The Mary Celeste is the most famous real-life ghost ship that disappeared with its crew and become one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of all time.
Built in 1861 in Nova Scotia, Canada, it was originally named ‘Amazon’. It was a dual-masted wooden sailing ship and may have always been destined for doom.
During its maiden voyage, the captain of the ship died of pneumonia after repeatedly coughing up blood whilst giving orders to the crew.
In 1867, the Amazon ran aground in Cow Bay off the coast of Nova Scotia. Not long after the ship was repaired, it got into another collision with a ship in the English Channel.
Seemingly the shipped was cursed and in November 1868, it was sold to Richard W. Haines, an American mariner from New York who renamed the cursed ship Mary Celeste and made several structural changes to make sure it was sea-worthy.
It was finally purchased by Benjamin Spooner Briggs who kept the name and was the person the ship belonged to before it and its crew vanished without a trace.
On November 8, 1872, the Mary Celeste set sail from New York bound for Genoa, Italy with ten crew on board, but the ship never arrived. The ship was also carrying 1,700 barrels of alcohol.
What’s strange is that the ship wasn’t discovered with the crew hanging out 930 miles west of Portugal drinking a few bottles of rum. The ship was free-sailing erratically and there were no crew on board (according to the reports of David Morehouse, captain of the Dei Gratia).
Morehouse and his men then boarded the ship and despite the sound of unexplained creaking floorboards, which would be typically for a wooden ship rolling over waves, the ship was silent.
Most people’s initial thought would seem that this ‘mystery’ of the ghost ship is concluded because it was probably attributed to pirates, but wouldn’t pirates have taken the cargo or any of the valuables on the Mary Celeste?
Here’s where it gets stranger. Along with nothing missing, there was a life-boat that was unaccounted for and a fray rope trailing the ship.
There was 3.5 feet of water in the hold which could have been due to a broken water pump, but after inspection of the ship’s navigational equipment and captain records, it seemed nothing went wrong and the ship has been sailing for 11 days without anyone to guide it.
Some of the men from the Dei Gratia stayed on board the Mary Celeste and the two ships sailed back to Europe. Once they arrived, Morehouse contacted the Attorney General in London, Frederick Solly-Flood.
The reason being, under maritime law a derelict ship must be examined before it can be claimed by the discoverers. Three months later, the attorney General concluded there was no foul play on the part of the Dei Gratia crew and they were rewarded.
There have been many theories over the years, some very plausible and some less plausible, ranging from sea monsters to pirates to abandoning the ship and being lost to the ocean.
The mystery of the Mary Celeste ghost ship remains unsolved to this day because each theory still leaves unanswered questions…
If it was pirates, why was the alcohol and valuables left on board? If the ghost ship was sailed back to Europe, why would they have abandoned it? Due to the ship’s location, it’s clear there was no involvement with the mysterious phantom Island of Hy’Brasil, so that only really leaves two options.
It’s difficult to conclude what happened to something from so long ago with such little to go on, but we would put our money on one of the following;
As mentioned by Smithsonian, the ship could have been as much as 120 miles off course. If this was discovered by the crew early, they may have abandoned ship and attempted to turn back, at which point they may have been sucked under by the current and died at sea.
Alternatively, they could have abandoned ship due to the water leak and assumed they needed to escape before the ship sank, leading them to the same fate of being claimed by the sea.
The only other possibility is that there was foul play involved, which open up many more possibilities. One thing we do know is that a row boat was missing so at least someone tried to escape from the Mary Celeste.
Maybe one of the crew murdered the others and threw their bodies overboard and then sailed off to land and actually survived, but never shared the story and was never discovered? This seems plausible, but the mystery will likely remain unsolved unless someone want to take on the task of scouring over a million of square miles of ocean to find jewelry or personal belongings of any of the missing crew;