A British merchant brigantine, Mary Celeste was spotted by crew members of brigantine Dei Gratia, about 400 miles east of the Azores on December 5, 1872in the Atlantic Ocean which was unmanned and abandoned with its one lifeboat missing as well as the crew of eight and two passengers.
Though the weather was perfect and the crew were well experienced with capable seamen, this abandonment seems to be a mystery with no trace of them. Captain Morehouse was surprised to discover that Mary Celeste which had left New York City eight days prior to him and should have reached Genoa, Italy by then had changed course to provide some help to the abandoned vessel and sent a boarding party to the ship.
On arriving on the abandoned ship, they found the ship’s charts below decks scattered about with the belongings of the crewmen in their quarters untouched while the ship’s only lifeboat was found missing and one of the two pumps were disassembled. The ship’s bottom was filled with three and a half feet of water with the cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol untouched. Inspite of having a stock of six month supply of food and water, it seemed that no one had consumed it.
Mary Celeste Set Sail from Staten Island – Genoa, Italy
Mary Celeste, a 282 gross ton brigantine was built in 1861 by shipbuilder, Joshua Dewis, as Amazon at the village of Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia and was the first vessel of several larger vessels to have been built at Spencer’s Island ship yard.
Amazon which was registered at the nearby Nova Scotia town, Parrsboro, being the closest local port of registry to the yard, was owned by an eight investors group from Cumberland County and Kings County of Nova Scotia led by Dewis and William Henry Bigalow who was a local merchant.
Under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, Mary Celeste docked on the East River of New York city on 5 November 1872 taking on board the cargo of barrels of commercial alcohol which was intended for fortifying Italian wine for Meissner Ackermann & Co that was worth around $35,000. The ship along with the cargo was insured for $46,000 and Mary Celeste set sail from Staten Island for Genoa, Italy.
Disappearance of the Crew – Maritime Mystery
As per the accounts gathered by the crew of Dei Gratia, Mary Celeste was observed from 400 yards distance for two hours which was under sail yet sailing on a starboard tack and gradually heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar.
On seeing no one at the helm or on deck, it was concluded that she was drifting though they did not send any distress signal. On approaching the ship, they observed that the ship’s papers besides the captain’s logbook were missing with the fore hatch and the lazarette left open inspite of the main hatch being sealed. Besides this the ship’s clock was also not in working condition and the compass was destroyed.
The sextant and the marine chronometer and the peak halyard which was used to hoist the main sail, were also missing. A rope which could probably be the peak halyard was located and was tied tightly to the ship and its other end was trailing in the water behind the ship though it was much frayed.
It appeared that the ship had been abandoned in a hurry since all the personal possessions of the crew were found untouched, making the piracy raid unlikely. Moreover there were no signs of struggle or violence. None of those on board were seen or heard again and their disappearance is the greatest maritime mystery ever known.
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