The Mary Celeste was a ship found abandoned off the coast of Portugal in 1872.
Originally named ‘The Amazon’ when it was first built in Nova Scotia in 1861, the 103-foot, 282-ton brigantine was renamed the ‘Mary Celeste’ in 1869 after changing hands several times.
Early in November 1872, the ship set sail from New York to Genoa, Italy, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs.
A month later, on 4 December 1872, it was found adrift and abandoned, yet its cargo of 1700 barrels of alcohol was intact.
None of the Mary Celeste’s crew or passengers was ever found.
Theories have abounded as to what happened. The most logical was that the ship was hit by a seaquake, common in the Azores, where the ship would have been at that time.
Evidence indicated that the quake had dislodged some of the alcohol barrels, dumping almost 500 gallons of raw alcohol into the bilge.
The galley stove shook so violently that it was lifted up from its chocks, possibly sending sparks and embers flying.
This, mixed with the alcohol fumes, could have caused the crew and passengers to fear for their safety.
They may have taken to the lifeboats, but were unable to catch up to the brig when the quaking subsided.
Regardless of the theories, the mystery endures as to why the ‘Mary Celeste’ was abandoned.