the halyard by an inadequate rope. If this broke with a weather change and consequent wind, then it could easily have explained the sudden and mysterious exit from the ship. Hicks claims that the cargo was a different material, methanol, which is toxic.[citation needed] The records do not support this.[citation needed]
This theory's main flaw is that the boarding party found the main hatch secured.[11] Upon going into the hold they did not report smelling any fumes or vapor, which would have still smelled very powerful by that point if this theory were correct. Nor did people who came aboard at Gibraltar and Genoa report smelling any vapors.[citation needed] There was no evidence of alcohol outside the barrels in the hold. What happened to this missing alcohol from the nine empty barrels is as much a mystery as what happened to the crew, although it could have gone missing at any stage of the journey, from before being put on the ship in New York to after Gibraltar.[citation needed]


One reporter for the New York Times suggested that the Mary Celeste may have fallen victim to an act of piracy, the crew murdered and thrown overboard, as Ottoman pirates had been known to operate in the area.[26] However, there were no signs of violence on the Mary Celeste.[11] Only common navigation equipment was missing; it is unlikely that pirates would fail to remove the cargo or the crew's valuables after killing the crew.


Another theory has suggested there was a mutiny among the crew who murdered a tyrannical Briggs and his family, then escaped in the lifeboat. This theory is strongly discredited by the fact Briggs had no "tyrannical" history to suggest he was the type of captain to provoke his crew to mutiny. By all accounts, he was well respected, fair, and able. First Mate Albert Richardson and the rest of the crew also had excellent reputations and were experienced, loyal seamen.[14]


After the admiralty court proceeding, Solly-Flood proposed that the crew, after consuming the alcohol from the kegs that were recovered empty, murdered the Briggs family in a drunken stupor. The mutinous crew are then presumed to have deliberately damaged the vessel to give the illusion of having been forced to abandon it, then they would have left in a lifeboat.[citation needed]
However, the captain was a teetotaller and unlikely to tolerate drinking on board or a crew inclined to drink alcohol.[14] Once again, there was no trace of struggle or violence aboard the vessel, and the crew had good records.[11]

Premature abandonment

A 2007 Smithsonian television documentary proposed the theory that Briggs became convinced that the ship could not proceed safely to Italy, perhaps when he discovered (by failing to see Europe when expected) that the chronometer was running slow. This might have led him think that he was much farther east than he actually was, and that one of the two bilge pumps was choked with foreign matter (coal dust from a previous cargo, wooden debris dropped by carpenters working on the ship in port, or both) in the bilge water. As a result he may have greatly overestimated how much water was in the bilge. This theory proposes that Briggs, his family and the crew, believing that the bilge pumps indicated that the ship was sinking, departed the ship in the lifeboat and headed for Santa Maria Island at the southeast end of the Azores; en route to Santa Maria the lifeboat sank and never reached shore.[27]

In popular culture

In popular culture, the mystery of the Mary Celeste has been used frequently as an icon by writers of fiction. This can take the form of either direct adaptations of the story, or stories based on the idea of an abandoned ship, inspired by the Mary Celeste incident.
A fictional depiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is credited as popularising the Mary Celeste mystery. In "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", printed anonymously in the January 1884 Cornhill Magazine, Conan Doyle presented his theory on what had happened. Doyle drew very heavily on fact, but included a considerable amount of fiction, calling the ship the Marie Celeste, and claiming that no lifeboats were missing ("The boats were intact and slung upon the davits"). Much of this story's fictional content, and the incorrect name, have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident, and were even published as fact by several newspapers.
In 1913 a purported explanation of the mystery appeared in the monthly fiction magazine, The Strand Magazine, under the title Abel Fosdyk's Story. The account was ostensibly the true story of Abel Fosdyk, sole survivor of the Mary Celeste. It differs in certain respects from the known facts of the case, and is generally accepted to be a literary hoax.
The first film version of the account was the now rare 1935 British film entitled The Mystery of the Marie Celeste (also known as The Phantom Ship). This film presented a non-supernatural explanation of the event.
A 1938 short film entitled The Ship That Died presents dramatizations of a range of theories (mutiny, fear of explosion due to alcohol fumes, and the supernatural).[28]
The 16 November 1954 episode of The Goon Show was titled "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste". It explained that the crew had abandoned the ship because they "knew that one day someone would offer a reward for the solution of the mystery".
The 1956 novel by Hammond Innes is based loosely on the fate of this ship and in 1959 was made into a film, The Wreck of the Mary Deare.
The Doctor Who serial The Chase (1965) suggested that the arrival of time-travelling Daleks caused the terrified crew of the ship to jump overboard.[29] In the 1983 episode Mawdryn Undead, a derelict spaceship is linked to the Mary Celeste.[30]
The 1964 science fiction novel The Great Time Machine Hoax by Keith Laumer explains the mystery as the crew embarking on a "nude swimming party" while becalmed off the Azores.
The 1964 short story "The Mary Celeste Move", by Frank Herbert, entails people suddenly and inexplicably moving out of their homes (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, October 1964).
Two novels by Philip José Farmer, Time's Last Gift (1972) and The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (1973) reveal that an immortal time-traveling Tarzan was on board the Marie Celeste, and that Phileas Fogg (Around the World in Eighty Days) matched wits on the ghost ship Mary Celeste with an alien known as James Moriarty.
In 1990, the Gibraltarian author Sam Benady published Sherlock Holmes in Gibraltar,[31] a set of two short stories set in the pre-Doctor Watson days. In the first one, The Abandoned Brigantine, Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery of the Mary Celeste.
In Search Of..., a late 1970s show narrated by Leonard Nimoy, dedicated a season 4 episode to the mystery of the Mary Celeste. The episode was titled "The Ghost Ship".
In season 1, episode 8, "Guardian of Piri," of the science fiction TV series Space: 1999, (initially broadcast on 13 November, 1975) a pilot is sent from Moonbase Alpha to investigate the disappearance and assumed crash of one of the Eagle transport ships which had been conducting a survey on a passing planet. He reports finding the intact ship, powered down and completely devoid of crew, mysteriously suspended mid-air just above the surface of the planet. Describing his assessment of the abandoned craft to Main Mission [control] via a communicator he states, "Paul, it's a Mary Celeste."
In the 1978 science fiction film Warlords of Atlantis, Benjamin Briggs and his now grown-up daughter (here named "Delphine", contradicting her historical name) are met by the protagonists, suggesting that the crew of the Mary Celeste was kidnapped by denizens of mythological Atlantis to serve as slaves.
The first episode of Sapphire & Steel (1979) mentions the Mary Celeste as a previous case that was worked on. They state that she was sunk, but then the boy says that can't be correct because she was found floating with no crew, and the reply is that the "real" one was sunk.
The 1990 remake of the film Night of the Living Dead shows the name "M. Celeste" on the front door of the farm house in which the film takes place. In the film, the house mirrors the mythology of the ship in many ways.
In Stephen King's novella The Langoliers (1990), a group of sleeping air passengers wake up and discover that there is no-one else on the flying plane. On board, they are able to find goods belonging to those who have disappeared: purses, expensive clocks, half eaten food and even things apparently coming from inside the body (e.g. a pacemaker). One of the characters compare their situation to the Mary Celeste.
In 1996, Hanna-Barbera's The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest features the episode "In The Wake of the Mary Celeste", in which the Quest team discovers the wreckage and learns that its disappearance was caused by strange glowing lights from the depths of the sea dragging it down after the ship was taken over by its crew in a mutiny.
In the 2002 movie Ghost Ship, the captain tells an abbreviated story of the Mary Celeste (though he says she left Charleston and made it past Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, to be boarded by fishermen).
In Terry Pratchett's book, Pyramids, one of the annotations mentions the Marie Celeste as one of the dimensional abnormalities that Nature hates.
In Peter Hamilton's book, "Pandora's Star", an alien known as the Starflyer is believed to be based in a derlict ancient spacecraft (the Marie Celeste) which crashed on the planet Far Away.
In Dean Koontz's novel Phantoms, one of the characters mentions Mary Celeste finding their neighbours house eerily empty although the food in the table was still warm.[32]


At Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia, the Mary Celeste and her lost crew are commemorated by a monument at the site of the brigantine's construction and by a memorial outdoor theatre built in the shape of the vessel's hull.[33] The ship's origins and fate are explored in an exhibit at the nearby Age of Sail Heritage Centre. At the hometown of Benjamin Briggs in Marion, Massachusetts, the Sippican Historical Society maintains a permanent Mary Celeste exhibit with artifacts from the brigantine's final voyage.[34]


  • 1861: Amazon built in Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 1867: Driven ashore in a storm in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia
  • 1869: Salvaged, repaired, and sold to an American owner. Renamed Mary Celeste
  • 1872: Set sail from New York City to Genoa, Italy on November 7
  • 1872: Last entry in captain's logbook dated November 24
  • 1872: Last entry on ship's slate dated November 25
  • 1872: Ship found abandoned on December 4
  • 1885: Ship wrecked on reef captained by Parker on January 3
  • 2001: Remains of wreck re-discovered off coast of Haiti (disputed)


Taken from: [04.12.2013]

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