The Mary Celeste #MysteryMonday

Hey everyone. Welcome to the first Mystery Monday of the new year. Today’s story dates back almost 150 years and is one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.

An 1861 painting of the Mary Celeste (then known as the Amazon) by an unknown artist. (Public Domain)

The Mary Celeste was a 282-ton brigantine ship that left Staten Island, New York on November 7, 1872, bound for Genoa, Italy with a cargo of around 1700 barrels of crude alcohol.

On board were Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter. Their seven-year-old son was left in the care of relatives. Also on board were seven crew members, all highly experienced and hand-picked by Captain Briggs.

On December 4, 1872, about 400 miles east of the Azores, the crew of the British ship Dei Gratia spotted a vessel adrift in choppy seas. The ship was seaworthy, her cargo intact, and had a six-month supply of food and staples. Not a single person was on board.

The Mary Celeste wasn’t leaking and had no structural damage. One lifeboat was missing, but the personal belongings and cargo remained on board. Of note, nine of the seventeen hundred barrels of alcohol were empty.

According to the ship’s log, the Mary Celeste battled howling winds and rough seas for approximately two weeks before reaching the Azores. The last entry was recorded at 0500 on November 25, but nothing out of the ordinary was reported.

Several theories abound about what happened. These range from pirates to mutiny, a natural disaster such as a waterspout, alcohol explosion, and alien abduction.

Piracy isn’t likely as the cargo, and personal belongings of the crew remained on board. The crew members had impeccable records, so mutiny seems unlikely.

Some theorize alcoholic fumes may have escaped, causing Captain Briggs to order everyone into the lifeboat until the danger had passed. The lifeboat could have drifted away from the main ship, and rough waters made it impossible for the crew to return.

A waterspout seems unlikely as the ship was intact and seaworthy. Alien abduction? I won’t even grace that theory with a response except to say, “Doesn’t someone always blame aliens for any unexplained event?”

The crew of the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste into Gibraltar. She eventually had a new owner and sailed another dozen years before her captain deliberately ran her aground off Haiti in what was believed to be part of an insurance fraud scheme.

Many believed the ship was cursed, so no one ever brought her back into the harbor. Over the years, she was allowed to drift in the sea, where she was finally swallowed up by the ocean, taking her secrets to a watery grave.

MH 370 #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. Welcome to another Mystery Monday. This week’s story is no doubt, one of the strangest disappearances in modern history.

It’s not hard to imagine a small plane like the one Amelia Earhart flew disappearing in 1937. Radio communications weren’t as sophisticated, and we didn’t have the benefit of satellite communication. But how does a huge commercial jetliner disappear without a trace in the twenty-first century?

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH 370) departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport in route to Beijing International on March 8, 2014. Thirty-eight minutes into the flight, the crew of the Boeing 777-200 last communicated with air traffic control when the plane was over the South China Sea.

A Boeing 777-200, the same type of aircraft as MH370. (Creative Commons)

Minutes later, ATC radar screens lost sight of the plane, but military radar tracked it for another hour as it deviated west from its planned flight path. It crossed the Malay Peninsula and Andaman Sea and left radar range 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang Island in northwestern Malaysia. The plane, 227 passengers, and twelve crew members have never been seen again.

A search for the missing aircraft initially focused on the South China and Andaman seas. However, an analysis of the aircraft’s automated communications with an Inmarsat satellite identified a possible crash site somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

After a three-year search across 46,000 square miles of ocean failed to locate the plane, the agency heading the operation suspended the search in January 2017. A second search by a private contractor began in January 2018 but ended without success six months later.

Twenty pieces of debris believed to be from MH370 was recovered from beaches in the western Indian Ocean by October 2017. Eighteen were “identified as being very likely or almost certain to originate from MH370.”

The first item of debris to be positively identified as originating from Flight 370 was the starboard flaperon which was discovered on July 2015 on a beach in Saint-André, on Réunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. France’s civil aviation accident investigation agency examined the item. On September 3 of that year, French officials announced the serial numbers found on internal components of the flaperon linked it “with certainty” to Flight 370.

After the discovery, French police conducted a search of the waters around Réunion for additional debris and found a damaged suitcase that might be linked to Flight 370. Other debris, including parts of a stabilizer and a Rolls Royce engine have been discovered in various locations.

No one is certain as to the reasons for the flight’s deviation from its intended path. Some speculate passenger or crew involvement, but there has been no definitive proof.

All we know for sure is somewhere is the remains of a jumbo jet, its passengers and crew.