Friday, July 20, 2012

The "Ghost" Ship

Let me tell you the story of the Mary Celeste, the worlds unluckiest ship.

On November 4, 1872 just off the shore of Staten Island, sat a beautiful ship named the Mary Celeste. She was anchored and awaiting departure to Italy to deliver some 1,701 barrels of pure alcohol. On board there where 10 people in total; the Captain, Benjamin Briggs, his wife, Sarah with their 2 year old daughter Sophia, and 7 crew men. Three days later she set sail with over 6 months worth of food, to her destination. 

According to records the ships last entry into its records book was November 25. The captain reported better weather since October was very hard on them. The Mary Celeste was found on December 4th, completely abandoned. She was found by a ship that had left the same harbor, and going to the same place, as well as carrying the same type of cargo but left a week and a half later. The captain on board had had lunch with Briggs and his wife a few nights before their departure and recognized the ship. After watching her move erratically about for almost 2 hours with no response from anyone on board, they decided to board the ship and see what was going on. They reported that the ship though it had rips in the sails and everything being wet, was still very much sea worthy and not at all in danger of sinking. They said that all personal items including all the cargo was still intact even saying that a childs rattle was sitting on one of the tables. All the hatches where open as well as the windows. 

But, before she even set out she had some troubles in the previous years of her life. 3 of her captains died on board, the 1st captain died on her maiden voyage. She struck a fishing boat and after being brought to a shipyard caught on fire. After being repaired she set out again, only to later collide with another ship. 

The Mary Celeste, after she was found.

So, what happened to the people that where on this ship? No one knows. Only a few things where missing, nothing of value, but the only life boat on board The Mary Celeste was missing. Another thing that sticks out as unusual is the broken rope that was found tied to the ship hanging over the edge. Many people speculate on what  happened, theories range from sea-quakes, alien abduction, time travel, explosions, to homicide. Though non of these are of any truth. I found a logical explanation on another site that makes perfect sense. 

My psychic connection to the Mary Celeste was unexceptional and yet astoundingly revealing at the same time.  In fact, I was able to solve the mystery from a single word.

After several unsuccessful attempts at connecting, all I saw was water, water, and more water--huge waves crashing over me as if I'd been cast into the sea and couldn't find my way out.  And then suddenly, I was on the ship's deck, the Captain stood before me, glaring down upon me and refusing to let me go any further on his ship. Yet, he seemed to know exactly what I'd come for, so perhaps I wasn't the first who'd attempted a psychic investigation of the Mary Celeste

His expression as hard as stone, he seemed totally perturbed by my intrusion, but he uttered one word: "Alcohol."  And then the connection broke.

Surely, I thought, there must be something more to the mystery than alcohol.

I decided to try again.

A few nights later, I returned to the ship, but the same thing happened. The stern captain again stood before me on deck, saying only: "Alcohol," and the connection instantly broke.  He didn't want me there, and I knew it--could feel it, but he wasn't opposed to my knowing the truth; for each time I connected,  he told me the answer, firmly and gruffly, "Alcohol." 

Yes, some spirits are definitely more talkative and friendly than others.  Perhaps the unfriendliness on the Captain's part stemmed from archaic notions about psychic matters--or perhaps he was trying to protect his family (if they were onboard), or maybe he wanted to be alone in his private hell (I believe he feels guilty about what happened.).  I simply don't know why he's so menacing.  I do know that he, and probably his crew and family alike, are not at rest and are still sailing the seas. Anyhow, back to the matter of alcohol.  At first I thought well what in the world does that mean? This one word can't be the answer to one of the greatest sea mysteries of all time.  But when I went to the research phase of my investigation, I found out that, indeed, "alcohol" provided the solution.  Suddenly that one little word had a powerful meaning for it had indirectly claimed the lives of those on board the Mary Celeste.  Mind you, it wasn't drinking alcohol, but a commercial type, such as ethanol, and the ship was loaded to the gills with it.
Conclusion: According to Captain Briggs himself alcohol was the key to this mystery.  That, along with the clues that were revealed during the ship's examination by the Del Gratia crew, presents a solution about what happened on board during the crew's final moments.  In fact, the pieces of the puzzle falls perfectly in place. But first, we need to step back to the beginning of the ship's journey. 

The crew endured weeks of foul weather.  The weather was unbearably rough throughout the journey and would have kept the crew working around the clock.  On November 24, they encountered the worst storm yet near the Azores, which would have kept them on their toes all night.  In the morning, the storm had let up.  Surely, a welcome relief.  There was almost no wind, but the probably didn't care.  At last, they could rest. And finally, they could ventilate the hold (this type of cargo needed to air occasionally due to fume buildup), something they hadn't been able to do in weeks because of the rough weather. 

They were in for an unpleasant surprise, however, because as soon as the hatches were thrown back, deadly fumes wafted from the hold, making the crew nauseous, light-headed, and dizzy.  The rough weather had broken some of the barrels of alcohol and 450 gallons of it filled the ship's bilge.  The crew, seeking fresh air, opened all of the hatches, doors, and windows.  But it wasn't enough.  The fumes were too potent and there wasn't a breeze to carry them off. The crew had no choice but to leave the ship until the fumes abated. Leaving their valuables because they expected to return, they used the peak halyard (the rope that drew the sail up the main mast) as a towline for the lifeboat.  They had to remain connected to the ship.  Without it, the lifeboat would drift from the ship with no way to catch up to it.  The rope, the longest line, provided the tether.  This is the reason why the Dei Gratia crew found the halyard hanging over the side of the ship--it had been attached to the front of the launch.  If weather got bad, they'd draw the small boat back to the ship; however that wasn't possible, because the crew made two fatal errors that resulted in tragedy. First, the crew failed to haul in the sails.  The sails on the foremast were left unfurled.  This is probably because the crew would have had to go aloft via the ratlines to draw them in, and perhaps they were too dizzy or ill to make the treacherous climb.  Or maybe they just weren't thinking clearly due to the potent fumes. 

Second, they didn't tie up the ship's wheel.  They either neglected to do so in their haste to flee the ship or they forgot.   And then too, the weather was unusually calm.  Perhaps they thought that the ship wasn't going anywhere anyhow. 

At any rate, they got into the cramped lifeboat (or yawl), eight men, a woman, and a child, and they drifted a bit for some fresh air, but as soon as Briggs head had cleared, he surely realized the dangerous situation they were in.  With four foresails still unfurled, a gust could set the ship off and leave them a deadly distance behind the vessel.  Perhaps he hoped for the best, knowing he had no option but to wait this out and hope that the weather would remain calm. 

But fate was against him.  That afternoon, a dreaded gale came, and the weather changed quickly, churning the water.  Briggs might have tried to pull them closer to the ship, using the towline, but it was too late. 
The sails caught the wind and the ship took off, picking up speed.  The  crew probably began a tug of war to reach the ship.  They would have struggled as long as their strength held out while waves violently rocked the tiny vessel. 

At some point, the halyard broke (thus the reason it was hanging broken over the side of the ship), and the rest happened quickly.  They would have paddled futilely against the powerful waves with no hope of catching up to the ship. 

They were lost at sea and no one knows if they were claimed by the waves or succumbed from a lack of food or water. The only certainty is that they met their deaths--and it all came about because of alcohol.

 What do you think?