|On December 4, 1872, the brigantine Mary Celeste, carrying 1,700 barrels of crude alcohol en route from New York to Genoa, was found abandoned and drifting in the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and Portugal. The crew of the Dei Gratia, the cargo ship that found the Mary Celeste, inspected her carefully and then sailed her to Gibraltar to collect the large salvage reward. Their report given at the inquiry suggests that the captain, his wife, his young daughter, and the seven-man crew had deserted the ship in a great hurry. The captain's bed was unmade, something unheard of in a well-run ship, which the Mary Celeste was known to be. The oilskin boots and pipes belonging to the crew had also been left, although the chronometer, sextant, and lifeboat were missing. The cargo was intact, although some barrels had leaked and two of the hatches were not in place.|
Several theories have been propounded to explain why those aboard left a perfectly seaworthy vessel to risk their lives on an open boat. It has been suggested that they were the victims of alien abduction or sea-monster attacks. Such outlandish notions are hardly credible. The idea that the ship was a victim of piracy can also be discounted, since the cargo and other valuables were untouched. Likewise, mutiny does not seem plausible. since the captain and first officer were known to be fair and experienced, the voyage was relatively short, and mutineers would probably have taken over the ship, not forsaken it
-> A possible explanation is that some event made the captain fear for the safety of the ship. [A] In fact, recently studied seismic records indicate that a violent earthquake, whose epicenter was on the seafloor in the region where the Mary Celeste was sailing, occurred some days before the ship's discovery. [B] If the ship had been subjected to intense shocks caused by the quake, all aboard may have hastily abandoned ship to avoid what they imagined might be its imminent destruction from an explosion of the combustible cargo. [C] A severed rope found dangling from the side of the Mary Celeste suggests that the evacuees trailed behind in the lifeboat, attached to the ship, waiting for the crisis to pass. [D] Great waves may then have snapped the rope and capsized the smaller boat, whose occupants would have disappeared without a trace.