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30 Interesting Mary Celeste Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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30 Interesting Mary Celeste Facts

A seaworthy ship in near perfect condition drifting on it own without any traces of her crew – well, that’s the story of Mary Celeste. Becoming the hallmark of one-of-a-kind mystery, Mary Celeste became the center of heated debate and ironically, none of the parties have own it with a conclusive argument that can be widely accepted. So, this article titled 30 interesting Mary Celeste facts is going to walk you through the line of events that took place in late 19th century and eventually stockpiled to become yet another mystery that remains unsolved to this date!

Interesting Mary Celeste Facts: 1-10

1. Mary Celeste was a 100-foot long brigantine made in Canada. It was originally a British-registered ship with the name Amazon. She was launched on 18th of May, 1861.

2. 7 years later, in 1868, the ship changed hands and went into American registration and ownership. This is when she was renamed as Mary Celeste.

3. For next three years, the ship sailed several times but never had an uneventful year until she set out for sail in 1872, which turned out to be the year of doom for the ship.

4. The ship was originally built to be 25.5 feet in width, 99.3 feet in length and 11.7 feet in depth and had a weight of 198.42 tons.

5. A local consortium of 9 people originally owned the ship. A man named Dewis headed the consortium while one of the partners was by the name Robert McLellan. McLellan was the first captain of the ship.

6. McLellan didn’t stay as her captain for long. He died in June 1861 because of poor health. After his death, John Nutting Parker became the new captain of Amazon. Parker commandeered the ship for two years.

7. Amazon came under the captaincy of William Thompson in 1863 and stayed under his command till 1867.

8. In October 1867, Amazon was hit by a storm at Cate Breton Island and incurred serious damages. Following the event, she was abandoned as a wreck by her owners.

9. A man from Nova Scotia’s Glace Bay by the name of Alexander McBean acquired Amazon as a derelict on October 15 the same year.

10. A local businessman purchased Amazon from McBean in November and the same month next year, the businessman sold the ship to American Mariner named Richard W. Haines for a price of USD 1,750.

Interesting Mary Celeste Facts: 11-20

11. Haines spent USD 8,825 for repair work and declared himself as the captain of the ship. In December 1868, Amazon was registered as an American vessel with Collector of Customs in New York. However, the new registration took place with the new name Mary Celeste.

12. Haines could not retain the ship for long and in 1869, his creditors seized the ship and sold her to a New York consortium. The consortium was headed by James H. Winchester.

13. From 1869 to 1872, the consortium’s composition changed several times however, Winchester continued to hold half-share of the ship.

14. Between 1869 to 1872, Mary Celeste went through a major structural overhaul with its length being increased to 103 feet, its width increased to 25.7 feet and its depth increased to 16.2 feet. The increase in depth allowed addition of a second deck. After the overhaul, the weight of the ship increased to 282.28 tons.

15. By October of 1872, Winchester’s share was reduced to six-twelfth and Benjamin Spooner Briggs became the new captain of the ship. Briggs retained four-twelfths of the share.

16. It was under Briggs command that Mary Celeste was prepped up for her first voyage after the major structural overhaul. Briggs was accompanied by his infant daughter and wife. Briggs carefully selected his crew. Albert G. Richardson was the first mate, Andrew Gilling was the second mate, Edward William Head was the steward and four Germans by the names Boz Lorenzen, Volkert Lorenzen, Gottlieb Goodschaad and Arian Martens were the general seamen.

17. Mary Celeste was tasked with job of carrying a cargo of denatured alcohol from New York to Genoa. Denatured alcohol is poisonous by nature and Mary Celeste had to carry 1,701 barrels of this poisonous substance.

18. Mary Celeste left for the destination on November 7, 1872. 8 days later, Dei Gratia left Gibraltar from Hoboken, New Jersey with a petroleu cargo. Dei Gratia, the British-registered brigantine was commandeered by David Morehouse who was also a very established and well-known seaman like Briggs and both of them knew each other.

19. On December 4, 1872 at around 1 PM (land time) or Thursday December 5 (sea time), Del Gratia was midway between coast of Portugal and Azores when helmsman of Del Gratia reported to Morehouse that a vessel was unsteadily headed towards Del Gratia. It was reported that the other vessel was about 6 miles out from the position of Del Gratia.

20. Morehouse took a look at the vessel and noticed erratic movements. He also noticed that the sails of the vessel were very oddly set. This led Morehouse to immediately conclude that something was not right.

Interesting Mary Celeste Facts: 21-30

21. As the abruptly floating vessel drew closer and closer to Del Gratia, Morehouse noticed that the deck of the vessel was empty and no one could be seen.

22. Morehouse immediately sent his first mate Oliver Deveau and his second made John Wright for investigating the vessel. Deveau and Wright noticed the name ‘Mary Celeste’ on the vessel’s stern and immediately recognized it as the ship that left 8 days prior to Del Gratia’s departure.

23. Both of them climbed up the vessel for investigation but found it completely deserted. The sails were in poor condition with damaged rigging. The lazaret and fore hatches were open while the main hatch was closed.

24. The two men found that the hold had 3.5 feet of water but that wasn’t really a major concern for the ship of that size. They also found that the lifeboat was missing and the daily log recovered from mate’s room had records from November 25th. The last recorded position of Mary Celeste was at Santa Maria Islands – 400 nautical miles from the exact position where Del Gratia met Mary Celeste.

25. Further investigation revealed that the water had entered from skylight and doorways and the cabin of the ship’s mate was untidy and wet. The two men could not find the navigational instruments of captain. They could not find any prepared food or food under preparation but noticed an ample amount of provision stored.

26. Deveau and Wright could not find a single evidence of violence or fire anywhere on the ship. This left them completely baffled. The ship was in seaworthy and could be easily repaired by an onboard crew.

27. Failing to figure out what really happened there on the ship, Morehouse decided to take the ship to Gibraltar which was 600 nautical miles away from the point where the who ships met. Morehouse expected to earn a good share of the salvaged ship and its cargo according to the then maritime laws.

28. Several explanations have been put forward to explain the mysterious fate of Mary Celeste. One of the theories suggested that the crew of Mary Celeste was killed by Del Gratia’s crew so that Morehouse and his crew can grab the salvage earning. This theory was however declined because Del Gratia was slower that Mary Celeste and left harbor 8 days after the doomed vessel. There was absolutely no way Del Gratia could have caught up with Mary Celeste.

29. Another theory blamed everything on seaquakes that were pretty common in Azores. According to David Williams, seaquakes lead to spilling of the cargo substances from 9 out of the total number of barrels which lead to alcoholic fumes. Williams argued that Briggs and his crew expected an explosion and abandoned the ship. However, due to absence of signs of explosion or fire, the theory was discarded.

30. This theory was later revived after an ULC scientist proved that a pressure-wave type explosion can lead to a spectacular flame wave but with a relatively colder air wave following the flame wave can prevent burning or scorching and even soot deposit. Needless to say, despite the amazing demonstration, the theory was not taken as final one because there was no proof to back the theory.

Additional Theories About Mary Celeste Mystery:

1. Some said that Briggs and Morehouse planned the entire thing so that they could collectively enjoy the salvage earnings and in order get away with the entire thing, Briggs decided to vanish with his wife, daughter and the entire crew. This theory was refuted on the grounds, that Briggs left his son behind to stay with his (Brigg’s son) grandmother and never returned to take them along with him.

2. Some said that sea monsters were responsible for the fate of Mary Celeste and argued that a large animal like an octopus might have killed the crew. This theory too was not acceptable because the ship was in a seaworthy condition and any kind of animal attack would have inflicted severe damage to the ship.

3. The German brothers Boz Lorenzen, Volkert Lorenzen took up some heat and come under suspicion because their personal possessions were not found on the vessel. However, this was later dismissed because MacGregor who created a series of investigative documentaries about Mary Celeste said that the German brothers actually lost all their personal belongings in a ship wreck in 1872 and never carried anything with them when they boarded Mary Celeste.

Whatever the case be, the truth is that the mystery of Mary Celeste is yet to be unraveled and no one has any clue regarding the events that led to the mysterious disappearance of the vessel.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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