Graveyard Shift

What Really Happened To The 'Mary Celeste' And Her Vanished Crew? 

Amanda Sedlak-Hevener
15.3k views 13 items

The story of the Mary Celeste begins on December 4th, 1872, when the ship was found floating adrift off the coast of the Azores Islands. The crew that found her, who were members of the Dei Gratia ship, noted that all of Mary Celeste's passengers and crew were missing and that the cargo in its hold was still intact.

The ship had reportedly been traveling from New York City to Genoa, Italy, with a cargo hold full of denatured alcohol. So, what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste? No one quite knows, although there are all sorts of crazy (and realistic) theories ranging from sea monsters to pirates, as well as those that blame the ship's instruments for going haywire. The Mary Celeste's crew members left behind everything that they brought on board, including their tobacco and pipes - which was one thing that sailors almost never left behind and provided further proof that they left in a hurry. Although we may never know what happened on the Mary Celeste, there are still plenty of wild and weird facts that have been proven about the ship's time at sea.

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Photo: Unconfirmed/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
All Of The Crew Members' Belongings Were Left Behind

When the crew members fled the Mary Celeste, they left behind everything that they owned - including their tobacco and pipes. This is something that even the most panicked sailors would grab, except in this case. There was also a six month storage of clean drinking water (and alcohol) on board, as well as plenty of food. These items were strewn all over the crew's quarters, which were described as being a mess. The crew only had the clothes on their backs and whatever was in their pockets when they jumped overboard.

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Photo: Dan Conlin/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons
There Was Nothing Wrong With The Ship, Except For Three And Half Feet Of Water At The Bottom Of The Hull

When the Mary Celeste was found adrift, there was nothing physically wrong with her. If there had been a large hole in the hull, or a massive crack, then what happened would have been obvious. However, the only thing that investigators could find that was even slightly unusual was the three and half feet of water in the ship's hull. This wasn't nearly enough to sink the ship, or even cause alarm among the crew.

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Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
All Of The Captain's Papers, Logbooks, And Instruments Were Missing, Except For One

Although all of the crew's belongings were left behind, most of the important items that belonged to Captain Briggs were not. The captain's papers, logbooks, and most of his instruments were missing. All that had been left behind was a small daily log (called a slate log) and a few small compasses. Whatever happened had caused the captain (or someone else) to believe that he needed to save these items and take them with him.

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Photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
Some People Still Believe Crazy Theories About The Ship That Involve Giant Sea Monsters

There are all sorts of unusual theories out there regarding the fate of the Mary Celeste's crew. Some of them are outlandish and involve alien abductions and sea monsters, while others claim that pirates may have captured and killed everyone on board. Perhaps there had even been some sort of mutiny that caused the crew to become bloodthirsty and fight each other or the captain. Natural disasters, such as seaquakes or tornadoes, have also been blamed throughout the years, and though these are less outlandish than sea monsters, they are just as improbable.