Mystery echoes Marie Celeste tale

THE MYSTERY surrounding the missing yachtsman off the coast of Essex bears a number of similarities to the historical plight of the Mary Celeste.

Lizzie Parry

THE MYSTERY surrounding the missing yachtsman off the coast of Essex bears a number of similarities to the historical plight of the Mary Celeste.

The Mary Celeste, a brigantine - a vessel with two masts, at least one of which is square rigged - was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, unmanned and under sail heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar in 1872.

The fate of the crew is the subject of much speculation, and theories range from alcoholic fumes to underwater earthquakes, along with other legendary tales. It is often described as the archetypal ghost ship.


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The ship was thought by many to have had bad luck due to numerous misadventures. Her first captain died at the very beginning of her maiden voyage and she also collided with another vessel in the English Channel.

The fateful voyage came in 1872, when on November 5, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, the ship picked up its cargo and set sail from Staten Island, New York to Genoa, Italy.

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The crew of seven was joined by two passengers, the captain's wife Sarah Briggs and their two-year-old daughter Sophia Matilda.

On December, 4, the ship was sighted by another ship, the Dei Gratia, under full sail and heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar.

The crew of the Dei Gratia concluded she was drifting, though flying no distress signals.

The chief mate of the Dei Gratia led a small party in a small boat to board the Mary Celeste.

He found the ship in generally good condition, but reports suggest the lifeboat had been intentionally launched rather than being torn away, suggesting the ship had been deliberately abandoned.

Popular tales of untouched breakfasts, washing hung out to dry, a cat found asleep on top of the gallery locker and a bowl of a half-eaten apple pie are wholly without substance.

When eventually unloaded in Genoa, nine of the 1,701 barrels on board were found to be empty and all the ship's papers, except the captain's logbook were missing.

The last log entry was dated November 24 and placed her 100 miles west of the Portuguese islands of the Azores.

None of the Mary Celeste's crew or passengers were ever found, and it is unlikely that the events leading to their disappearance will ever be known with any certainty.

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