Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brigantine Mary Celeste Found Abandoned 1872

The Mary Celeste (often incorrectly referred to as Marie Celeste) was a brigantine merchant ship famous for having been discovered in December 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean unmanned and apparently abandoned, despite the fact that the weather was fine and her crew had been experienced and able seamen. The Mary Celeste was in seaworthy condition and still under sail heading towards the Strait of Gibraltar. She had been at sea for a month and had over six months' worth of food and water on board. Her cargo was virtually untouched and the personal belongings of passengers and crew were still in place, including valuables. The crew was never seen or heard from again. Their disappearance is often cited as the greatest maritime mystery of all time.

The fate of her crew has been the subject of much speculation. Theories range from alcoholic fumes, to underwater earthquakes, to waterspouts, to paranormal explanations involving extraterrestrial life, unidentified flying objects, sea monsters, and the phenomena of the Bermuda Triangle, although the Mary Celeste is not known to have sailed through the Bermuda Triangle area. The Mary Celeste is often described as the archetypal ghost ship, since she was discovered derelict without any apparent explanation, and her name has become a synonym in British culture for similar occurrences. It was discovered by David Morehouse

Later history and her end

James Winchester considered selling the Mary Celeste after the mysterious events for which she was now notable. His mind was made up when the vessel claimed the life of his father, Henry Winchester-Vinters, who drowned in an accident in Boston, Massachusetts when she was brought back to America. Winchester sold the Mary Celeste at an enormous loss. Over the next 13 years, the vessel changed hands 17 times. By then, the Mary Celeste was in very poor condition.

Her last captain and owner, identified as G. C. Parker, made no profit whatsoever and deliberately wrecked the Mary Celeste in an insurance fraud in the Caribbean Sea on January 3, 1885. She was loaded with an over-insured cargo of scrap, including boots and cat food. The plan did not work, as the ship failed to sink after having been run on Rochelais reef off the western coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and south of GonĂ¢ve Island,. Parker then tried to burn the wreck, but even after the fire the vessel remained intact, although the ship's log was destroyed along with Benjamin Briggs's prior entries in it.

Parker then filed an exorbitant insurance claim for a cargo that never existed; a subsequent insurance investigation revealed the fraud. Captain Parker was arrested, but died under unknown circumstances before his trial. The partially burnt hulk of the Mary Celeste was deemed beyond repair and she was left to eventually slip off the shoal and sink.

On August 9, 2001, an expedition headed by author Clive Cussler (representing the National Underwater and Marine Agency) and Canadian film producer John Davis along with divers from the Nova Scotian company EcoNova announced that they had found the remains of the brigantine where Parker had wrecked her. Maritime archaeologist James P. Delgado identified the wreck as Mary Celeste based on a survey of the large bay and by analyzing vessel fastenings, ballast, timber, and evidence of the fire. This matched the wreck with historical accounts of Mary Celeste.

Other researchers have disputed Cussler's claim. The Caribbean is littered with thousands of wrecks, many similar to the Mary Celeste. Scott St. George of the Geological Survey of Canada and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona analyzed samples from wood fragments recovered from the site in an effort to reconstruct sufficient tree ring data for dating. Based on this, St. George believes the wood was cut from trees still living at least a decade after the Mary Celeste sank.

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