Friday, October 28, 2011

Curse of the Mary Celeste - Nova Scotia, Canada

In 1861 a brigantine was launched at the village of Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia.   She was christened Amazon.  The ill fated ventures of the Amazon begin on her maiden  voyage when shortly after beginning the trip, captain Robert McLellan contracted  pneumonia and died.  This would be the start of an ominous existence and an even more notorious fate would await her under a different name.

The brigantine Mary Celeste began its life christened as Amazon in 1861

The 2nd captain to take over command of Amazon did not fair well either.  He collided with a fishing boat and as the Amazon was being repaired in dock, a fire broke out  and damaged her further.

The 3rd captain was making the vessel's very first trans-Atlantic voyage when she  collided with a another ship near Dover, England.

Nearing her home port in 1867, the Amazon encountered a fierce storm and ran aground  off the coast of Nova Scotia at Clace Bay.  After the ship was repaired, it was sold  to an American buyer, Richard Haines of New York and 3 other investors including  Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs.  The ship was renamed the Mary Celeste.

Captain Briggs set sail for Genoa, Italy on November 5, 1872 with a load of  commercial grade alcohol.  Accompanying him on the trip were his first mate Albert  Richardson, his wife, 2 year old daughter, and a crew of six others.  Having an  experienced crew and having been captain of many ships himself, Briggs had no worries as they began their journey.

Benjamin Briggs captain of Mary Celeste

Ten days after the Mary Celeste left port, it was followed by the Dei Gratia, a  Canadian vessel taking a similar course to the Mary Celeste.  The Dei Gratia captain  happened to be a long time friend of Briggs.  On December 4, one month after the Mary Celeste had left port, the Dei Gratia spotted her sailing toward the Strait of  Gibraltar.  They trailed the ship for some time, noticing that it was not steering a  straight line.  The did not see anyone on board the ship or any sort of activity  whatsoever and decided to board her. 

Upon boarding the Mary Celeste, the crew of the Dei Gratia noticed that the ship was  soaking wet.  Other than that, every thing seemed to be in order except for two torn  apart bilge pumps with one in working order.  The ship did have some water on board,  but did not appear to be sinking.  Some accounts say that there were dinner settings  in place as if the crew had left in a hurry.  All valuables were in place. There were plenty of food and water stored on the brigantine.  The only thing missing from the ship was the ship's log, a life boat, and lastly but not least, the passengers.  Not  one single person was found on board.  To this day, there is no reasonable  explanation as to what happened to the crew and passengers of the Mary Celeste.

Discovery of the Mary Celeste in 1872

After the ship was brought back to the States, one of the owners decided to keep the  ship only to have his father drown in an accident on the vessel near Boston,  Massachusetts.  Grief stricken, he then sold the ship at a tremendous loss just to  get rid of it.

Over the next decade, the Mary Celeste changed hands many times until it finally  ended up in the hands of Captain Parker.  Parker had horrible luck and made no profit on the ship.  On January 3, 1885 he wrecked the Mary Celeste in the Caribbean Sea.   The ship was found a burned, but not completely destroyed.  After an investigation, it was found that Parker over insured the ship, then purposely ran it on to the rocks to sink it.  The ship did not sink however and in desperation he set fire to it.   However, the ship refused to die.  The fire did not completely destroy it and it  remained mostly intact.  Parker was sent to prison, and the Mary Celeste was left  where she was and eventually succumbed to the sea and was swept into the water and  sank. Lifeless as she was found in 1872. It was however, recently discovered by NUMA  in 2001 off the coast of Haiti who investigated the sunken ship.  For the past  century and a half, the fate of the passengers of the Mary Celeste remains unknown.   Only the ship itself knows.

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