Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ghost Ship The Mary Celeste


Another ghost ship you may have heard of is the ill fated Mary Celeste.
Originally built in Nova Scotia and named the Amazon in 1861, this ghost ship was
re-named the Mary Celeste in 1869 after numerous misfortunes and owners. One might say the Mary Celeste was cursed from the beginning.

On its last voyage, the Mary Celeste left New York City in November of 1872,a bright clear day for departure
The new captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife, and young daughter, along with 8 crew members departed bound for Genoa, Italy. The cargo consisted of 1700 barrels of raw American alcohol.

On December 5, 1872, the ship Dei Gratia came upon the Mary Celeste floundering on the sea. The captain of the Dei Gratia knew Captain Briggs and was surprised to see the ship derelict as Briggs had a reputation as an excellent captain. Men from the Dei Gratia boarded the abandoned Mary Celeste to determine what was going on.

The ship was found in good seaworthy condition. It appeared as though the crew had left in a great hurry. They discovered that the chronometer, sextant,and lifeboats were missing. There was water between the decks and the Galley was a mess.The stove was knocked out of place,cooking utensils were scattered around.Some cups of tea were o the table. Everything was soaked. A rope was found hanging over the side of the ship trailing in the water.
The crew from the Dei Gratia managed to get the Mary Celeste into port. When the cargo was unloaded, they found 9 of the barrels of alcohol empty.



What happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste? Some feel that the cargo became unstable and that the captain decided to trail behind the ship in the lifeboat until such time that it was safe to board. However, for some reason, the ship outdistanced the lifeboat leaving the crew helpless on the sea.
Others thought it was foul play, Mysterious blood stains were
found on three railings, and a blood stained sword was also found hidden under the
Captain's bed..Some think it was an abduction by a UFO,while still others think they were eaten by sharks while swimming in the sea.No one knows,The not knowing and the mystery of the empty ship sailing along without Captain and Crew has fascinated people to this day.

63 comments:

picciolo said...

oohh great story! I'll be back to read more!
Thanks for leaving a kind comment on my blog
: )

LittleSun said...

good story probably mutiny.

Ben Briggs said...

Yes it is a good story and near to my heart. My name is Benjamin Hicks Briggs. Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs was my great-great uncle. While much of what you read in this story is true, a fair amount is just sensationalist nonsense. First, the stain on the deck was rust, not blood. Second, the cargo was listed on the manifest as "distilled spirits" but was not clearly specified. While not 100% verifiable, it is believed that they were industrial distillates like formaldehyde and nothing that was fit for human consumption.

Brian Hicks (who must be a distant cousin I never met) published a great book “The Ghost Ship” a few years ago that gives the most reasonable explanation of the disappearance of Capt. Briggs, his family and crew that the surviving Briggs’ have ever read. In brief, no mutiny was really likely, this was a dinky little ship with a tiny crew – no HMS Bounty 2 year voyages here! This was the first voyage that Capt. Briggs ever carried a cargo of distillates and they had very rough weather for about 10 days, during which several casks broke. The hold had to remain battened down during the storms so fumes built up. When the weather calmed, explosions were feared so the holds were opened up for venting but the crew had to take to the lifeboat to escape the fumes. The wind picked up, broke the tow rope and eventually all were lost in the over-crowded lifeboat. It should be noted that the Briggs’ were (at the time) of good Puritan decent and strict tea totalers.

And now for something that is really strange – Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs was one of 4 sons (and 1 daughter) of the very successful merchant Capt. Nathan Briggs of Marion, MA (where my parents still live). In the same year that Benjamin Spooner Briggs disappeared from the Mary Celeste, Nathan was struck by lighting on the doorstep of the Rose Cottage in Marion and 2 of his other seafaring sons were lost at sea in tragedies of their own. I am alive today ONLY because one of his four sons had no taste for life at sea.

Femme Details said...

This is a great story... I enjoy it

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Thank you all for your comments,Ben I am in awe of your having found this and posting the authentic response.I would like to use it with your permission and do a little Squidoo or AC article.Thanks so much for youe comments.

Ronalyn said...

How wonderful, and amazing, that Ben Briggs found your story. His comment was very interesting.

Ben Briggs said...

Yes please use this in any way you see fit. For the authoritative account and a GREAT read, do check out "The Ghost Ship" by Brian Hicks. Wikipedia also has a pretty good write up on the ship and its fateful voyage.

There are tons of interesting facts about the ship and the voyage itself. While it is true that it was an "unlucky ship". The ship was built with green timbers so it started life being leaky and in need of frequent maintenance. It never earn a profit for any of its owns, which is where the "unlucky" tag came from. After it was salvaged by the Del Grata it was sailed into the British outpost at Gibraltar for a salvage claim. The Admiralty court prosecutor smelled foul play and tried very hard to get the Dei Gratia Capitan Morehouse indicted on murder or some other charge. It turns out that Capt. Morehouse and Capt. Briggs knew each other and even had dinner together in New York the evening before the Mary Celeste sailed. Capt. Morehouse kept this a close secret for many years because he feared being charged in a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud with Capt. Briggs. By international maritime law, a ship found adrift at sea could be claimed by the finder. The insurance on the ship and cargo would be paid to the owners of the ship to compensate them for their loss (Capt. Briggs had a 30% stake in the Mary Celeste). Of course getting caught and convicted of such a crime would warrant hanging so it was not undertaken lightly.

It should be noted that this was not the last voyage for the Mary Celeste. After this tragedy the ship was sold by its remaining owners to a new shipping company. It made a few more unsuccessful voyages before being intentionally run aground in the Caribbean in a real case of insurance fraud. The insurance company sent an investigator who found no evidence that the cargo that was actually on board resembled in kind or value what was listed on the manifest.

A ship disappearing at sea was a very common occurrence in the late 1800’s but I was surprised to learn that dozens of ships were found abandoned at sea every year back then just like the Mary Celeste was. So why was this case so famous and not the others? Mostly it resulted from a chain of events that started with the huge scandal created by the British Admiralty court that stretched out for many months and make all the papers in the US. This was followed by renewed publicity when the ship was run aground a few years later but really brought to a head again when in 1884 an unknown author published a story “The Capitan of the Polestar” in a fiction magazine that claimed to be the last words of an elderly dying seaman who said he had been a crew member on the Mary Celeste and told a fantastic tale of the ship being diverted to the Canary Islands where it was taken over by Canary Island pirates who sold them all into slavery. This story prompted the British government to request an investigation from the US Navy Dept. who refused citing the fact that the story was published in a fiction magazine. The unknown author was the young Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 2001 best selling author Clive Cussler financed a voyage to the spot where the Mary Celeste was run aground to see if they could salvage any of the remains. They did find some small timbers and a few other things that they believed were from the original ship.

How did I find your posting? That part was easy. Some years ago I set up a Google Alert on my name ( and my wife and sons) just to see when anything ever got posted about me on the web. Well, I get hits about 3-4 times a week. The vast majority are for a very small town newpaper reporter somewhere in rural England named Ben Briggs – it is fun to read about a village getting its second traffic light and similar things. About twice a month I get a hit that refers to the Mary Celeste. I read only a few of them and this was the first one I ever replied to.

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Thank you again,Ben.I had read the Wikipedia account and had wondered why this one dissapering was so sensational.Am so glad you had the alert and am honored you selected this one for reply.I will write this up ...Suzanne

Callooh Callay said...

Fascinating accounts. I love a ripping sea tale!

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