History hides many unsolved mysteries. We have not yet been able to discover why planes and ships disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, who created the famous Moai from Easter Island and what was the purpose of Stonehenge. It remains unknown what really happened to the sons of Edward IV of England, the so called Princes in the Tower and who Jack the Ripper really was. Another famous historical mysteries is the disappearance of the Mary Celeste ship (or Marie Céleste as it is called in numerous fictional accounts).
The Mary Celeste was a British-American merchant brigantine. The ship had set sail on November 5, 1872. Its crew was formed of Captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife and two year old daughter, and seven crew members. One month later the ship was discovered drifting on the sea, unmanned and abandoned.
No sign of the crew was found. Aboard the ship there were six months’ worth of food and water. The cargo had not been touched. Moreover, all the personal belongings of the crew members were still on board. The lifeboat was missing. None of the crew members were ever seen again. Their disappearance is one of the biggest unsolved maritime mysteries.
Since its discovery, many theories tried to explain the mystery behind the Mary Celeste case. One common theory is that the ship had fallen prey to pirates who murdered the crew and threw their bodies overboard. No signs of struggle were found on the ship and the cargo was intact. Another theory stated that a mutiny took place. The crew killed the captain, his wife and his daughter. Still, historical accounts state that Captain Briggs was a fair man, loved by his crew. The idea that he was murdered by his men is unlikely.
Perhaps two of the most plausible explanations are those based on barrels of alcohol and those proposed by a Smithsonian documentary.
It was discovered that nine of the 1.701 barrels of alcohol were found empty. They were made from red oak, a porous material that is likely to emit vapors. The vapors built in the hold and friction between barrels caused sparks. Fearing an explosion, the crew sought refuge in the life boat that was not properly tied to the ship. When the wind blew Mary Celeste away they were left behind, adrift and most likely died of hunger or drowned.
The Smithsonian theory is based on a faulty chronometer that was running slower than normal. Using it, Briggs believed he was much farther than he was. He also believed there was too much water in the bilge. Thinking the ship was sinking, he departed in the lifeboat and headed towards Santa Maria Island. Unfortunately, the lifeboat never arrived on the island.
The disappearance of the Mary Celeste crew remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries. Scientists still debate what could have actually happened to the crew. Which theory do you believe is true?
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