The Mystery of the Mary Celeste: The History of the American Merchant Vessel and the Disappearance of Its Crew
*Includes pictures *Includes accounts of the Mary Celeste written by those who sailed on it and those who found it *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading *Includes a table of contents “In the month of December in the year 1873, the British ship Dei Gratia steered into... show more
*Includes accounts of the Mary Celeste written by those who sailed on it and those who found it
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
“In the month of December in the year 1873, the British ship Dei Gratia steered into Gibraltar, having in tow the derelict brigantine Marie Celeste, which had been picked up in latitude 38 degrees 40', longitude 17 degrees 15' W. There were several circumstances in connection with the condition and appearance of this abandoned vessel which excited considerable comment at the time, and aroused a curiosity which has never been satisfied.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement"
People love mysteries, which is a good thing since history is so replete with them. This is especially true among seafaring people, and of all the mysteries of the deep, few rise to the level of the Mary Celeste. In many ways, it is a story more suited for an episode of The X-Files than it is for any history book. There is the unlucky ship that began her sailing career under a cloud of bad fortune and accident. Then there is that handsome young captain, a man appearing to be of the highest moral fiber who chose to travel with his wife and young daughter rather than carouse with loose women. His crew was small but faithful, and his First Mate was an old friend. They set sail for Genoa late in 1872 but arrived instead in the history books, lost suddenly to a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.
The first indication that anything unusual had happened came on December 5 of that year, when the Mary Celeste was found by another ship, the Dei Gratia, sailing safely and intact but completely devoid of human beings. The bed was unmade and the captain’s cabin a bit untidy, but otherwise there was no sign of struggle. Or was there? A sword turned up with spots that some thought must be blood, and there were also mysterious cuts on the ship’s railing, but at the same time, the ship’s provisions were almost entirely untouched, leading some to theorize pirates attacked the ship and others to believe all of it consisted of normal wear and tear?
The Dei Gratia towed the Mary Celeste and brought it to an admiralty court to seek a salvage prize, and eventually the court could find no evidence of foul play. At the same time, it awarded the crew of the Dei Gratia only a fraction of what the ship had been insured for, a suggestion that the court didn’t completely believe the crew’s account.
The mystery might have been forgotten altogether shortly after, but young Arthur Conan Doyle, who would eventually earn fame for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries, helped popularize the Mary Celeste and its mysterious fate with his fictional story "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement." Naturally, as the story spread, so did the rumors and the theories. Some believed the crew mutinied, while others speculated that the boat’s own owner had those on board killed. As the decades passed, men turned up claiming to have new information, but nothing definitive was ever confirmed. Given the mystery, over the years, whatever fear was trending in popular culture found its way into the Mary Celeste story. For example, sea monsters were blamed in the 19th century, and in the 20th century, some posited that aliens from outer space had captured the unfortunate passengers and swept them off to their home planet. While this might be among the less believable theories, none of the other theories can be completely proven either, ensuring that all of the theories (and new ones) will continue to form for as long as history remembers the story.
The Mystery of the Mary Celeste: The History of the American Merchant Vessel and the Disappearance of Its Crew looks at one of America’s most famous mysteries. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Mary Celeste like never before.