The Mary Celeste-A Real Life Ghost Ship

The Mary Celeste-A Real Life Ghost Ship

   For the longest time, the ocean has had mysteries associated with it: tales of frightening sea monster attacks, sudden and unexplainable sinkings, supernatural events, and other mystical occurrences. While masses of people are entertained by tales like these that may be mostly fictional, the unexplainable disappearance of the crew aboard the Mary Celeste in 1872 is all too real.

   The ship contained Captain Briggs, his wife Sarah, their two-year-old daughter, first mate Albert G. Richardson, second mate Andrew Gilling, and nine other crewmates. The crew was carefully chosen by Briggs for this voyage, only picking the finest and most seasoned sailors. Briggs, being a former naval captain, knew how treacherous the Atlantic was and wanted a qualified crew. However, he did not account for whatever incident that caused them all to abandon ship.  

   The Canadian vessel Die Gratia had found Mary Celeste floating 400 nautical miles off the Azores Islands on December 4th, 1872 at half-mast. The Canadians observed the deserted ship with its lifeboat missing from its spot aboard the deck. Mary Celeste had left New York state for Genoa, Italy on the 7th of November while carrying 1,700 barrels of denatured alcohol, an ingredient in hand sanitizer. All the cargo, all belongings of the crew, and all the remaining provisions were found to have been undisturbed. An alarming amount of water was located in the hold, 3.5 feet to be exact, a high but not dangerous amount for a ship of her size. 

   The Canadian crew continued to search the ship, discovering the captain’s quarters in an untidy state with several items strewn across the room. A little water had also trickled in from underneath the door, but the room was in relative order considering the circumstances. The daily log was seen in the room with the last date of entry being November 27th, meaning that the crew had abandoned their ship sometime throughout that time frame. After the Canadians did their scouting, they remanned the ship with enough crew members to get her to Gibraltar to search for any evidence that might lead to why the crew had gone overboard. 

   Mary Celeste was inspected by Major-General Sir Frederick Solly-Flood, a senior officer in the British army who had years of experience. During his inspection, he noticed several small cuts that were made inside the ship’s hull and another deeper, bigger cut in a railing. Upon further examination, possible bloodstains were found on the captain’s sword and on a railing aboard the ship. Solly-Flood determined that the crew had gotten drunk from the ship’s shipment of alcohol, murdered the Briggs family, and fled the ship after the killing. However, the type of alcohol aboard the ship has little potency and if consumed in large enough amounts is known to blind or kill. It would have been impossible for the crew to become intoxicated from the alcohol. 

   Many theories were made trying to explain the disappearance of the crew and family aboard including foul play, mutiny, piracy, and potential insurance fraud. However, the undisturbed state in which the crew’s cargo and belongings were found says otherwise. Another theory is that the crew had boarded the lifeboat for fear the ship would have hit an incoming iceberg, but the area of their disappearance was too far south for any iceberg to stay in a solid form. Another thing that weakened this argument is that no other ship had spotted this supposed iceberg. The region of which the ship was discovered had been a busy shipping route with the Azores Islands being a major resupply station for ships taking trans-Atlantic trips. There was also a lack of evidence supporting that a collision was made that would have caused the ship to take on water.

   The only people who knew the real reason why the Briggs family and crew abandoned the ship was the crew and passengers themselves. And if the leading theory is true, that there was indeed foul play, then that would be a secret they took to their watery graves. 

   There are many other mysteries of abandoned “ghost ships” in the world. Whether they become barren due to foul play, piracy, a hungry Kraken, a menacing sea serpent, or freak weather, the ships they once inhabited are determined to complete their journey. With or without their crew.