On April 22, 2007, police called off a search for the three-man crew of a catamaran named “Kaz II,” which was discovered drifting about 80 feet off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef.
When the police boarded the ship, the engine was running and a meal was carefully laid out on the table. When the police called off the search, they said the men must have been swept into the sea by a storm nearly a week earlier. But the laptop computer was turned on and still running, even though, if the men had disappeared from the ship during the storm, the battery should have been dead. And the cabin was dry. The food still looked fresh and everything, including the silverware, was neatly arranged on the table.
One sail of the ship was torn, but there were no signs of violence on the ship. There were no lifeboats on board, but all of the life jackets and other safety gear were still in place. Nothing indicated a scramble for safety. It looked as though the crew had just mysteriously walked away.
This incident naturally led many people to compare the Kaz II to other famous “ghost ships,” most notably the Mary Celeste, which was found floating and abandoned near Portugal in 1872.
The Marie Celeste
The Mary Celeste, an American registered ship, manned mostly entirely by a Dutch crew, its American captain Benjamin Briggs, his wife and two-year-old daughter all disappeared without a trace on a fateful voyage that sailed the Mary Celeste into legend.
The ship cast off on November, 1872, headed for Genoa, Italy with a cargo full of pure alcohol. Only to be found almost a month later, by a British ship named the Dei Gratia which spotted the Mary Celeste adrift near the Azores Islands. After hailing the ship for two hours with no reply, part of the crew boarded the Mary Celeste. What they found filled them with awe. The ship was completely deserted, with no sign of the crew. There was also no sign of a struggle or any foul play. The cargo was all there, although a few barrels were empty. A few instruments were missing, but the captain’s log book was found, with the last entry 10 days before, indicating no problems.
Members of the Dei Gratia crew sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar, where an inquest was held. Frederick Solly Flood, Advocate General of the British Admiralty Court, hinted that the crew might have mutinied, possibly drunk on the missing alcohol. This did not seem likely, as the alcohol was pure and not suitable for drinking. He also suggested that it might all be a ruse to collect the insurance, and Briggs and his family were safe somewhere waiting to collect. Then, he suggested that the Dei Gratia crew may have killed the crew and thrown them overboard in order to claim the prize for recovering lost ships. But the complete lack of any signs of struggle seemed to rule that out. In the end, the Court praised the Dei Gratia crew for its actions and speculated that the crew must have mistakenly thought the ship was sinking, and jumped overboard.
A few years later, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story, “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement,” which was based on the Mary Celeste, but embellished the account with half-eaten breakfasts and warm cups of tea and other indications that something supernatural took place on the ship he called the “Marie Celeste.” The story became wildly popular, and spread the legend of the Mary Celeste even further.
So what exactly is a Ghost Ship?
They are as mysterious and as the legendary tales of sea monsters often seen by ancient and modern mariners alike. But do ghost ships really exist and which are the most famous ghost ships around the world?
The most famous was the Flying Dutchman.
The curse of the Flying Dutchman is arguably one the most famous tales of a ghost ship in history. But the true story behind it is mixed with legend and Hollywood, as in its depiction in the recently successful films by Walt Disney entitled ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean.’
The fable is at least partly based on fact: the ship did set sail out from Amsterdam in 1680 bound for the Dutch East Indies. On the epic journey, it began to rain torrents in a horrific storm around the Cape of Good Hope, and the sea swells towered over the ship as the winds ripped at its sails. Capt. Van der Decker sailed directly into the storm against the outcry and protests from his crew, who were crying that it was a warning…