Category: Mystery

The Unfortunate Ship Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste – A great mystery of history. For more than 100 years, many attempts have been being made to unravel it. 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 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 the 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, the rough weather, the misapprehension of sighting land and the 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.

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.

Aleya Ghost Lights

A marshy land in the middle of deserted jungles and a mysterious flickering light over it, which has created a sense of terror among people since a long time. You might encounter these lights in the jungles of Sundarbans in West Bengal.

Courtesy: misterbharat

These lights often emerge in the marshy regions of West Bengal and Bangladesh and prove to be a messenger of death for many people. Famous as Aleya ghost lights or light of ghosts, their name is enough to send shivers down local residents’ spine.

People of the area believe that these lights are nothing but the haunting spirits of fishermen who were killed here due to some reasons while fishing. According to them, whoever sees these lights they either lose their way or die after some days. What is interesting is that these lights are seen only at night, that too in remote, secluded places.

Courtesy: travelsole.in

Fishermen of these area have claimed to see these lights. Many times, the corpses of fishermen have been found here. It is believed that whoever chases these lights either drowns or lose mental balance.

Courtesy: Pexels.com

As per them, some spirits kill fishermen by leading them astray while some guides them to correct direction. Though, local administration has refused to see it as a paranormal event. It might be possible that a person would lose way and eventually drown in the marsh.

Courtesy: Pexels.com

Not only in Bengal, these mysterious lights are also seen in many cities of UK, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Australia along with North and South America. Here, these are known as will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lantern. In these countries, these lights are considered to be related to hidden treasures.

Whereas, scientists attributed this phenomenon to theories like ionization of methane or geological faulting on marshy lands.

Whatever may be the reason, these lights have remained unsolved mysteries in Bengal till today. What do you think?

Roopkund – the Centuries-Old Mystery of the Himalaya

Courtesy: Google

Located at a height of approximately 16,500 feet in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, the Roopkund Lake is a popular site among all adventure junkies. It is one of the popular treks in Uttarakhand which boasts of its enchanting beauty varying from the magnificent views of the great Himalayas, dense virgin forests, gurgling brooks, lush green Ali and Bedni bugyal (meadows). The spectacular scenes of Mt. Trishul and Nanda Ghunti will leave anyone mesmerised. In addition, adventure fanatics get to see Chaukhamba range, Neelkanth peak, Kedarnath, Kedar Dome and many other mountain ranges during the Roopkund trek. Among them, the Chaukhamba range is clearly visible from my house in my paternal village in Uttarakhand. 😀

Courtesy: Google

However, this two-meter deep lake has remained an unsolved mystery for scientists, anthropologists and historians for so many years. And the reason for their keen interest in this area is 800 human skeletons which are found all around this lake. This entire area remains snow-covered throughout the year. It is only during autumn season, when the snow starts melting, when these human skeletons scattered all over this place become visible. Scientists and experts hold different views in terms of the history of these skeletons.

Courtesy: Google

Courtesy: Google

These skeletons were very first found by a British forest guard in 1942, who chanced upon this lake. Initially, these skeletons were believed to be of Japanese soldiers of the WWII. Whereas, many British explorers and scholars held that these skeletons were of General Zorawar Singh and his men, who while returning after the 1841 Tibbet War lost way in this area and eventually succumbed to bad weather. The radiocarbon tests in 1960s rejected this theory and established the time of all these skeletons from the 12th to 15th century. This led many historians to maintain that the skeletons belonged to the unsuccessful attack of Muhammad Tughlaq on Garhwal Himalaya. Others believed this to be the case of an epidemic while some anthropologists saw it as a ritual suicide. Thus till the initial years of 2000, DNA studies supported the theory of these skeletons’ South Asian ancestry.

Courtesy: Google

In 2019, a special report by National Geographic presented a clear picture on these skeletons’ history. After the full genomic analyses of 38 sets of skeletons, experts reached to a new conclusion. According to their findings, out of those 38 people, 23 had South Asian ancestry who died between the 7th and 10th centuries. Other 14 died there between the 17th and 20th centuries – probably in a single event. Unlike the South Asian skeletons, all these 14 skeletons were found to have Mediterranean genetic ancestry of Greece and Crete. The last person, who died at the same time as these Mediterranean people, belonged to East Asia ancestry. The analyses also suggested that all these individuals were  not related to one another in any way. Further, the additional isotopic studies revealed that the South Asian and Mediterranean groups used to eat different diets. Even after these findings, researchers still do not know the reason of this Mediterranean group’s travel to Roopkund and their cause of death.

Courtesy: Google

Courtesy: Google

Scientists do not believe them to be the casualties of war. These skeletons include both, males and females. There is no proof of any kind of combat violence nor any weapons have been found here. All these individuals were healthy during their death, thus it rejects the theory of death due to any epidemic. 

If a popular local folk lore of the region is to be believed, it talks about a royal procession. For centuries, a pilgrimage named Raj Jat is organised every 12 years in this area which is dedicated to the Goddess Nanda Devi. It is believed that during medieval times the King of Kannauj Jasdhawal undertook a pilgrimage to the Goddess Nanda Devi in the Garhwal Himalaya on the occasion of his heir’s birth. During the journey, the boisterous dance and music infuriated the Goddess. As a result, “iron balls” thrown from the sky killed all of them.

This strengthens the possibility of these people being the pilgrims who got killed during heavy hailstorm. Experts have found parasols that were used during the procession from those human remains. There have been unhealed fractures found on some of the skulls which indicates towards a severe hailstorm – the “iron balls” as mentioned in the folk lore.

That’s why to verify this and other aspects, an international team of researchers was formed which performed genomic analyses of the Roopkund remains. The finding of the Mediterranean ancestry in the Indian Himalaya came as a big surprise for the team.

Courtesy: Google

Now, the question arises did this Mediterranean group come here for this pilgrimage and stay here for a long time during which they died. William Sax, head of Heidelberg University’s anthropology department and author of Mountain Goddess, a book on the pilgrimage, does not see any sense in this belief. Sax, himself, visited the lake thrice with his last trip made in 2004 as part of a National Geographic television show. 

This year in 2020, researchers had the plans for another expedition to the Roopkund Lake to study the artifacts associated with the skeletons. At present, the chances of this are very low seeing the current scenario of the coronavirus pandemic.

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