85. Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and her Missing Crew (Brian Hicks)

Sunday, February 01, 2009
On December 4, 1872, the crew of the Dei Gratia spotted a sail in the distance. While coming across another ship in the middle of the Atlantic in itself was unusual, it was the way the ship was tossing around on the waves, seemingly out of control, that caught the Captain's eye. When the Dei Gratia drew close enough to investigate, they discovered the ship was abandoned. What was even more mysterious was the fact that they couldn't discover a reason why - there was little or no structural damage, all the crew's personal effects were still present and the cargo was accounted for. The ghost ship, the Mary Celeste, was towed to Gibraltar where the Dei Gratia's crew expected to pick up a salvage reward. What they recieved instead was a criminal investigation and a place in maritime legend tied to a ship with a mysterious past.

What happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste and why did they abandon a perfectly sound ship? Any number of scenarios had been put forth over the years by sailors, historians, writers, and crackpots. From the possibility of abduction by pirates off the Azores, unexplained weather phenomenon, and insurance fraud to tales of Atlantis, abduction by aliens and attacks by giant squid, everyone seemed to have their own take on the mystery, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The legend surrounding the disappearance of the crew grew over the next century as fact and fiction blended together until it was practically impossible to determine the difference. The ship's shadowy past, and the problems it's various owners continued to have after her crew's disappearance, did nothing to put the mystery to rest.

Brian Hicks looks at some of the most notorious, and the most plausible, of the theories which have circulated over the years and sets out to disprove them. While the idea of being kidnapped by pirates or ripped off the deck by oversized calamari makes for a thrilling story, according to Hicks the real reason behind the Mary Celeste's disappearing crew is much more benign but still makes for an eerie tale. Ghost Ship is a great read for sea lovers and mystery fans alike. And at just over 250 pages, it's a quick read. Highly recommended.

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