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The Phantom Ship

Series info on UEN-TV

The story of a ship called the Mary Celeste has inspired numerous fictional accounts, including the 1935 classic, "The Phantom Ship". While the film offers an explanation for the disappearance of the captain, captain's wife, and the crew of a ship called the Marie Celeste (sic), no one knows what actually happened to the ten people who vanished somewhere between Staten Island, New York, and its destination in Europe.

The original ship was a 103-foot brigantine named the Amazon when it was first launched in Nova Scotia in 1861. By 1872, it was called the Mary Celeste and set sail with its captain, Benjamin Briggs, a crew of seven, and the captain's wife and two-year-old daughter. A month later, the ship was found by another vessel, the Dea Gratia, drifting on its way toward the Straits of Gibraltar with no sign of human life aboard. According to eyewitness accounts, one lifeboat was missing and a frayed rope trailed in the water.

Theories range from toxic fumes and poisoned flour to drunken mutiny and stormy seas. During a trial meant to determine whether the crew of the Dea Gratia could be allowed to profit from their salvage of the abandoned ship, it came out that some folks suspected them of murdering those aboard the Mary Celeste then concocting the story of finding her adrift. The accusations were never substantiated and it was ruled that the crew could indeed receive profit from the recovered vessel, but the sums distributed are said to be far less than was customary.

The Science

Chris Haller

Chris HallerChris Haller of Utah State Parks discusses boat safety and the film “Phantom Ship.”

 

More Science to go with the Show

Related Resources

Boating - Utah State Parks

Parks, Recreation & Tourism - University of Utah

Career Services - University of Utah

Boating Safety Equipment Checklist

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