فصل 01

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فصل 01

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Part one

The Ghost Ship Mary Celeste

A Mysterious Disappearance

On 4 December 1872 the British ship Dei Gratia was crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. As the ship came close to the Azores, the captain of the ship, Captain Morehouse, suddenly saw a mysterious dark spot on the horizon. ‘What could it be?’ he thought, and he ordered some of his crew to go and investigate. When the crew of the Dei Gratia came close to the spot, they saw that it was a ship - the Mary Celeste. But something was very, very wrong. There were no signs of life on the Mary Celeste. Apparently it had sailed on its course for 370 nautical miles as a ghost ship. It had navigated without a navigator. To understand this mystery we must go to back to the year 1861.

In 1861 a ship called the Amazon was built. But the Amazon had bad luck from the start. It was badly damaged during its first voyage in 1862 and shortly after there was a fire on board. During the years that followed there were many other accidents on the ship.

The Amazon was finally sold and its name was changed to the Mary Celeste. But the new owners did not know the superstition that it is bad luck to change a ship’s name.

Many sailors did not want to sail on the ship because they thought it was unlucky, and so it was very difficult to find a crew. Finally enough sailors were found to make a crew of seven men. The new captain of the Mary Celeste was 37-year-old Benjamin Briggs, a sailor with great experience.

On the morning of 5 November 1872 the Mary Celeste left New York harbour with a cargo of 1700 barrels of unrefined alcohol.

The weather that day was perfect for sailing. On board the ship were Captain Briggs, his wife Sarah, their two-year-old daughter Sophia and a crew of seven men.

The ship’s destination was Genoa, Italy. Captain Briggs log book shows that the first fifteen days of the voyage were calm, and the wind and weather were good.

But once the ship came near to the Azores, the weather suddenly changed. Captain Briggs wrote in his log book that there was a storm with a lot of wind. At first this did not worry him, because he was an expert navigator.

As the hours passed, the wind became stronger and the weather got much worse. The night of 24 November was very stormy. At 5 a.m. on 25 November Captain Briggs wrote in his log book that he could see the island of Santa Maria, but he did not stop there.

He sailed north of the island of Santa Maria. This was very strange because the most direct route to the Strait of Gibraltar, entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, is south of the island. Why did he go north instead of south?

Perhaps he wanted to leave the stormy route and look for better weather. In any case, in the early morning of 25 November the Mary Celeste sailed along the northern coast of the island. Then something terrible happened on the Mary Celeste - something so unexpected and shocking that we must suppose Captain Briggs abandoned the ship and got into the lifeboat with his wife, daughter and crew. No one ever heard from them or saw them again.


On Board the Mary Celeste

When Captain Morehouse’s men got on the Mary Celeste on 4 December, they found no signs of violence. The ship’s lifeboat had gone, but all parts of the ship were in order.

There was plenty of food and fresh water on the ship. It is even said that the captain’s breakfast was still on the table in his cabin! However, the ship’s compass was broken and the other navigation instruments were not there.

The sailors hurried back to the Dei Gratia and told their captain about the frightening discovery.

‘The people on the Mary Celeste probably abandoned the ship during a violent storm,’ said Captain Morehouse.

‘But there was no evidence of a violent storm on the ship. Everything is in perfect condition,’ said one of the crew members.

‘Perhaps there was a mutiny at sea,’ said the captain, trying to explain the mystery.

‘If that’s true, what happened to the people on the ship?’ asked another sailor.

‘I don’t know,’ said Captain Morehouse. ‘I can’t find a logical explanation, but now we must do something with the deserted ship.

He ordered one of his officers, Oliver Deveau, and two other men to sail the Mary Celeste to the port of Gibraltar. The Dei Gratia went ahead and the Mary Celeste followed.


The Investigation

When the Mary Celeste arrived in Gibraltar, the British authorities examined it carefully and wanted answers to these questions:

  1. Why were nine of the barrels of unrefined alcohol empty? This is a dangerous liquid. Did the crew drink it and go mad?

  2. Did pirates take over the ship? If so, where did they go?

  3. How did the ship remain on its course for ten days without anyone to sail it? Perhaps someone remained on board after 25 November. But who? And where was that person?

Both the British and the American authorities investigated the mystery, but after two years of investigations, no one was able to find a logical explanation.

Newspapers all over the world began writing about the ghost ship. People everywhere were fascinated by the Mary Celeste and more than thirty books were published on the subject. Even the famous British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle became interested in the ship and wrote a story about it.

During the next eleven years the ship was sold seventeen times. Then it was destroyed on some rocks in the Caribbean Sea, and that was the end of its unlucky life.


A Mystery Explained?

At the end of the nineteenth century, Eberhart Rudolph, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Strasburg in Germany, published a long study on seaquakes (underwater earthquakes). He wrote about more than 550 seaquakes and their devastating effect on ships. Is this what happened to the Mary Celeste? Was the unlucky ship a victim of a violent seaquake? Did the seaquake make a frightening noise, shake the ship and throw it into the air? Were the ten people on the ship so terrified by this natural catastrophe that they abandoned it?

Today scientists know that seaquakes create extremely high waves, accompanied by very loud noises, and are very destructive.

According to the Acoustics Division of the US Naval Research Laboratory, there have been major seaquakes near Santa Maria Island in the Azores every year for hundreds of years. There have also been strong earthquakes in the Azores Islands during the centuries. But in 1872 there were no instruments to record a seaquake. So no one will ever know for certain what happened to the Mary Celeste, and the mystery remains.

What do you think? Was the Mary Celeste a victim of a seaquake or I was it a victim of its own bad luck?

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