The mystery of the Mary Celeste has occupied men’s minds for a hundred years. She was a ship of 282 tons and she sailed from New York on 7 November 1872 bound for Genoa, with a cargo of alcohol. Her master was Benjamin Briggs, and with him sailed his wife, their two-year old daughter, and five seamen. On 5 December, between the Azores and Portugal, she was sighted by another vessel, which sent a boarding party on to her. They found no one on board. Some sails were set, the wheel was free. One version of the discovery said that in the cabin the table was laid for a meal. In the crew’s quarters were pipes and tobacco. Cups of tea were still warm, so was the galley stove. The chronometer and ship’s papers were missing. But the log was there and the last entry gave her position ten days earlier as 36° latitude north and 27° longitude west.
Sitting on a locker was the only living thing aboard the ship – a fat cat, asleep. In the cabin was discovered a cutlass. It was blood stained. One of the ship’s boats was missing and one of the hatch covers was open. Theories came in profusion, but from that day to this no one has ever been able to establish with certainly what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste.