Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mary Celeste: Ghost Ship?

In 1872, the merchant ship, “Mary Celeste” sailed left in November from New York to Genoa. On December 5th, halfway between the Azores and Portugal, the captain of the ship “Dei Gratia” sighted the Mary Celeste ship that he recognized. The only problem was it was riding out of control which was not at all something the ship’s pious and stern captain, Benjamin Spooner Briggs, would have ever allowed. The captain hailed the other ship, but for hours he got no response.

He then set off on a small boat with some men to board her.

The men found the ship to be seaworthy and having the appearance of being left in a rush. The investigating captain’s impression by the possessions left behind is that the crew left in a rush for fear the ship was sinking. The ship had contained 7 crewmen, the captain, the captain’s wife, and his small child.

Over the years, this story has become filled with tales of steaming cups of coffee and food on the stove and such being found. This was not the actual case. Here is what the captain of the “Dei Gratia” found:

One pump out of order
Two hatches off and a fair amount of water between the decks
The clock and compass were destroyed
No alcohol was found on board
The chronometer and sextant were not found on board
The ship’s register and captain’s log were both gone
The stove was off kilter and dishes strewn and lots of water in the galley
There were no boats on board

We’re left with many theories from a small explosion caused by munitions onboard to a rogue wave, and the fact that there had been strong storms for days that may have overwhelmed the ship’s capabilities. With the crew and captain and his family exiting on the small boats, they would have become victims of the rough sea.

Many legends have continued about the ship being a victim of some supernatural occurrence of the Bermuda Triangle variety. Even though these were dismissed, the fact remains; for a time the Mary Celeste was a ghost ship in the true sense, wandering the sea without a crew.

But why?


  1. I've always loved this story. So mysterious, so flat out weird.

  2. OOOuuuh! I love ghost ships! I think they are the spookiest of all haunted places, people animals, whatever...


    this is a new blog, feel free to drop by, comment and link us. thanks!

  4. I admit, I'm fascinated with ghost ships. One time, in a crazy phase in my life, I decorated my master bathroom as a ghost ship with billowing sails with tattered holes over the ceiling and portholes and fish netting. It certainly felt like I was inside one--only thing missing was the ghost sailors!

  5. I've heard and read about this Ghost Ship a number of times in the past. Since I've never seen it I can only rely on what I've read. If this Ship truly exists, it must be quite an experience.

    Being in the US Navy years ago and spent allot of time at Sea, something like this was never seen.

  6. Hey Les;
    Yes, it actually did exist. There was an official inquiry when it was discovered to figure out what happened to it. The boarding party got the distinct feeling that it was definitely abandoned (all escape boats gone and chronomoeter and sextant and logs). So, we can assume they thought they had reason to leave. My guess would be a rogue wave and the stormy seas might have made them feel they were taking on water. Of course, they never survived it, so the ship became well and truly a ghost ship. My father did mention in WWII and Korean War in the Asiatic Fleet that they had come across abandoned boats before, but all were cases of abandonment and taking on water. He even was out on a ship in search of Amelia when her plane went down. Cool, huh? I can't imagine how frantic folks were to find her. The sea is an amazing thing, but the imagery of a tatter sailed ghost ship is one of my favorite ghost stories. In fact, I hope to write a good short story about a ghost ship for the blog some time soon.

  7. Nah i believe they evacuated they ship getting into the lifeboat but trailing behind tied to it in fear of a potential fire,explosion as the hold was full of barrels of industrial alcoholg.Maybe during rough seas the cargo was shook up violently and when the weather calmed they vented the hold,took to the lifeboat while the vapour cleared.If they feared a potential disaster to the ship then theyd need the sextant and log.
    I think the tragedy that occured was the weather blew up again and the rope that connected them to their ship broke leaving them all alone on the Atlantic in a lifeboat and a ship sailing into infamy with no crew

  8. The Briggs also had a seven year old son named Arthur. He was in school so he wasn't on the trip. I can't imagine what that poor little boy went through, never being able to solve the mystery that left him an orphan, never being able to find out the fate of his parents and little sister.