Mary Celeste: The mystery of the abandoned ship-4

Mary Celeste: The mystery of the abandoned ship-3


Flood couldn’t support his suspicions with concrete evidence. He had to reluctantly release Mary Celeste from the Gibraltar court’s jurisdiction on February 25. Two weeks later, she left Gibraltar for Genoa.

As for the salvage paynment, that was decided on April 8, when Cochrane, the chief justice of Gibraltar, announced the award of £1,700, or about one-fifth of the total value of ship and cargo.

Mary Celeste left Genoa on June 26, 1873, and arrived in New York on September 19. Newspaper stories of murder and bloodshed, had made her an unpopular ship. It was noted that she “…rotted on wharves where nobody wanted her.”

The following year, she was sold to businessmen from New York, under whose ownership, she sailed mainly in the West Indian and Indian Ocean routes, and by so doing, lost a great amount of money. Details of her movements occasionally appeared in the news; in February 1879, she was reported at the island of St. Helena, where she had called to seek immediate medical attention for her captain who had fallen ill. He died on the island, prompting widespread notions that the ship was cursed. Prior to this, two other captains had died prematurely.

One year later, she was sold again to a partnership of Bostonians. Over the years, her captains were replaced. During these years, the ship’s port of registration changed several times, before reverting to Boston. There were no records of any voyages during this time, although it was noted that several hard measures were taken to make a success of her but to little or no avail.


In November 1884, the captain of the Mary Celeste, conspired with a group of Boston shippers, who filled her with largely useless cargo, misrepresented on the manifest as valuable goods and insured for US$30,000 ( about $800,000 today).

On December 16, the ship set out for Port-au-Prince, the capital and chief port of Haiti. On January 3, 1885, Mary Celeste approached the port via a channel between Gonâve Island and the mainland, in which lay a large and well-charted reef, the Rochelois Bank. The captain deliberately ran the ship on to this reef, ripping out her bottom and wrecking her beyond repair. The captain and the crew then rowed themselves ashore, where the salvageable cargo was sold for $500 to the American consul, and instituted insurance claims for the alleged value.

Gonâve Island, in the Gulf of Gonâve, Haiti. The Rochelois Bank is faintly visible in the southerly channel between the island and the mainland.(Wikipedia)

The consul eventually came to know the uselessness of the cargo. The truth of the over-insured cargo came out. The captain was set free, but his professional reputation was ruined. He died of poverty three months later. One of his co-defendants went mad, the other committed suicide. Many thought that since the court couldn’t punish these men, the curse that had devilled the ship since her first skipper had died on her maiden voyage could reach beyond the vessel’s watery grave and exact its own terrible retribution.

On August 2001, the remnants of the ship were found embedded in the Rochelois Reef. Only a few pieces of timber and some metal artifacts could be salvaged. The remaining was lost within the vast coral.

The wreck of the Mary Celeste (Image source: Daily Mail)

As for the ship that found the Mary Celeste, she was sold to Irish owners in 1881. The Dei Gratia was wrecked at Black Rock, Dale Pembrokeshire after her moorings were broken in a southeast storm on December 27, 1907.


There has never been a clear consensus on any one scenario. It is a mystery that has tormented countless people, including the families of the lost sailors and hundred of others who have tried in vain to solve the riddle. The Ghost Ship may be the best example of the old proverb that the sea never gives up its secrets.

Brian Hicks: Ghost Ship (2004)

The Mary Celeste was not the first reported case of a vessel being found deserted on the high seas. Marine investigators have listed several such occurrences between 1840 and 1855.

However, without a shadow of a doubt, it is the Mary Celeste, that has become synonymous with unaccountable desertion. Nobody has been able to uncover the whole truth to this day.

For such is the mystery of the abandoned ship.



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