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Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste

The name of a ship found abandoned at sea December 5, 1872, and one of the most famous unsolved sea mysteries. Her sails were set, she was sound and seaworthy, with plenty of food and water, but not a soul on board. Some garments were hanging out to dry on a line. In the cabin was a slate with notes for the ship's log, with November 25 as the last date. The crew had left pipes, clothing, and even oilskin boots. For some unknown reason the ship had been hurriedly abandoned. The Mary Celeste was brought to Gibraltar by the crew of the British brig Dei Gratia who claimed salvage. On March 25, 1873, the chief justice awarded £1,700 (about one-fifth of the total value) to the master and crew of the Dei Gratia.

Since then, the mystery of the Mary Celeste (sometimes inaccurately called "Marie Celeste") has been widely discussed and many theories advanced. There have also been various literary hoaxes, notably "The Marie Celeste: The True Story of the Mystery" (Strand Magazine, November 1913) and the book The Great Mary Celeste Hoax by Laurence J. Keating (London, 1929).

Several years before the creation of Sherlock Holmes, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" in Cornhill magazine (January 1884), a romantic fictional yarn with an air of verisimilitude. The story was republished in Doyle's volume of short stories The Captain of the Pole-star (London, 1890).


Fay, Charles Eden. Mary Celeste: The Odyssey of an Abandoned Ship. Salem, Mass.: Peabody Museum, 1942.

Gould, Rupert T. The Stargazer Talks. London, 1944. Reprinted as More Oddities and Enigmas. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1973.

Keating, Laurence J. The Great Mary Celeste Hoax: A Famous Sea Mystery Exposed. London: Heath-Cranton, 1929.

Stein, Gordon. Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.

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