Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

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Forever in the minds of sailors have lived stories of ghost ships. It happened in the year of 1872. Captain Benjamin Briggs ordered his crew to take anchors and set the course towards Genoa, Italy. Accompanied by his wife Sarah, his two-year-old daughter Sophie and seven sailors, they left New York, USA, aboard the ship  Mary Celeste. At that time, none knew that their trip would be one of the most remembered enigmas of maritime folklore.

STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE

It had been a relatively quiet tour across the Atlantic. On November 25, the Mary Celeste made landfall in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago 1,500 km from Lisbon, before resuming its route to Genoa, Italy. But the ship and its travelers never reached their destination. Inexplicably, the 5 (others say that the 4) of December the ship appeared sailing aimlessly in the middle of the ocean.  

A group of sailors from another vessel, the Dei Gratia , also left New York, spotted him and approached to investigate. Great was his surprise at not finding anyone on deck. After assuming the worst, they boarded and began looking for the crew. They quickly explored the 30-meter-long boat; cabins, kitchen, cockpit, but there was no trace of any of them.

Not one of the 10 passengers of the Mary Celeste was on board. There were no signs of a fight or a pirate attack; instead they found clothes hanging, the belongings of the navigators, tea still hot served and its full load -1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol- along with the supplies course towards Genoa, Italy. It was as if Captain Briggs and his handful for his wife Sarah, his family had evaporated in the middle of the sea.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

Mary Celeste Ghost Ship

BOATS BETWEEN FANTASY AND REALITY

Although the circumstances that surrounded the disappearance of the passengers of the Mary Celeste are peculiar, it is not the only ghost ship that has crossed the seas and caught the imagination of the curious. The simple name is suggestive and invites one to think of spectral visions that vanish, or huge ships that float in darkness, but this nickname has also been used for those royal ships that, for one or another unfortunate event, were left adrift in the middle of the immense ocean, sailing without anyone to direct them.

Situations of this kind are common even in our days, and since ancient times the fate of overseas travel has given rise to innumerable legends. Thus, a ship overtaken by a storm, over the years and the ingenuity of people ends up being the victim of some so-called water monster, or perhaps a terrible ancestral curse. It is possible to find legends about these in almost all fishing populations. Most of the stories are local, but there are some whose fame has crossed physical and cultural borders, as is the case of the most famous of them:

Dutch Errant

Of Vliegende Hollander , or the “Flying Dutchman”. The name refers to its captain, the Dutchman Hendrik van der Decken, who is said to have made a pact with the devil so that no phenomenon of nature could sink his ship.  

In fact there are many versions of the legend, which is calculated to date from the 17th century and was popularized during the 18th century. It is a ship condemned to travel until the end of time, without the possibility of touching any port. The sightings of the spectrum have been diverse, which is said to shine in the midst of storms supporting its curse. Even the British monarch Jorge V (1865-1936) claimed to have seen him during his adolescence, and even into the 20th century his alleged appearances were frequent. In all cases, it was a terrible omen for those who had the misfortune to witness it.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

The Flying Dutchman

Lady Lovibond

Another fabulous vessel was the Lady Lovibond , a sailboat that in February 1748 was shipwrecked off the coast of Kent, southeast of England. According to the story, it was a hasty action that crashed the ship against a sandbar, drowning everyone on board. Fifty years later, many sailors saw an accident in the same place where the Lady Lovibond rushed , but when they reached the point with lifeboats they found nothing. Since then it is said that every half century the ship runs aground and gives off a greenish light.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

The Lady Lovibond

Octavius

There is also the legend of the Octavius, the ghostly vessel found by the whaling ship Heraldoff the coast of Greenland in 1775. On boarding it, the sailors got a terrible surprise: all the crew and passengers inside the ship were frozen by the inclement cold. According to the story, the last entry in the captain’s logbook dated from 1762, 13 years before it was found. The lone ship had sailed for more than a decade and had managed to cross the dangerous passage from the north, from the east to the Atlantic Ocean.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

The Octavius

UNANSWERED

But not all ghost ships are products of maritime inventiveness. Although the tendency of seafarers to believe in superstitions is well known, their fears are often based, in the first instance, on the difficulties of traveling through this medium. Each year hundreds of boats succumb to the adversities of the ocean or get lost in its immensity. We must remember that the water surface on the planet far exceeds that of the Earth, which multiplies the chances of getting lost.

This is how, on occasions, reality surpasses fiction, and there are amazing cases such as the lifeboat that was found floating quietly 27 years after the steam to which it belonged, the SS Valencia, sank off the coast from Vancouver. Or the one of Carroll A. Deering , the schooner that ran aground in 1921 near North Carolina and found itself empty after passing near the famous Bermuda Triangle, a place that many believed to be the true cause of the disappearance. Ghost ships are not just a matter of the past.

In 2003 and 2006 two ships were found sailing aimlessly near Australia without anyone to man them. All these disappearances give rise to different theories, some plausible, others incredible. Thus, from marine monsters, plots and mutinies, piracy and even extraterrestrial abductions have been shuffled among the possible explanations of what happened in each case.

Maritime Folklore, Legends, Mysteries, Monsters and Curses

SOLVING RIDDLES

Many have tried to unravel the mystery of the Mary Celeste . In 2001 the American journalist and writer Brian Hicks claimed to have found the remains of the mythical ship near Haiti. The news caused a stir and years later he published the book Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste & Her Missing Crew , where he presented his hypothesis regarding what happened in 1872. The industrial alcohol that he transported could have evaporated and leak out.

Briggs, fearing for his daughter, preferred to vacate the ship and stand next to it in a lifeboat, but when leaving the sails open the wind picked up quickly moving the ship of his crew, being adrift. However, shortly after the discovery of Hicks would be refuted, after researchers at the University of Arizona and the Geological Survey of Canada analyzed a sample of wood from the ship and it did not match with what was supposed to be built the ship. In the end, it seems that these ships or ghostly chimeras are not willing to reveal the mysteries that they contain.

 

Source: Muy Interesante