The case of the Mary Celeste:
The Source and Cause of its Popularity
April 8, 2012
The Mary Celeste is a name that will never be forgotten in America. The story behind this popular derelict is so famous that almost everyone knows it. What makes the case of the Mary Celeste so interesting however is that it is not a story. The Mary Celeste is a real life tragedy that has puzzled everyone throughout the centuries; it remains an unsolved mystery to this day. There have been many possible explanations as to why the crew of this brigantine suddenly disappeared. Some of these explanations are logical while others reach the depths of the human imagination. The sure thing is that it is useless to seek for an answer now that almost more than three centuries have passed by. As the centuries get farther from the time of the Mary Celeste, it becomes harder to almost impossible to solve this popular mystery. One thing that writers and historians have overlooked however is its popularity. In the 18th century derelicts were extremely common. This leads to the question as to why the Mary Celeste became so popular when it was an occurrence just like the rest. The Mary Celeste became popular because all the solutions introduced to this mystery remain implausible, and empathy and superstitions were used to draw the general public to this case. Was the alcohol theory implausible?
There have been thousands of theories regarding the Mary Celeste. People of all sorts have tried to shed some light into this mystery. The alcohol theory has always been the most popularly common belief throughout the centuries. The theory goes that the crew members either consumed the alcohol or that the brigantine was overcome by the fumes created from a minor explosion. This explosion would have created a loud noise and a small fire that burned out quickly leaving the rest of the cargo still intact. This is a strong theory because it would explain p. 2 the fore hatch that was found open and the possibly missing boat. If Captain Briggs would have heard this loud noise, he would have immediately entered a lifeboat to rescue his crew members and his family. The problem however is that in the original papers of the first encounter of the Dei Gratia crew members with the deserted Mary Celeste it was never mentioned that they smelled any alcohol vapors of any sort. Also if there would have been an explosion some of the alcohol would have inevitably spilled. One of the Dei Gratia witnesses states “I also saw there a barrel of Stockholm tar standing in its proper position with the head of the barrel off., none of it appeared to have been used….not a drop of it had escaped.” This vital piece of information makes the theory impossible and incorrect. It is puzzling that no one had examined this clue since the opening of the case. The notes of the Dei Gratia were there all along to examine. It is hard to imagine why this theory became so popularly acknowledged when it did not make any sense since the beginning. At the time there was also a good amount of periodicals that briefly mentioned that the crew members of the Mary Celeste might have possibly consumed the alcohol. This popular belief cannot be true either. Captain Briggs was known throughout his community to be an honorable and religious man. It is difficult to imagine that he might have let the people on board consume alcohol especially when his family was present. “a quantity of books mostly of a religious kind and which, with the exception of a few which I was informed by the Marshall had been removed by him out of the lowest drawer underneath the Captain’s bed-place….”...
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