Mary Celeste was launched in 1861 under the name Amazon and changed hands a number of times before being acquired by a New York consortium that carried out an extensive refit. She was then placed under the command of Benjamin Briggs, who carefully chose a crew to sail the vessel to Genoa with a cargo of 1,701 barrels of denatured alcohol.
Mary Celeste departed New York on 7 November, and was followed eight days later by Dei Gratia, another cargo ship heading for Genoa. On 4 December, while midway between the Azores and Portugal, this second ship under the command of David Morehouse spotted an erratically moving vessel in the distance. As Dei Gratia moved closer it became clear that something was wrong and, on investigation by second mate John Wright, it became clear that the vessel was Mary Celeste and that she had been deserted by her crew.
The ship’s lifeboat was found to be missing and the sails were in poor condition, while two of the hatches were open with an improvised sounding rod to measure the depth of water in the hold lying nearby. The cargo of denatured alcohol was also found to be intact. The last entry in the ship’s log was from nine days earlier and placed the Mary Celeste nearly 400 nautical miles from the position where she was found.
The crew of Dei Gratia successfully sailed the abandoned ship to Gibraltar for salvage hearings. The findings of the court were inconclusive and, although Mary Celeste returned to service under new owners, the mystery of the abandoned ship and her disappearing crew has never been solved.