Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1872, the Mary Celeste was discovered.

The case of the Mary Celeste is undoubtedly the greatest mystery in British maritime history. The facts of the matter are these. Captain Morehouse, sailing his ship the Dei Gratia nearby the Azores, found a vessel, the Mary Celeste, with no crew or passengers on board.  The ship was in good condition, the cargo was intact and there was six month’s supply of provisions on board. The last entry in the ship’s log was for November 24th, showing the vessel to be 100 miles west of where she was found. There was no clue as to what had become of the crew.

Captain Morehouse took the abandoned vessel to Gibraltar, where an Admiralty Court attempted to solve the mystery. It appeared that the Mary Celeste had been captained by Benjamin Briggs, with a crew of seven, and that Briggs’ wife and daughter were aboard. None of these people were ever seen again. The court was told that the sextant and chronometer were missing, as was one of the lifeboats, suggesting that the ship had been abandoned. The court heard that the vessel was carrying a cargo of alcohol, although only when the Mary Celeste unloaded at Genoa, was it found that nine barrels were empty.

Although the Admiralty Court suspected Captain Morehouse and his crew of foul play, prize money was awarded to them for salvaging the Mary Celeste.

No sound explanation has ever been offered for the mystery of the Mary Celeste. The most plausible explanation is that the nine empty alcohol barrels leaked and gave off noxious vapours, and that Briggs and the crew, fearing that the vessel would explode, took to the lifeboat. In their haste they could not have secured the mooring rope to the ship and they were carried away and perished.

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