Mary Celeste
The name of a ship found abandoned at sea December 5,
1872, and one of the most famous unsolved sea mysteries. Her
sails were set, she was sound and seaworthy, with plenty of food
and water, but not a soul on board. Some garments were hanging
out to dry on a line. In the cabin was a slate with notes for
the ship’s log, with November 25 as the last date. The crew had
left pipes, clothing, and even oilskin boots. For some unknown
reason the ship had been hurriedly abandoned. The Mary Celeste
was brought to Gibraltar by the crew of the British brig Dei
Gratia who claimed salvage. On March 25, 1873, the chief justice
awarded £1,700 (about one-fifth of the total value) to the
master and crew of the Dei Gratia.
Since then, the mystery of the Mary Celeste (sometimes inaccurately
called ‘‘Marie Celeste’’) has been widely discussed and
many theories advanced. There have also been various literary
hoaxes, notably ‘‘The Marie Celeste The True Story of the
Mystery’’ (Strand Magazine, November 1913) and the book The
Great Mary Celeste Hoax by Laurence J. Keating (London, 1929).
Several years before the creation of Sherlock Holmes, author
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published ‘‘J. Habakuk Jephson’s
Statement’’ in Cornhill magazine (January 1884), a romantic fictional
yarn with an air of verisimilitude. The story was republished
in Doyle’s volume of short stories The Captain of the Polestar
(London, 1890).
Sources
Fay, Charles Eden. Mary Celeste The Odyssey of an Abandoned
Ship. Salem, Mass. Peabody Museum, 1942.
Gould, Rupert T. The Stargazer Talks. London, 1944. Reprinted
as More Oddities and Enigmas. New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1973.
Keating, Laurence J. The Great Mary Celeste Hoax A Famous
Sea Mystery Exposed. London Heath-Cranton, 1929.
Stein, Gordon. Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Detroit Gale Research,
1993.

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