December 4

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 4, 1872:

The mystery of the Mary Celeste

The Dei Gratia, a small British brig under Captain David Morehouse, spots the Mary Celeste, an American vessel, sailing erratically but at full sail near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship was seaworthy, its stores and supplies were untouched, but not a soul was onboard.

On November 7, the brigantine Mary Celeste sailed from New York harbor for Genoa, Italy, carrying Captain Benjamin S. Briggs, his wife and two-year-old daughter, a crew of eight, and a cargo of some 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol. After the Dei Gratia sighted the vessel on December 4, Captain Morehouse and his men boarded the ship to find it abandoned, with its sails slightly damaged, several feet of water in the hold, and the lifeboat and navigational instruments missing. However, the ship was in good order, the cargo intact, and reserves of food and water remained on board.

The last entry in the captain's log shows that the Mary Celeste had been nine days and 500 miles away from where the ship was found by the Dei Gratia. Apparently, the Mary Celeste had been drifting toward Genoa on her intended course for 11 days with no one at the wheel to guide her. Captain Briggs, his family, and the crew of the vessel were never found, and the reason for the abandonment of the Mary Celeste has never been determined.

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