Launched in 1860 under the name Amazon, the Mary Celeste started her ill fated life. In the 10 years before she was to become the Mary Celeste, the ship was involved in several accidents and went through several owners. She was sent to the New York salvage auction where she was purchased for $3,000. After extensive repairs, she was christened Mary Celeste.
|Painting of the Amazon, later christened Mary Celeste|
The new captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife, and young daughter, along with 8 crew members departed New York on November 7, 1872 bound for Genoa, Italy. The cargo consisted of 1700 barrels of raw American alcohol.
|Captain of ill-fated Mary Celeste|
On December 5, 1872, the ship Dei Gratia came upon the Mary Celeste floundering on the sea. The captain of the Dei Gratia knew Captain Briggs and was surprised to see the ship derelict as Briggs had a reputation as an excellent captain. Men from the Dei Gratia boarded the abandoned Mary Celeste to determine what was going on.
The ship was found in good seaworthy condition. It appeared as though the crew had left in a great hurry. They discovered that the chronometer and sextant were missing. There was water between the decks and the Galley was in bad shape. The stove was knocked out of place and cooking utensils were strewn about. There were no lifeboats aboard the ship and everything was soaked. A rope was found hanging over the side of the ship trailing in the water.
The crew from the Dei Gratia managed to get the Mary Celeste into port. When the cargo was unloaded, they found 9 of the barrels of alcohol empty.
What happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste? Some feel that the cargo became unstable and that the captain decided to trail behind the ship in the lifeboat until such time that it was safe to board. However, for some reason, the ship outdistanced the lifeboat leaving the crew helpless on the sea.
Another theory involves foul play. However, no evidence was ever found to prove that. Still others think that the ship was caught in the middle of a seaquake. And still others claim the crew was eaten by sharks during a swim.
Whatever the reason, the story of the Mary Celeste stills fascinates people. Something about the image of a ship sailing alone, the crew and captain missing..... without a trace.