Wayback Wednesday: Mary Celeste 1872

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Mary Celeste Image One
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org
1861 Painting – Unknown Artist
Names: Amazon (1861-1868) Canadian
Mary Celeste (1869-1885) American

[Note: The finding of the abandoned Mary Celeste is sometimes listed as December 5, 1872. This is due to time differences between “Civil Time” (land time) and “Sea Time”.]

A merchant brigantine, the Mary Celeste was built at Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia and launched under British registration as Amazon in 1861. She was transferred to American ownership and registration in 1868 when she acquired her new name. Thereafter, she sailed, uneventfully, until her 1872 voyage.

[She was] discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores Islands on December 4, 1872. The Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia found her in a disheveled but seaworthy condition under partial sail and with her lifeboat missing. The last entry in her log was dated ten days earlier.

She left New York City for Genoa on November 7 and [the] Dei Gratia departed for Gibraltar on November 15, following the same general route eight days [later]. [She] was still amply provisioned when found. Her cargo of denatured alcohol was intact and, the captain’s and crew’s personal belongings were undisturbed. None of those who had been on board were ever heard from again.

Ghost Ship Image Two
Image Credit: gutenberg.org

At the salvage hearings in Gibraltar following her recovery, the court’s officers considered various possibilities of foul play, including mutiny by Mary Celeste’s crew, piracy by the Dei Gratia crew or others and conspiracy to carry out insurance or salvage fraud. No convincing evidence supported these theories but, unresolved suspicions led to a relatively low salvage award.

The inconclusive nature of the hearings fostered continued speculation as to the nature of the mystery and, the story has repeatedly been complicated by false detail and fantasy. Hypotheses that have been advanced include the effects on the crew of alcohol fumes rising from the cargo, submarine earthquakes (seaquakes), waterspouts, attack by a giant squid and paranormal intervention. The story of her 1872 abandonment has been recounted and dramatized many times in documentaries, novels, plays and films and, the name of the ship has become a byword for unexplained desertion.

In 1885, her captain deliberately wrecked her off the coast of Haiti as part of an attempted insurance fraud.


[Were] it not for Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle, struggling to establish himself as a writer prior to creating Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the world would not have ever known or cared [about the ship]. Conan Doyle’s short story about the ‘Marie Celeste‘ (he changed the name from Mary) turned a minor puzzle into one of the most famous legends of the sea. Nevertheless, we should recognise it was fiction, for which his editor paid 30 Pounds, […] a respectable sum in 1884.


Speculations of Cause
Pop Culture & Legacy
The Mary Celeste Site (Fact, not Fiction)
Smithsonian Article (November 2007)

Smithsonian Documentary Clip


Interesting Documentary

9 thoughts on “Wayback Wednesday: Mary Celeste 1872

    bereavedandbeingasingleparent said:
    December 5, 2019 at 3:01 AM

    This is so interesting. Heard about the ship but never knew any background to it. Thanks

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 5, 2019 at 1:34 PM

      Welcome. My dad is a Sci-Fi/Horror/Mystery geek. We’ve heard & read about all the “what-ifs”. I had forgotten the date until it popped up.

    MichaelStephenWills said:
    December 6, 2019 at 6:58 AM

    I’ve always wanted to visit the Bay of Fundy, where the ship was built, to experience the amazing tides.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 6, 2019 at 4:03 PM

      Sounds lovely.

    bayphotosbydonna said:
    December 6, 2019 at 9:03 AM

    I agree, fascinating! Wow, insurance fraud back then was punishable by death. Whoa.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 6, 2019 at 4:05 PM

      Yeah. Harsh times. 😖

    badfinger20 said:
    December 8, 2019 at 11:51 PM

    I love ghost ship stories. I look them up sometimes…about ships floating around the ocean for years with no crew…personally I go with the giant squid…ok I don’t but it does lend itself to a story. Who knows? The truth could be more interesting than fiction…we will never know.

      The Hinoeuma responded:
      December 9, 2019 at 1:14 AM

      I did a lot of reading on this and the conclusion drawn was that bad weather & rough seas messed up the sails and cargo enough that Captain Briggs feared the ship would explode. I believe there was a suggested fume explosion with little damage but, it was enough to scare them into getting into the life boat. With continuing rough seas, damage was found on some ropes indicating that the boat tether was severed and, they either drowned at sea or were left to the elements to die slowly. Can you imagine?

      The Cyclops is interesting, too.

        badfinger20 said:
        December 9, 2019 at 9:52 AM

        That is credible…and Ghost Ships still exist today and are found a lot floating around…it’s a fascinating subject.

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