A wood engraving by Rudolph Ruzika

 

The Ship was originally built at Spencer's
Island, Nova Scotia and named "The Amazon"
In 1868 she was renamed "The Mary Celeste".

 


A scale model of the ship

An introduction to the story

One of the the greatest legends of the sea is the mystery of the brigantine the Marie Celeste, which according to common knowledge was discovered at sea totally deserted.

The master and crew had suddenly vanished into thin air. Their clothing was found perfectly dry and a phial of oil was found balanced on a sewing machine in the Captains Cabin. The legend tells of steaming mugs of tea, breakfasts half eaten, a clock turning backwards, and the ships cat.

What happened to the people - Were they abducted by aliens - Did a monster of the deep swallow them - Did they visit the twilight zone - Did the Bermuda Triangle strike again ?

There is of course a simple explanation, the strange things listed above are all inventions AFTER the event and never happened.

The first thing to note is that the ship's name was the MARY CELESTE and this website deals with the true story, fact not fiction regarding the real and mysterious happenings connnected with that ship.

When you read stories of mysteries the author often mentions that he 'came across a bundle of papers' - that is exactly what happened to me - However in the bundle of papers was a copy of the court inquiry into the Mary Celeste, which was held in the Admiralty court in Gibraltar.

According to legend the records are 'sealed' - they are not, they are in the public domain. In 1992 whilst moving offices, I came on a bundle of papers which were the patient research of some unknown person into the so called 'mystery'. Included in these was a full transcript of the Admiralty Court inquiry. Finally, here was an official, reliable and original source of information. The original documents are in the Government archive.

This collection of papers and the transcript gives one a totally different perspective on the affair. Suddenly the people involved have names, their sworn evidence has a different flavour to what we are accustomed to today; this was a time when the world was a very different world.

Today we perceive court hearings as being an adversarial battle between slick lawyers. We might watch real defendants answering questions in court live by satellite from the other end of the earth. In this Admiralty inquiry there was no need for DNA evidence regarding the 'blood' on the sword, 19th Century chemistry was quite adequate.

Despite todays technology bringing the court into our living room, the testimony of honest seafaring men in 1872 carries more sincerity, and is easier to accept at face value. So, working from a basis of the facts rather than the fiction of a legend, here is the story from a different angle; let us forget the myths, lets even forget the mystery, for in reality, there is very little.

Let us, however, remember that behind the inventions of the many people who have written about this poor unfortunate vessel, adding to the story as they went along, there was the real tragedy of an error of judgment which cost an otherwise exemplary Ships Captain his vessel, his life, the lives of his crew, and those of his wife and young child.

These were real people, not fictional characters, who perished at sea at a time when radio communications were unknown. Weather was something that could only be experienced or looked at historically, not viewed in real-time on a computer screen. There were no weather forecasts, storm warnings and life on the sea was all the more perilous because of that.

So prepare to discard what you think you know, as its probably wrong.