What Happened Inside the Mary Celeste, the Most Disconcerting Ghost Ship in History

Probably, one of the most unresolved histories that has been the most talked about took place in the year 1872. Almost 150 years later, what happened inside the merchant ship Mary Celeste and the fate of her crew remains a real mystery.

On November 7, 1872, Captain Benjamin Briggs and the crew of the Mary Celeste, a merchant ship with a large shipment of alcohol, left the port of New York for Genoa, Italy. On board were seven crew members selected by Briggs along with his wife and daughter.

However, they would never reach their destination. After leaving, it is known that the Mary Celeste fought through bad weather, treacherous seas and strong winds during the following two weeks. Then, on November 25, the captain carried out what would be the last entry in the registry. At that time, nothing was wrong with the ship.

Less than a month after the departure of Mary Celeste, on December 5, the British ship Dei Gratia was about 400 miles east of the Azores when the crew members spotted a ship adrift. Captain David Morehouse was surprised to discover that the unguided ship was the Mary Celeste, who had left eight days before and who should have arrived in Genoa.

Morehouse changed course to offer help.

The captain sent a boarding party to the ship. When they arrived, under the decks the letters of the ship seemed to have been thrown into the air, and the crew’s belongings were still in their rooms. The ship’s only lifeboat had disappeared, and one of its two bombs had been dismantled.

Inside were several inches of water splashing in the bilge, the lowest point of the ship below the waterline, although the load of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol remained virtually intact. There was a supply of about six months of food and water, but not a soul to consume it.

Thus was born one of the most enduring mysteries in nautical history: what happened to the ten people who had sailed aboard the Mary Celeste?

Over time, the lack of real facts has only stimulated speculation about what could have happened. The theories, as we will now see, have ranged from a riot to sea monsters.

Finally, an investigation that took place a few years ago tried to shed some light, a work based on modern maritime technology and documents discovered in recent times that tried to reconstruct the most likely scenario.

This is all that has been said.


The truth is that the boat was perfectly and able to navigate. I had six months of food and water on board. The crew’s belongings were intact. Also, a captain would only leave the ship in the most difficult circumstances, and certainly this scenario did not seem to exist.

One of the theories has to do with alcohol. Under this argument, the crew would have drunk and subsequently mutinied. However, there were no signs of violence.

There are also those who believe that the ship must have been a pirate’s past, but there were no lost valuables either.

In a brief history of Arthur Conan Doyle on the subject was detailed to a former slave who captured the ship. However, where were he and everyone else?

If the rest of theories could have a glimpse of truth, there are other much more unlikely as the sea monsters (with giant squid included).

There was also talk of natural disasters, such as possible waterspouts. In this last case, we could include the possibility of an earthquake on the sea floor (a tidal wave) that could be the cause of sufficient turbulence on the surface to damage part of the load of the Mary Celeste releasing toxic vapours.

The fear of an impending explosion could have led Briggs to decide to abandon the ship. in fact, the discovered hatches suggest that there was an inspection or an attempt to aerate the area.

The New York Times, in its issue of February 9, 1913, mentioned the possibility that a leak of alcohol through barrels was the source of gases that could have caused the threat of an imminent explosion in the cellar of Mary Celeste.

However, none of these theories seem to be definitive. Perhaps the most plausible is that of the alcohol vapours that had blown the hatch cover. Then, fearing a fire, the crew left the ship.

However, the hatch cover was secure.

The latest theory

As we said before, in 1884, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his story, J. Habakuk Jepson’s Statement, based on the story of Mary Celeste. The publicity of the same one took to a new investigation of the boat, but neither new solutions were found.

Finally, in 2002, the documentary maker Anne MacGregor began to investigate. Using several modern methods, he reconstructed the drift of the ghost ship and deduced that the captain had a defective compass and was hopelessly out of course.

The Mary Celeste was more than 140 kilometres west of where it should have been.

The captain then changed course towards Santa María Island in the Azores and probably sought refuge from the climate that was found. So far so good, but this would not cause a captain to leave the ship. However, MacGregor also learned that the ship had been reconditioned a short time ago and that coal dust and debris from the work had probably clogged the pumps that were drawing water.

What Happened Inside the Mary Celeste, the Most Disconcerting Ghost Ship in History1

And if the bombs do not work, there’s no way to pump the water that could get into the ship’s bilge, so Captain Briggs could have decided that, with the ship off course, and probably near some kind of terrain, the crew should reduce risks and simply try to save themselves by leaving the ship and heading towards the land.

Perhaps because it is the last of the theories based on the possibilities offered by new technologies, it could be the closest to reality. The MacGregor version is not universally accepted, or even definitively demonstrable, but at least it aligns with the evidence (the disassembled bomb, for example) in a way that other theories do not.



Source: ES Gizmodo