Mary Celeste

4th December 1872

A ship found underway and making way towards its destination, but without a single soul on board………

Six months food, plenty of water, and no sign of piracy. In fact all the possessions of the crew and family aboard are all still in there correct place…..

Sails are trimmed and the vessel is moving along quite nicely, and sailing its way into what is probably the biggest maritime mystery of all time……..

Mary Celeste as Amazon in 1861.jpg

Originally called the Amazon with a skilled captain that was teetotal, a crew of seven of good ‘hearty lads’ and most interesting the captains wife and 2 yr old daughter.

She was carrying a cargo of commercial alcohol in her hold of 1701 barrels, and all intact when she was found, well except nine of them that appeared to have sprung a leak.

All in place and no signs of fighting, well kept vessel…….. in fact she was perfect, and, the only odd thing was a rope attached to the stern dragging in the water. A lifeboat gone, the sextant and marine chronometer were missing and……. nothing else!

In order to say what would have made this crew get off this vessel can really only be answered if you try to imagine what would make YOU get off a vessel.

Sea serpents were all the rage at the time……. and sailors were (and still are) extremely neurotic about spooks….. any spooks….. superstitious bunch. pictures were rife for years afterwards of huge octopus, plucking the crew one by one as they moved throughout the ship.

I guess bad weather may be another…. but why get off a good ship that has no damage and no significant water in the bilge….?

Armed invaders????  All the goodies were left including the captains purse, personal items of value, and of course the cargo that was still there.

How about aliens with forced abductions, and this story is a favorite with them. The obvious signs do not disagree with that possibility though!

Intriguing enigma that would have befallen anyone that was first to see the Celeste……..

There are some things that will make you get off a boat, and some things that wont, there are not many things that will make you get off a boat NOW!!!!!

Fire is one…….. but no sign of fire. Poisonous fumes is another……. nothing that points to that either… an assailant forcing you overboard one at a time… but no one is left????

I guess a crew member could have gone mad a silently strangled each one before committing suicide……..

So what clues do we have???????

A lifeboat gone……… a rope over the stern……….the sextant and marine chronometer missing…………

What obviously happened in this case was that something forced the captain to abandon ship and he told the crew to launch the lifeboat NOW!. He got his wife and child and the only other thing he felt important……… the ships papers, sextant, and chronometer and got in the boat, the crew followed.

They tied themselves on to the end of the rope that was at the stern of the vessel and sat there…………. a small squall blew up and the rope parted from the ship……… after then????? who knows……….

So what was that something that forced the captain to abandon ship???????

Of the 1701 barrels of alcohol nine were empty. those same barrels were made out of red oak not white oak as the others…….

Red oak is more porous and thus more likely to emit vapor. This would have caused a buildup of vapor in the hold.Poorly secured barrels could rub against each other, and friction between the barrels’ steel bands could cause sparks. The possibility of explosion, however remote, might have panicked the crew into abandoning ship.

The vapor would have been ethanol. Ethanol burns at a relatively low temperature with a flash point of 13°C or 55.4°F. A minimal spark is needed, for example from two metal objects rubbing together.

So I believe the captain would have left the hold doors open on deck (for release of fumes) but the heavier than air fumes remaining in the hold, would have allowed that small amount of friction to release a huge blue flame up above the deck and, thinking an explosion imminent, the captain ordered all to abandon ship.

As butane, the flash would have been very brief, and spectacular… very blue, and the urgency of the matter meant no one actually went to check as they would have found there was no fire……….

There was safety in the life boat, that is till the squall came up, and the badly tied Painter to the Marie Celeste parted………

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