For more than 100 years, many attempts have been being made to unravel the great mystery of American ship Mary Celeste. This 150-year-old incident is a subject of great curiosity among people till today.

Newspaper cover, Mary Celeste Arizona Republic. License: Fallen in the open (Public domain)

On 7th November, 1872, Mary Celeste, a 282-ton ship, set off from New York port to Genoa in Italy. The ship’s cargo contained 1700 barrels of industrial alcohol, which cost $35000 that time. On board were 10 people, which included ship’s Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah, their 2-year-old daughter Sophia and 7 crew members.

About a month later, on December 5, Mary Celeste was found adrift 400 miles from Santa Maria’s Azore Islands. It was first sighted by David Morehouse, captain of a British ship Dei Gratia. What was surprising that there was not a single person present on the ship among those 10 people.

So where did all those people go? Various theories from North African pirates to insurance scam to sea monster to explosion due to industrial alcohol to mutiny among crew members ranged.

Image by Noupload from Pixabay

But neither there was any sign of any kind of violence nor the cargo was missing. This rejected the possibility of piracy and violence among crew members. In the same way, other theories were dismissed due to lack of concrete evidences.

According to experts, the strongest possibility was of a sea storm. The last entry in the ship’s log was made on 25th November at 5 a.m. Captain Briggs was a very rational and experienced person. A person like him could have never made the decision of abandoning the ship without any strong reason. And if it was so then what happened that day?

When Mary Celeste was found, there was several feet water in its cargo compartment and its lifeboat was also missing. Moreover, there was no damage to the ship and it had food items and water available for the next 6 months. But the ship’s papers and Captain Briggs’ navigational instruments were missing. So, does this mean Captain Briggs ordered to leave the ship only after sighting land. If yes, then why?

Many reasons were considered for that. The night before the ship’s last log entry, Mary Celeste had to face a severe storm. Captain Briggs’s estimation of proximity of land proved to be wrong due to faulty marine chronometer.

Still, these two reasons were not enough for an experienced captain like Briggs to abandon the ship.

During investigations, it came to light that Mary Celeste had carried coals in its previous journey. Apart from this, the ship underwent massive repairs. Coal dust and construction debris damaged its pumps. With the inoperative pumps, it became very difficult for Captain Briggs to ascertain the water level in ship’s hull only by seeing it. In that situation, Briggs did not have any other way to know if the ship would drown or not.

Thus, rough weather, misapprehension of sighting land and threat of ship’s sinking would have made Captain Briggs to abandon Mary Celeste. It might be possible that the boat they aboard would have met some accident resulting in the death of all of them.

However, there is still no consensus of opinion on what happened to the unfortunate people aboard Mary Celeste. That’s why even after 150 years, attempts are still being made to know about the fate of Mary Celeste’s passengers.