Mary Celeste
Public DomainMary Celeste - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mary Celeste was a merchant ship that was discovered on December 4th 1872 in the Atlantic Ocean. It was deserted.

The ship was in seaworthy condition and still under sail, headed for the Strait of Gibraltar. Six months of food and water supplies were onboard. The weather had been fine and the crew were known to be capable sailors. The cargo was almost untouched, and the passengers' belongings were still there, including many valuables. However, the crew was never seen or heard from again.

Various theories have been proposed, such as underwater earthquakes, waterspouts, aliens, sea monsters, the Bermuda Triangle or insurance fraud.

The most widely held theory points out that the ship was carrying alcohol, and nine of the 1,701 barrels were found empty. These nine barrels were made of red oak, whereas the others were made of white oak. These red oak barrels were more likely to emit a vapor, which would have built up in the hold and caused an explosion if the barrels' steel bands rubbed against each other and produced a spark. Research has shown that such an explosion would have been dramatic, but would not actually have been hot enough to leave any burn marks. The theory argues that the crew may have been panicked into abandoning ship by such an explosion, not realising that the ship was now safe.