Legendary Ghost Ship, Mary Celeste, Discovered an a Reef in Haiti
HALIFAX, N.S.- Known throughout history as the fabled Ghost Ship, the MARY CELESTE was found sailing off the Azores in 1872 ghost-like with no one aboard. The MARY CELESTE sailed into oblivion when a boarding party from a passing ship found that her captain, his wife, two-year-old daughter and entire crew had inexplicably vanished.
Clive Cussler, best-selling novelist and adventurer, representing the National Underwater & Marine Agency, (NUMA) and John Davis, president of ECO-NOVA Productions of Canada, announced August 9th, 2001, that they had discovered the remains of MARY CELESTE on a reef off the coast of Haiti.
“With so many stories written about MARY CELESTE,” Cussler stated, “it was time to write the final chapter, although the true story of her missing crew may never be solved.”
“After her eerie abandonment,” explained Davis, “the ship sailed under different owners for twelve years, until her last captain loaded her with a cargo of cheap rubber boots and cat food before deliberately sinking her, and then filing an exorbitant insurance claim for an exotic cargo that never existed. Unfortunately, for the captain his plan fell apart after running the ship onto Rochelais Reef in Haiti, the ship hung up on the coral and refused to sink. Insurance inspectors investigated and found the worthless cargo. The captain and his first mate were later convicted on charges of what was then known as barratry.”
Allan Gardner, skipper of the survey boat, pointed out that the ship left a large trench after she rammed the coral. “The 120 natives, who now live on the reef after building an island of conch shells,” he said, “use the old MARY CELESTE’s groove as a channel to launch their boats.”
Master Diver, Mike Fletcher, quickly found artifacts of the ship’s presence that were carefully removed from the sand and coral. Their location was videotaped and they were cataloged for study and conservation. “Very little of the ship is visible,” Fletcher reported, “She is covered by some of the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen.”
Archaeologist James Delgado, comparing the remains of the wreck with historical accounts and carefully studying the fragments, was confidently able to identify the wreck as MARY CELESTE. Detailed research shows no other ship is known to have wrecked on Rochelais Reef, and a systematic survey of the reef revealed only one shipwreck. Other evidence cited by Delgado identifying the wreck as MARY CELESTE were:
* A survey of the wreck revealed its dimensions to be 100 by 25 feet: MARY CELESTE’s recorded dimensions at the keel were 99.3 by 25.3 feet.
* The wreck was fastened together with iron “drifts” and bronze spikes commonly used in ships built in the mid-19th century: MARY CELESTE was constructed in 1861.
* The wreck was sheathed with “Muntz metal,” also known as “naval brass,” which began to replace copper sheathing on ship’s hulls after 1850. By the 1860’s it had nearly completely replaced copper sheathing.
* Detailed analysis of twelve samples of wood by Dr. David Etheridge, a wood scientist from Victoria, British Columbia, showed the ship was built either in Northern New England or the Maritime Provinces of Canada. MARY CELESTE was built at Spencer’s island, Nova Scotia.
“We can safely say the final resting place of the infamous MARY CELESTE has been found,” concluded Delgado.
“We were lucky,” admitted Cussler, who has found nearly 70 historic shipwrecks, including the Confederate Submarine HUNLEY and the ship that rescued the TITANIC survivors, CARPATHIA, in between writing 20 best-selling novels. “Everything came together for a crew of dedicated people focused on preserving maritime history.”
Footage of the MARY CELESTE expedition will be featured in a new National Geographic Channels International television series called “The Sea Hunters,” set to air in 2002. Based on Clive Cussler’s best-selling novel, the series follows modern-day adventurers as they attempt to solve ancient maritime mysteries and will air on the National Geographic Channels International in at least 129 countries around the world. In Canada, the series will premiere on History Television.
A news conference was held August 9th, 2001 at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia where Cussler, best-selling author and Founder of the National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA), and Delgado, Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, displayed artifacts and answered questions concerning the search and discovery of MARY CELESTE.
Then Cussler added, “The enigma of the MARY CELESTE will continue to haunt us all for generations to come. She is a tale of the sea that will never be forgotten.”