Thursday, December 1, 2011


Timandra, March 6, 1917.

The freighter Timandra was lost (vanished?) east of Norfolk, Virginia, with a company of nineteen. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

Timandra was built by Robert Duncan Company, Glasgow, Scotland in 1885. The American owned ship was a 1,579-ton iron-hulled sailing bark 245 feet in length. She was owned by the Timandra Shipping Company, Boston, Massachusetts. She was equipped with wireless.

Timandra, under command of Captain Richard Lee, with a crew of 17 and his wife, sailed from Sewell's Point in the harbor of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 6, 1917, for Campana, Argentina. Her cargo consisted of Pocahontas bituminous coal. The ship has not been sighted since her sailing and no wireless communications have been received. On March 27, 1917, the sailing bark Timandra was declared lost at sea.

On January 5, 1927, the claim of loss due to actions of German raiders was rejected, as there was no supportive evidence. Neither the logbook of SeaGull nor the war diary of Seeadler contain any reference to a sailing ship that might just be the missing vessel.

The key to this mystery may well be her cargo of coal. Coal is prone to spontaneous combustion.

Either way, it is another of those cases where only a small part of the lost vessel's course was actually in the Bermuda Triangle. Whatever happened to the Timandra may have happened far from the Triangle, yet the sensationalists tacitly assume they can count her as a triangular victim.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brown Brothers

Brown Brothers, November 13, 1916.

The bark Brown Bros. was lost (vanished?) east of Savannah, Georgia, with a company of twelve. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

LONDON, March 21. — The American bark Brown Brothers has been posted as overdue.

The Brown Brothers sailed from Brunswick on Nov. 13 last for Troon, Scotland. She was last reported as having been spoken on Dec. 16 about midway between the Newfoundland Banks and the Azores. The bark, of 870 tons gross, is owned by the American Shipping company of Brunswick, GA. ("Names Americans Lost on Vigilancia," The New York Times, March 22, 1917.)

The American barks Brown Brothers and Manga Reva and the Swedish barkBarden have been posted as missing at the New York Maritime Exchange on receipt of a cable dispatch from Lloyd's, London.

The Brown Brothers sailed from Brunswick on Nov. 15, 1916, bound for Troon. She was a vessel of 870 gross tons, and was built in Haugesund, Norway, in 1875.

("Three Vessels Missing," The New York Times, March 29, 1917.)

So she was way out of the Bermuda Triangle when she was last seen. East of Savannah, Georgia, my ass. More like way east.

Whatever mystery it may be, it is no Bermuda Triangle mystery. Thus, for our purposes, it is solved.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Chicopee, September 29, 1915.

The "schooner Chicopee, 55 tons, last reported in the Gulf of Mexico on September 29, 1915, heading toward the Triangle," allegedly vanished there. (Quasar, p. 56.)

According to the Monthly Weather Review, there was a hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico on September 29. The New Orleans Hurricane of 1915.

The sixth and final storm of the year was first seen just west of the Lesser Antilles on September 22. It tracked through the Caribbean, strengthening to its peak of 145 mph (230 km/h) on September 25. On September 29, it made landfall near Grand Isle as a strong Category 3 hurricane.

A barometric reading of 951 mbar (28.11 inHg) was at the time the lowest ever measured on land in the United States. The storm caused severe flooding and killed 275 people, a number possibly reduced to well-executed warnings. Winds tore off roofs and damaged buildings in New Orleans, where pressure was measured at down to 28.01" and a wind speed of 98 mph. Generations in south east Louisiana would refer to it as the Great Storm of 1915. Property damage in Louisiana was estimated at $13 million (1915 USD, $239 million in 2005 USD), with $5 million of that in the city of New Orleans.

Our 55-ton ocean liner was probably reduced to toothpicks.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Doris, August 8, 1915.

The "382-ton schooner Doris, last seen in the Gulf of Mexico on August 8, 1915," allegedly vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. (Quasar, pp. 56.)

HAVANA, Aug. 14. — Weather conditions are still so bad that many steamers do not dare to leave port. The steamship Miami, carrying U.S. mail, and several other steamers have been compelled to return to port. The American steamer Calamares, which sailed, despite the warning of the Captain of the port, who refused to give her clearance, sent a wireless message late this afternoon that she was breasting the storm successfully. ("Storm Holds Ships at Havana," The New York Times, August 15, 1915.)

In my line of business, we call that the 1915 Galveston Hurricane.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Maude B. Krum

Maude B. Krum, April 20, 1915.

The schooner Maude B. Krum was lost (vanished?) east of St. Andrews, Florida, with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

According to Singer, the Maude B. Krum was the former Grace Bailey and left St. Andrews for Buenos Aires on that day. (Singer, p. 227.)

A search of The New York Times doesn't reveal any earth-shattering storms at that time, but as the Maude B. Krum was en route to South America, she may well have been hit by a storm in the South Atlantic the Times would not cover. I'll have to look at some other sources when I get around to it. Stay tuned.

Then again, some common accident my have gotten her. Finally, this is another of those cases, like the Bella, where only a small part of the lost ship's course was in the Bermuda Triangle. Who's to say the Maude B. Krum isn't a victim of the Buenos Aires Triangle?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Silva, April 1915.

The freighter Silva was lost (vanished?) on a journey from New York to the Netherlands Antilles. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

CHARLESTON, SC, April 5. —

Capt. D.E. Archibald of the Clyde Line steamship Algonquin, which arrived yesterday morning from San Domingo, after having suffered much damage in the storm off Cape Hatteras, said that in his opinion the Royal Dutch Mail steamship Prins Maurits sank with all her passengers and crew in Saturday's gale.

Capt. Archibald said he did not think it had been possible for the four passengers or any of the crew of the Prins Maurits to escape in lifeboats because it would have been impossible to lower a boat in the storm and no small boat could have lived in the swirling seas if it had been launched.

Capt. Proctor said that he sighted the wreck of two small sailing vessels on Sunday afternoon about forty miles north of Diamond Shoals Lightship. Both vessels had been abandoned. ("Told by Wireless Prins Maurits Sank," The New York Times, April 6, 1915.)

Saturday was April 3. Unless I find a record that shows the Silva sailed after the storm blew over, I think it's very well possible, if not probable, that she perished in the same storm as the Prins Maurits.

Would be good to know what sort of ship the Silva was. As we have seen in the case of the freighter/schooner Bertha L. Basker, for Berlitz, freighter does not automatically mean steamer. If the Silva was another in Berlitz' endless series of schooners, she might very well have been one of the two small sailing vessels found abandoned.

BARNEGAT, NJ, April 11. — The British bark Invermay ran ashore at 1:30 o'clock this morning off the beach at Mantoloking, eight miles north of Barnegat…

Capt. Lawrence, who was driven forty miles off his course by the storm on Saturday night…

Her position is precarious, as a heavy storm began to blow tonight from the southeast.

("British Bark Ashore; Breeches Buoy Ready," The New York Times, April 12, 1915.)

Saturday was April 10. So if the Silva sailed later, she may have been hit by the storms on April 10 and 11.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bertha L. Basker

Bertha L. Basker, April 1915.

The freighter Bertha L. Basker was lost (vanished?) on a journey from New York to St. Martin. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

In 1916 the Lejuez family received the sad news that James Edwin Lejuez and his wife Adelaide Beatrice van Gurp lost their lives when their ship, the American schooner Bertha L. Basker, which left New York for St. Maarten on April 7, 1916, was lost at sea.

So much for Berlitz' date. And a schooner. Some freighter, huh? Technically, of course, a schooner can be a freighter, but I bet most people think of a big old steamer when they hear freighter, and I bet that's what Berlitz wanted, as his series of lost schooners was beginning to look boring and non-mysterious.

Anyway, what might have happened to the schooner Bertha L. Basker in April 1916?

WASHINGTON, April 8. — The yacht Mayflower, which left here last evening with the President and Mrs. Wilson on board, returned to the Washington Navy Yard at 4:30 o'clock this afternoon. … The abandonment of the trip was due to a heavy storm which came up the coast in the night and made it uncomfortable on the yacht.

("Wilson Abandons Cruise," The New York Times, April 9, 1916.)


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fitz J. Babson

Fitz J. Babson, February 27, 1914.

The schooner Fitz J. Babson was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

WASHINGTON, March 1. — The storm which swept New York and the surrounding country to-day originated off the Georgia Coast yesterday and traversed the Atlantic Coast from Savannah to Long Island. Prof. Edward H. Bowie, forecaster in charge of the United States Weather Bureau, said the storm was central over Long Island and New York City to-night, and that it would pass through the New England States and off into the St. Lawrence Valley.

Many wires were down, and for this reason the Weather Bureau was without complete reports from its observers to-night, but such dispatches as were received by the forecaster showed that the storm was central off Georgia yesterday, that it passed Cape Hatteras to-day, and was central over Long Island to-night.

"I have been unable to have telegraphic communication with New York City to-night," Prof. Bowie said. "Such advices as we had from that city came by long-distance telephone. The wind at New York City to-night was blowing at seventy-two miles an hour, and had shifted to the northwest. The message from New York said that the barometric reading there to-night was 28.38. I question this figure, because it is abnormally low, and we have been trying to verify it. About 30 would be more like a normal reading of the barometer. If the barometer is anything like 28.38 it is about the lowest ever recorded in New York.

"We also issued a warning to all vessels along the Atlantic Coast not to venture from port on account of the severity of the gale. The wind blew sixty miles an hour yesterday at Savannah. The storm passed rapidly up the coast, whirling violently as it proceeded. When these southern coast storms whirl like this they make rapid headway up the coast and increase in intensity. There is every indication that this whirling storm was not less than 1,000 miles in diameter. The storm covered a wide area as it moved northward. Our reports indicate heavy storms in New York and Pennsylvania.

("Started off Georgia Coast," The New York Times, March 2, 1914.)

WASHINGTON, March 2. — The severest storm of the winter raged to-day from Eastport, ME, to Savannah, GA, while a cold wave, rolling down from the Great Lakes country, overspread the Atlantic States as far south as Florida. Lowest temperatures ever recorded in March were registered in Charleston and Macon and other points in the Southeast.

("Storm Zone from Maine to Georgia," The New York Times, March 3, 1914.)

The Fitz J. Babson sailed (or was lost?) on or around February 27, 1914. The storm originated on February 28. Check.

The Fitz J. Babson was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida. The storm originated off the Georgia Coast. Check.


Update: According to Singer, February 27 was the day the Fitz J. Babson left Jacksonville. At 69 tons, she wasn't exactly an ocean liner, either. (Singer, p. 227.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Benjamin F. Poole

Benjamin F. Poole, January 29, 1914.

The schooner Benjamine F. Poole [sic] was lost (vanished?) east of Wilmington, North Carolina, with a company of eight. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 23.)

The spurious e in the first name is probably Berlitz' typo on account of the last name ending in that letter.

The "1,555-ton Benjamin F. Poole… went missing after leaving North Carolina and heading south in January 1914." (Quasar, p. 57.)

The snowstorm which the Weather Bureau foretold on Thursday was headed this way from Texas and which arrived on schedule time on Friday night bade New York good-bye yesterday afternoon and is now headed, propelled by north-westerly gales, for the southern coast of Newfoundland, where it is expected to pass out to sea and into history.

At sea the blizzard was felt at its full force. Several wrecks were reported along the coast, and the transatlantic liners now on their way to New York all sent word by wireless that they would be from one to two days late.

"This storm," said Forecaster Scarr yesterday, "is the greatest experienced in the northeastern part of the United States in several years. The center of barometric depression primarily responsible for the storm was central near Atlantic City this morning, the center having switched from the Carolina coast to that place since 8 o'clock Friday night.

The storm, so far as New York City was concerned, started at 6:10 o'clock on Friday night. At that hour the long-heralded "Texas Blizzard," which, as a matter of fact, originated in Northern New Mexico, and not in Texas, arrived in the form of a gentle fall of snow.

("City Snow-Bound and Eight Perish in 75-Mile Gale," The New York Times, February 15, 1914.)

I wonder where the Benjamin F. Poole was bound and where the storm was when she was halfway there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

George A. Lawry

George A. Lawry, December 17, 1913.

The schooner George A. Lawry was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of six. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

On December 17, 1913, it was reported that "several days ago" the battleship USS Vermont had one of her propeller shafts broken and the other cracked by a "heavy storm." As the battleship USS Delaware was towing her to Hampton Roads, that storm must have been in the Atlantic. (In fact, the battleships were on their way back across the Atlantic from the Mediterranean.) "The storm had abated when the dispatch was sent [December 17, the day the George A. Lawry was lost], and there was a fresh northwest breeze and a moderate sea." ("Tug to Meet the Vermont," The New York Times, December 18, 1913.)

Again, Berlitz gives us very little information. We don't know whether December 17 is the date the George A. Lawry was reported missing or the date she sailed, whether she hit or missed that storm. Anyway, knowing that there was a storm in the Atlantic makes the whole affair look a lot less mysterious.

Update: According to Singer, December 17 was the day the George A. Lawry left Jacksonville, bound for New York. That would mean she ran into the abated or abating storm. Now we'd have to know whether abated means the storm had blown over or whether it just had abated at the position of the battleships but had moved to the position of the George A. Lawry. At 108 tons, she wasn't exactly an ocean liner, either. (Singer, p. 227.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Annie Hendry

Annie Hendry, December 16, 1911.

The "cargo schooner Annie Hendry, which left Turks Island in cargo of salt on December 16, 1911," allegedly vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. (Quasar, p. 57.)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11. — An advisory storm warning was issued by the Weather Bureau at 11 AM to-day, denoting the approach of a severe disturbance in the vicinity of Turks Island, one of the Leeward Islands, about 700 miles from Miami. The direction and movement of the storm had not been definitely determined, but caution was advised to those vessels heading toward Southern Florida. ("Warning Out for a Coast Storm," The New York Times, December 12, 1911.)

NEW ORLEANS, La., Dec. 20. — Damage far exceeding the original estimate has been done by the storm, which last night swept the Gulf Coast east of here, extending far inland at places.

At Pensacola, Fla., three ships went ashore, and a steamer rammed another. Serious washouts and damage to minor shipping are reported from Gulfport, Miss.; Mobile, and the West Florida coast.

("Gulf Storm Brings Ruin," The New York Times, December 21, 1911.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Arkadia, October 1910.

The "steamer Arkadia, of over 2,200 tons, which left Louisiana in October 1910," allegedly vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. (Quasar, p. 57.)

A new name was added yesterday to the list kept at the Maritime Exchange of vessels lost at sea. It was the name of the steamer Arkadia of the New York and Porto Rico Navigation Company. On the list the Arkadia is posted simply as "missing," but "missing" on the Maritime Exchange list reads "lost" to every seaman who scans the record, for the entry of the steamer's name means that all hope for her has been abandoned.

Richard D. Wrigley, acting manager of the steamship company, conceded as much in the company's offices at 12 Broadway yesterday. He fears that the steamer was lost in the hurricane which swept the Gulf and the Atlantic off the Southern coast last October.

"The Arkadia was stanch, and on our lists we had no more capable skipper than Capt. Richard F. Griffiths, but I am certain now that the hurricane proved too much even for his skill," said he. "The only hope for those on board is that the steamer may have gone down far out of her course and yet within reach of some sailing vessel. Had she foundered anywhere in her course it seems as though we must have got some word of the accident through other steamers. If a sailing vessel rescued her crew and passengers, however, it may be that they now are being carried to some out-of-the-way port, and in such an event it might be weeks still before we could get word from them. The chance is remote, however, and one on which we, at home here, have ceased to count."

The Arkadia carried four passengers, and forward and aft she had a crew of thirty-seven men. All forty-one have been lost, so the company officers here believe.

"SS Arkadia, New Orleans, Oct. 11, for San Juan, missing," is the way the notice at the Maritime Exchange reads, for it was from New Orleans that the Arkadia set out, and it was to San Juan that she was bound. She sailed on Oct. 11, and since that day not a word has been heard of her.

It was bright and cloudless, so the Weather Bureau records show, when she sailed out of the Mississippi River from New Orleans on what should have been a short cruise. Her holds were packed with a cargo of flour, rice, and other food products. From her decks her crew and passengers waved to friends ashore as the steamer drew away from New Orleans, and pointed down into the Gulf, and then the Arkadia dropped out of sight.

After Oct. 11 not a single vessel spoke the Porto Rican liner. A day before that the hurricane which swept away many ships had begun to blow over the Gulf, but its force was not even suspected when the Arkadia sailed. Off shore, however, shipping men here think now, the Arkadia probably encountered its full force, and after a time went down before it, perhaps within a few hours, perhaps not until the steamer had been blown miles out of her course and out of the course of any other vessel.

For five days the storm continued, and when it finally died down it had cost scores of lives and caused thousands of dollars of damage to shipping. From every Southern seaport came reports daily from Oct. 10 to 15 of damaged vessels creeping into port, many of them with news of some less fortunate craft that had foundered. One of these, her owners now believe, must have been the Arkadia.

But Capt. Griffiths had passed through more than one hurricane, his wife declared yesterday, and that is why she refuses to believe that he met death in the October storm.

The Arkadia was a steel steamer, schooner rigged, of 1,636 tons. Her length was 280 feet, her beam 41.1 feet, and her depth 21 feet. She was built in Stockton, England, in 1895, by Craig Taylor & Co., and was considered able to outlive the strongest seas and winds. ("Steamer Missing with 41 Aboard," The New York Times, December 10, 1910.)

Again, Quasar "forgot" to tell us about the hurricane. It's called the 1910 Cuba Hurricane or the Cyclone of the Five Days.

"James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season."

— Hugo Drax

"Curses! Foiled again!"

— Snidely Whiplash

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Charles W. Parker

Charles W. Parker, March 26, 1910.

The steamship Charles W. Parker was lost (vanished?) east of the southern Jersey coast, with a company of seventeen. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

If the Charles W. Parker was lost off the Jersey coast, it might not be unreasonable to expect that The New York Times would have covered it. Yet so far the only article I have been able to find is this one:

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ, April 23. — The fishing schooner Charles W. Parker, Capt. Walter Lawson, and eleven men went ashore on the Inlet bar late this afternoon, and is a total wreck. The heavy seas which were running sent the vessel over on her beam end and she started to break up before the life savers could reach her.

Capt. Lawson and his men took to their dories and fought their way through the heavy surf to the shore. All were saved, and the only life lost was that of the craft's mascot, a black dog, which was washed overboard and drowned while the men in the dories were trying to rescue it. The vessel was just starting on a fishing cruise. ("Fishing Craft Wrecked," The New York Times, April 24, 1907.)

Date is off by about three years, type of vessel is wrong, and so is the number of the company. Yet, it's the only article on a lost vessel by that name, and the position is right. Given the shoddy research we've seen from Berlitz & company, I'd hazard a guess that this is the wreck he meant, until I find an account of a wreck that fits better.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

USS Nina

USS Nina, March 15, 1910.

The USS Nina was an iron screw steamer built for the US Navy in 1865. She spent much of her life as a tugboat, though she also served as a torpedo boat, a torpedo boat tender, and a submarine tender.

On March 15, 1910, the navy tug, USS Nina, departed Norfolk Navy Yard. She was bound for Havana, Cuba, where she was to serve as one of the support ships during the salvage operation of the battleship Maine. The tug was seen off Savannah, Georgia, steaming south. She was never seen or heard from again. She was the first steam-powered navy vessel to disappear in the "Devil's Triangle." (Winer, Devil's Triangle, p. 66.)

Berlitz calls her the first steamship to vanish in the Bermuda Triangle, deservedly not counting the City of Glasgow and the City of Boston, and gives the same position. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

And this is where the story begins to fall apart.

Iron screw steamer USS Nina, last sighted off the Capes of the Chesapeake in a gale. 33 drowned. 15 Mar. 1910.

As usual, the sensationalists got the position wrong and forgot to mention the storm. The course was wrong, too:

At 0630, 6 February 1910, Nina departed Norfolk for Boston and was last sighted off the Capes of the Chesapeake in the midst of a gale. She was never heard from again. The warship was declared lost and struck from the Navy List 15 March 1910, the 30 crewmen and one officer on board being listed as having died on that day. Her loss is one of the continuing mysteries of the sea.

But it is not a mystery. At least not anymore. Her wreck has been found and is a popular dive site now. And as her wreck lies off the Delaware coast, Winer and Berlitz were indeed wrong re course and position.

If a ship is seen vanishing in a storm and the wreck is later found sitting on the bottom of the sea, that is not a mystery, no how, no, sir, no way. Occam's razor.

This explains why the likes of Winer and Berlitz cannot solve any mysteries. It's not that they lack pencil-thin mustaches. It's as The Donald would say: location, location, location.

If they would spend more time in the library and less time with photos ops on their yachts on "expeditions," they'd find some wrecks and could solve some mysteries, too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anna R. Bishop

Anna R. Bishop, December 25, 1909.

The schooner Anna R. Bishop was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

The Hamburg-American liner Amerika arrived yesterday from Hamburg and Channel ports bringing a record number of passengers. …

An old derelict is again reported by Capt. Knuth. On July 31, in latitude 48 degrees 46 minutes, longitude 22 degrees 4 minutes, he sighted the abandoned American schooner Anna R. Bishop. She was lying very low in the water, with only the stump of a mast standing.

The Anna R. Bishop, from Jacksonville to Elizabeth, NJ, was first reported abandoned on Feb. 28. She was then about 240 miles northeast of Bermuda. She was about 700 miles due east [sic, obviously, west] of the French coast when the Amerika sighted her on Sunday. She had drifted since her crew left her 600 miles to the north and 1,500 miles to the east. She has been sighted several times by passing craft, always moving north and east, a constant menace to navigation. ("Amerika Sights Derelict," The New York Times, August 7, 1910.)

The Martha S. Bement, the Maggie S. Hart, the Auburn, and the Anna R. Bishop — the great Charles Berlitz Jacksonville Christmas schooner bash of 1909. Four more for the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, either the Martians/Atlanteans were swarming, or there was a storm. Looks like Berlitz happened upon four schooners that sailed straight into the Christmas Day Blizzard of 1909.


Auburn, December 23, 1909.

The schooner Auburn was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of nine. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

The Martha S. Bement, the Maggie S. Hart, the Auburn, and the Anna R. Bishop — the great Charles Berlitz Jacksonville Christmas schooner bash of 1909. Four more for the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, either the Martians/Atlanteans were swarming, or there was a storm. Looks like Berlitz happened upon four schooners that sailed straight into the Christmas Day Blizzard of 1909.

Maggie S. Hart

Maggie S. Hart, December 18, 1909.

The schooner Maggie S. Hart was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of eight. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

The Martha S. Bement, the Maggie S. Hart, the Auburn, and the Anna R. Bishop — the great Charles Berlitz Jacksonville Christmas schooner bash of 1909. Four more for the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, either the Martians/Atlanteans were swarming, or there was a storm. Looks like Berlitz happened upon four schooners that sailed straight into the Christmas Day Blizzard of 1909.

Martha S. Bement

Martha S. Bement, December 16, 1909.

The schooner Martha S. Bement was lost (vanished?) east of Jacksonville, Florida, with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

Group lists her as a derelict and cites the The New York Times, but without any particulars. (Group, p. 139.) He must have meant this article, though.

ROTTERDAM, March 23. — The British steamer St. Nicholas, arriving from Savannah, reports having passed on March 12 in latitude 41 degrees north, longitude 46 degrees west, the American schooner Martha S. Bement, dismasted and with her decks awash. The derelict is in the path of transatlantic steamers and is a dangerous obstruction to navigation.

* * *

The Martha S. Bement, a three-masted wooden schooner, sailed from Jacksonville on December 16 for New York, and had been many weeks overdue. She carried a crew of seven men, and was owned by F. & A.L. Heidritter of Newark, NJ. She was built at Bath, ME, in 1881, and registered 375 tons net. ("American Ship a Derelict," The New York Times, March 24, 1910.)

The Martha S. Bement, the Maggie S. Hart, the Auburn, and the Anna R. Bishop — the great Charles Berlitz Jacksonville Christmas schooner bash of 1909. Four more for the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, either the Martians/Atlanteans were swarming, or there was a storm. Looks like Berlitz happened upon four schooners that sailed straight into the Christmas Day Blizzard of 1909.

Martha S. Dement, more like.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Spray, November 14, 1909.

In 1892, unemployed veteran sailing-ship captain Joshua Slocum was given a ship that "wants some repairs." Slocum found that that "ship" was the wreck of an old oyster sloop named the Spray, rotting in a field. This old salt took that prank as a challenge and totally rebuilt her.

Then, between 1895 and 1898, he proceeded to sail the Spray around the world, to become the first person to circumnavigate the world single-handed. (He re-rigged her as a yawl along the way.)

In November 1909, Slocum sailed in the Spray from Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, for South America via the West Indies. He may have been on his way to explore Orinoco, Rio Negro, and Amazon.

Slocum stopped in Miami for supplies, from where he set sail on November 14. (Sources disagree on whether that was the day he sailed from Martha's Vineyard or from Miami.)

After that, neither he nor his trusty boat were ever heard from again. Along with the Spray, he vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. (Winer, Devil's Triangle, pp. 124.)

Slocum was the best sailor who ever lived or shall live, and his Spray was the best sailboat ever built or conceivably possible to build. Therefore it's unthinkable that he could have fallen victim to any ordinary accident.

As nothing short of supernatural powers could have defeated a superman like Slocum, the fact that he vanished with his Spray in the Bermuda Triangle proves beyond any reasonable doubt that there are supernatural powers at work in said Bermuda Triangle. That's at least the mystics' line.

Winer gets extra points for including the story how Slocum passed out sick on his voyage around the world and awoke to find at the helm, holding the Spray steady in the storm, a ghost in old-fashioned clothes that introduced himself as the pilot of the Pinta. You know, Pinta as in Columbus.

Nothing to do with the Bermuda Triangle, but some added mystery at no charge. Oh, I forget, it was between the Azores and Gibraltar, so it was "on the fringe of the 'Devil's Triangle,' " Winer's enlargement of the Bermuda Triangle, a trapezium four times the size of the Bermuda Triangle conveniently running to Cape Hatteras, the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," including half the Caribbean, and stretching almost all the way to the Azores. Silly me.

Winer truly got all bases covered. The fringe of that Devil's Triangle takes us well-nigh to Africa, and the fringe of the fringe no doubt to China, in case anything mysterious has been going on there. I'm sure we can fit The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor somewhere in here. Then of course, sailing single-handed, Slocum is the only witness that it ever happened.

Opinions are divided on whether the Spray was a terrific or a terrible design. Some say Slocum completed his voyage around the world not because of, but in spite of the Spray. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 52.) Maybe a bit of both is true:

Iconoclast designer John G. Hanna, known as the sage of Dunedin but perhaps better known as the designer of the Tahiti ketch, said of Spray, "I hold that her peculiar merit as a single-hander was in her remarkable balance of all effective centers of effort and resistance on her midship section line." Hanna nevertheless felt it necessary to warn prospective circumnavigators looking for a suitable vessel that "Spray is the worst possible boat for anyone lacking the experience and resourcefulness of Slocum to take offshore.

Slocum was sixty-five years old when he vanished, and some felt he was getting old. So he may not have been up to the demands of this peculiar vessel anymore, no longer able to by his skills keep her from turning from a dreamboat into a deathtrap:

Slocum's mental health deteriorated during his later years. Visiting Riverton, New Jersey, in May 1906, Slocum was charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. After further investigation and questioning, it became apparent that the crime was indecent exposure, but Slocum claimed to have no memory of any wrong-doing and that, if anything had happened, it must have occurred during one of his mental lapses. Slocum spent 42 days in jail awaiting trial. At his trial he pleaded "no contest" and was released for time-served. The judge at his trial told him, "upon request of the family, I can deal leniently with you."

The Spray, too, was going downhill:

A few weeks after his conviction in New Jersey, Slocum and the Spray visited Sagamore Hill, the estate of US President Theodore Roosevelt on the north shore of Long Island, New York. Roosevelt and his family were interested in the tales of Slocum's solo circumnavigation. The President's young son, Archie, along with a guardian, spent the next few days sailing with Slocum up to Newport aboard the Spray, which, by then, was a decrepit, weather-worn vessel.

So the Spray may simply have rotted away from under Slocum. Which would have been no good at all: "Despite being an experienced mariner, Slocum never learned to swim and considered learning it to be useless."

Or Slocum may finally have found a storm that could defeat him. He may have died of old age or blacked out again and fallen overboard, with the pilotless Spray foundering later, self-steering into a storm or onto some rocks. His oil-burning lamp may have set the Spray on fire. (Group, p. 35.) He may have fled his wife to spend his final years on some island in the sun.

Or the Spray was run down by a big ship at night. A sailboat's already dim lights were sometimes obscured by its own sails, and the crew of a big steamer would not even have felt a bump from that tiny tub. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, pp. 50.)

According to Edward Rowe Snow, that is exactly what happened. Slocum was indeed seen one last time after he sailed from Miami, when he visited Turtle Island in the Lesser Antilles and its owner, planter Felix Meinickheim. Meinickheim later told the story to one "Captain Charles H. Bond of Wollaston, Massachusetts, a master mariner whose statements are unimpeachable," in Snow's opinion, at least.

Before Slocum sailed from Turtle Island, he told Meinickheim of his plans to sail to South America, up the Orinoco River, into the Rio Negro, all the way into the Amazon, and down that river.

It is indeed possible to sail from the Orinoco into the Rio Negro / Amazon, via the Casiquiare Canal or Casiquiare River:

The Casiquiare river is a distributary of the upper Orinoco, which flows southward into the Rio Negro, in South America. As such, it forms a unique natural canal between the Orinoco and Amazon river systems. It is the largest river on the planet that links two major river systems, a so-called bifurcation.

Two nights after Slocum's departure, Meinickheim was about to board a 500-ton, 125-foot mail steamer. Then and there, "he noticed a deep cut in her stem, just above the water line." The captain told him that the ship "had run down a native boatman the night before." The captain felt sure it had been a native: "Who else could it be?"

Meinickheim now had a terrible, ominous feeling. He inquired as to when the incident had taken place. He was told it had been during the graveyard watch, the midnight to four AM watch always taken by the second mate.

Meinickheim then interviewed the second mate, who admitted that it had been an unusually dark night, overcast, and at the moment of contact with the other craft, there definitely was no one at the wheel of the other vessel. As for the Captain's claim that they had run down a native boatman, the second mate made the following statement:

"In the few seconds when I saw the other craft, I made out that she was not a native of this area."

As Slocum "was the only outsider anywhere in the immediate vicinity," everybody, including Snow, jumped to the conclusion that it was Slocum who had been run down. (Snow, Mysterious Tales of the New England Coast, pp. 182.)

Now, obviously this assumption is not much better than what you get to hear from the mystics, even though it is used to propose as rational explanation. Did all the outsiders have to sign in before they entered those waters? How can they know there was not another? Thus, this solution far from solves the case, although it remains a possibility, though unproven.

Anyway, there are plenty of reasonable explanations possible for the vanishing of the Spray. Unfortunately, Kusche feeds the mystics by concluding his relevant chapter: "The fate of Joshua Slocum and the Spray is truly a mystery of the sea." Of course the mystics latch onto that: "See, it's a mystery after all, so the Bermuda Triangle mystery is not in fact solved." One should add that it's another "we don't know which one of the many possible rational solutions is true" mystery, not a "no rational explanation is possible, so we got to drag in the Martians or the Atlanteans" mystery.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

George Taulane, Jr.

George Taulane, Jr., September 18, 1909.

The schooner George Taulane, Jr. was lost (vanished?) east of the coast of Georgia with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

She wasn't by any chance bound for the Gulf of Mexico?

LOUISVILLE, KY, Sept. 20. — A Gulf hurricane, which, beginning early to-day, swept along the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida coast, has inflicted heavy damage, and tonight is continuing unabated.

At 3 PM the Weather Bureau there reported that the piling up of the Gulf waters at the mouth of the Mississippi already had caused a rise of three feet in the waters of the river at New Orleans, a thing unprecedented at that point from such a source.

So strong was the force of the wind at New Orleans that the neighboring lakes were agitated till they overflowed, covering the adjacent lowlands.

Fragmentary reports from points in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi show that the hurricane is sweeping along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf coast, damaging shipping, ruining the more frail structures, and seriously impeding railroad traffic. ("Gulf States Swept by Ruinous Storm," The New York Times, September 21, 1909.)

Then again, storm may have found her on the near side of the Florida peninsula just as well:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20. — The tropical storm now raging will move northward, and merge with the disturbance in the Northwest over the central valleys Tuesday night, causing rain over a considerable part of the country east of the Rockies. The rain will reach the North Atlantic States Wednesday night. ("Tropical Storm Headed This Way," The New York Times, September 21, 1909.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sky Plover

Sky Plover, 1908.

The Sky Plover vanished without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle in 1908.

In 1906, off Miami, she had fallen in with four or more barnacle-encrusted, floating coffins. The crew did not try to recover them.

Encountering the coffins was considered a bad omen. It was also mysterious why the coffins had not drifted apart, if they had been in the water long enough to be overgrown with several years' worth of marine growth. (Winer, Devil's Triangle 2, pp. 46.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

George R. Vreeland

George R. Vreeland, January 27, 1908.

The schooner George R. Vreeland was lost (vanished?) east of Hampton Roads, Virginia, with a company of seven. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 22.)

When I noticed these two vanishings, of the Baltimore and the George R. Vreeland, in the same neck of the seas, so close after each other, I immediately thought, storm.

Guess who was right?

The American liner Philadelphia, from Southampton, and the French liner Savoie, from Havre, got in yesterday with tales of gales and terrific seas. The worst day, according to Capt. Poirot of the Savoie, was on Saturday, when the vessel was deluged with the seas and rolled so badly that the steel foremast cracked just below the crow's-nest.

("Storm Cracks Liner's Mast," The New York Times, February 3, 1908.)

Saturday was February 1.

She may have been this wreck:

News of another disaster attributed to the recent storm off the coast was contained in a wireless message received here last night from the tug Astro, bound from New York to Port Arthur, Texas. The tug's message said:

"At 2:17 PM Tuesday, in latitude 34 degrees 7 minutes north, longitude 76 degrees, 45 minutes west passed a sunken vessel, either a four-masted schooner or barge. Her masts were sticking 25 feet out of water; shredded sails, having appearance of having been quickly abandoned. Fore, main, and spanker top-masts still standing; mizzenmast gone.

"Derelict lies in dangerous position in line of lightships." ("Tells of Another Wreck," The New York Times, February 5, 1908.)

Then again, the Vreeland may have been done in by the same storm that likely sank the Baltimore. We don't know what Berlitz meant when he gave the date January 27, 1908, for the Vreeland incident. Did she sail that day? Or was she reported missing that day? In the latter case, she might even be the schooner seen sinking by the Manna Hata.

The report of a sea tragedy was brought in yesterday by the steamer Manna Hata from Baltimore. A three-masted schooner was seen on Thursday evening struggling in the trough of the sea off the Delaware Capes. The Manna Hata had been blown some miles off her course, and when she got near the locality where the vessel had been last seen she was gone and many pieces of wreckage were floating in the water. ("Sloop's Crew near Death," The New York Times, January 27, 1908.)

Thursday was January 23.


Baltimore, January 22, 1908.

The bark Baltimore was lost (vanished?) east of Hampton Roads, Virginia, with a company of nine. (Berlitz, Without a Trace, p. 21.)

When I noticed these two vanishings, of the Baltimore and the George R. Vreeland, in the same neck of the seas, so close after each other, I immediately thought, storm.

Guess who was right?

NORFOLK, Va., Jan. 25. — The overdue Old Dominion liner Jamestown, which left New York Thursday afternoon, and which was caught in yesterday's severe coast storm, arrived at her Norfolk pier at 2:30 o'clock this morning.

The Jamestown was blown many miles seaward and labored heavily in the fiercest of the gale until she was able to make the Virginia Capes at midnight. Heavy seas washed the decks of the steamer, the severity of these being shown by the fact that the vessel's crew, when able to venture out, picked from the meshes of the three-foot rope netting beneath the ship's deck rail more than a score of fish, which had been caught therein as the seas receded from the vessel.

("Catch Fish on Ship's Deck," The New York Times, January 26, 1908.)

The Old Dominion liner Princess Anne, due at this port on Friday afternoon, got in from Norfolk last night. She had been delayed by the storms off the cost. All her thirty passengers were safe.

Capt. Tapley said that on Friday morning the vessel ran into a fierce squall and snowstorm. The wind blew at the rate of ninety miles an hour, and it was so thick that it was impossible to see a half ship's length ahead. So terrific was the hurricane that the Princess Anne was forced fifteen miles out of her course. She ran to the eastward before the storm to avoid going ashore.

All this time the vessel was going at less than half speed, and she could make but little headway against the storm. ("Coaster Had Rough Trip," The New York Times, January 26, 1908.)

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ, Jan. 26. — The fishing sloop Pittsburg and her crew of eight men under command of Capt. George Jeffries came into port to-day after a three-day battle with the elements in which crew and boat fared badly. They had snow, rain, and gales, and fire in the hold of their sloop added to their peril. The roll of the billows overturned the stove in the galley. The men were nearly famished. Their fingers and noses were frozen. When the storm had blown itself out, the crew rigged up a jury mast and small sail, by aid of which they made their way home.

* * *

The report of a sea tragedy was brought in yesterday by the steamer Manna Hata from Baltimore. A three-masted schooner was seen on Thursday evening struggling in the trough of the sea off the Delaware Capes. The Manna Hata had been blown some miles off her course, and when she got near the locality where the vessel had been last seen she was gone and many pieces of wreckage were floating in the water. ("Sloop's Crew near Death," The New York Times, January 27, 1908.)

Thursday was January 23.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Theodor, March 17, 1906.

On March 17, 1906, the steamer Virginian, skippered by Captain J. M'Donald, was steaming through the Bermuda Triangle from Liverpool to New Orleans. Captain M'Donald sighted another vessel, and made the following entry in his log:

Passed Norwegian four-masted barque Theodor, steering east, showing signals WDCP; light wind and clear weather; latitude 29 32 N, longitude 69 10 W.

The signals referred to in the log were signal flags flown to identify the vessel. The Theodor's actual signal letters were HDCP, so that the entry of WDCP in the log means that there must have been a mistake either in hoisting the flags on the Theodor, or in reading them from the Virginian.

The "Theodor, a Norwegian steamer-barkentine of 2,638 tons, … sailed from Tampa, Florida, to Yokohama, Japan, on March 2, 1906." (Quasar, p. 57.)

And was lost somewhere along the way, a tiny fraction of which led through the Bermuda Triangle.

By the way, the Theodor was the former China of the Cunard Line, which had been converted into a four-masted bark when she became uneconomical as a steamer and a liner.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Freya, October 4, 1902.

On October 3, 1902, the German bark Freya left Manzanillo, Cuba, for Punta Arenas, Chile. On October 23, the Freya was discovered partly dismasted, lying on her side, and derelict. Her anchor was still hanging free at her bow, so whatever had struck the ship had struck soon after the ship left port, before the crew had time to secure the anchor. The date on the calendar in the captain's cabin confirmed this; it still showed October 4. Weather reports show that there were only light winds at that time. (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 55.)

This case is well documented in Nature. It really did, it happened just this way — give or take a lie or two. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, pp. 47.)

The Freya did not depart Manzanillo, Cuba. She departed Manzanillo, Mexico, which is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

So whatever mystery it is, it is not a Bermuda Triangle mystery. Not even close. Not even the right ocean.

The Bermuda Triangle sensationalists simply and disingenuously omitted the "Mexico" from "Manzanillo, Mexico," or even replaced it with "West Indies" or "Cuba."

As for the solution, that's where the other lie or omission comes in. The Nature article is titled "The Mexican Earthquake" and mentions the Freya as the victim of a seaquake. ("The Mexican Earthquake," Nature, April 25, 1907, p. 610.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taking Stock

We've been looking at four centuries of Bermuda Triangle history now, from 1492 to 1900. We've seen some fascinating mysteries.

Yet for the well-documented cases, like the Mary Celeste, there are naturalistic explanations. And for the truly mystical cases that would seem to require or at least to invite a supernatural explanation, like the Ellen Austin, there is no evidence that they ever happened.

However, the most case-rich century is still to come. Some of the cases from the twentieth century are spine-tingling ghost (ship) stories and convoluted brain teasers. But are there mysteries out there that cannot be rationally explained?

We will see, here at Bermuda Triangle Central. Where else? Stay tuned for the most famous and notorious Bermuda Triangle cases.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Arbutus, January 1, 1899.

The "385-ton Canadian brigantine Arbutus… disappeared January 1, 1899, on a voyage between Jamaica and New York." (Quasar, p. 56.)

Practically no details are given. Where was she on January 1? Did she depart that day? Was she seen in mid-voyage by another ship?

Thus, we do not know if she was in the vicinity of one of the vicious winter storms that swept the Eastern Seaboard that year.

"NEW ROCHELLE, NY, Jan. 1. — During the storm this morning the fourmasted schooner Gypsum Emperor, Capt. Morrison, from Bangor, Me., for Jersey City, went ashore on the rocks near Gutt Rock, off Rye Beach…" ("Schooner Ashore, but Floats Off," The New York Times, January 2, 1899.)

"BOSTON, Jan. 2. — The heavy northeast snow storm of yesterday, which prevailed throughout New England…" ("Cold Weather in New England," The New York Times, January 3, 1899.)

If a ship, a small sailing ship in particular, is lost in the path of a storm, the onus is on the sensationalists to show that she is not a storm victim. Occam's razor.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mountain Girl

Mountain Girl, May 5, 1896.

The "steamer Mountain Girl, last reported in the Gulf on May 5, 1896," allegedly vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. (Quasar, p. 57.)

To the day, 115 years ago.

There are reports of a storm in Virginia on May 12 ("Disastrous Storm in Virginia," The New York Times, May 13, 1896.) and a storm with "cyclones" (apparently they meant tornadoes) in Texas, Kansas, and another, unnamed, state on May 13 ("Cyclones in Three States," The New York Times, May 14, 1896.). Yet we don't know anything about the course of the Mountain Girl, whether she was bound for Texas or Virginia or some place away from the storms.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Miroslav, February 1886.

The "243-foot Austrian clipper Miroslav bound for Fiume, Italy, from Delaware via the Bahamas… disappeared in February 1886." (Quasar, p. 57.)

Fiume actually was part of Austria-Hungary at that time; today it's Rijeka in Croatia. As for the Miroslav, possibly she vanished in the notorious Bermuda Triangle, or (as only a small part of her course was in the Bermuda Triangle) possibly she vanished in the notorious Rijeka Triangle, or possibly she never vanished at all.

The Young America was built by William H. Webb of New York. She was launched in 1853, at the height of the clipper construction boom. She sailed in the California trade, on transatlantic routes, and made voyages to Australia and the Far East.

In 1883, the Young America was sold to an Austrian by the name of Austman, renamed Miroslav, and used in the transatlantic case oil trade.

"1886 February 17. Passed the Delaware Breakwater outward bound from Philadelphia for Fiume under command of Captain Vlassich and was never heard of again. The cargo consisted of 407.306 gallons of crude oil in 9700 barrels at a total value of $26.965."

Another source states that "the Young America was last seen lying off Gibraltar as a coal hulk."

Well, if nothing else, a case involving a name like Miroslav at least adds a Dracula dimension to the Bermuda Triangle. Like the Demeter from Varna. Maybe the Miroslav didn't vanish in the notorious Rijeka Triangle, but in the notorious Transylvania Triangle. Maybe Dracula was on board and drank the crew. Cheers.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Miramon, 1884.

"The Italian schooner Miramon, bound for New Orleans, vanishes in the Bermuda Triangle." (Nash, p. 367.) Some call her the Miramonde. (Sanderson, p. 124.)

Kusche could not find any records that this ship vanished in the Bermuda Triangle, vanished outside the Triangle, or even existed in the first place. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 46.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Derelict Found by the Ellen Austin

Derelict found by the Ellen Austin, 1881.

Last, and queerest of all, comes the case of the abandoned derelict, in seaworthy condition, which the British ship Ellen Austin encountered, in mid-Atlantic, in the year 1881. She put a small prize-crew on board the stranger, with instructions to make for St. John's, Newfoundland, where she was bound herself.

The two ships parted company in foggy weather — but a few days later they met again. And the strange derelict was once more deserted. Like their predecessors, the prize-crew had vanished — for ever. (Gould, p. 30.)

The greedy captain of the Ellen Austin then forced another prize crew onto the derelict. Again the ships were parted in the fog — and neither the derelict nor the second prize crew was ever seen again in this world!

"A comparison suggests itself here between the abandoned ship and a trap…" (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 70.) A trap by which the Martians capture their human specimens, to say out loud what Berlitz implied.

This story originated with Gould's account given above. The vanishing of a second prize crew and any further embellishments are fiction.

As for Gould's original story, Gould was a serious researcher, so he likely didn't make it up, but he didn't give any sources. Kusche searched in The New York Times, in the London Times, at Lloyd's, and in Newfoundland papers, but didn't find anything. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 45.)

Until Gould's source is found, nothing can be said about the veracity of this tale. He may just have been relating some yarn he heard from an old sailor.

Berlitz claims that the sails of the derelict were furled and her rigging was intact and the ships were parted by squalls, not fog. Of course, a guy like Berlitz won't let you off the hook at less than two prize crews.

Chaplin claims the derelict could not be identified, as she had no logbook or trail boards (p. 36) and that the captain of the Ellen Austin was called Baker (p. 37). Maybe that's true, or maybe it's just Chaplin's way of getting around the embarrassing fact that the original story doesn't have the good grace to name the derelict, without having to make up a name that could be debunked. (Storm and fog, two prize crews.)

Winer finds the following fascinating facts (Devil's Triangle, pp. 160.):

The derelict's "teak decks betrayed traces of recent holystoning."

The head- and foresails of the schooner had been furled so carefully that it must have been done at leisure. The "mainsail was luffing wantonly…" "It was evident that she had been hove to…"

"The two dories lashed down atop the main cabin appeared to have been the only small boats ever carried aboard." (OK, now we "know" that the crew of the derelict didn't take to the boats, so they must have been beamed away.)

"The open galley door banged in cadence with the ship's movement." (A-one, an-a-two…)

The captain was called Baker. (So that's where Chaplin found the captain's name. Chaplin didn't have the good grace to give sources for his individual claims, but he listed Winer's book in his bibliography. Some bibliography: Star, Enquirer, Tattler…)

Captain Baker led a boarding party of four crewmen. (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and — yes, the redshirt.)

"[H]e smashed his boot down[,] pulverizing a thumb-sized cockroach into the deck…" (Yes, he's bad. I'd hate to be that roach… Hey, at least he didn't hit the redshirt.)

He was carrying a Colt revolver. (Did I say he's badass? And he still didn't hit the redshirt.)

His mating call was, "Halloo thar… anybody aboard?" ("Sure thing, love. Come right down — I'll suck for a buck." That's by the way why no one ever left the suck boat.)

He was thinking of the Mary Celeste. (The ship, not the suck for a buck lady.)

"The two sailing vessels had been becalmed within sight of each other for several days before they drifted to within hailing distance on August 20, 1881."

The derelict carried a cargo of lumber that looked like mahogany. She (the derelict, not the suck for a buck lady) had apparently sailed from Honduras or some such Central American lumber-producing country, was found halfway between The Bahamas and Bermuda, and may have been bound for Britain or the Mediterranean.

Her logbook and the trail boards with her name were missing. There was nothing to identify the ship or her crew. (Oh, come on. Just make up a name for her, so that I can debunk it.) Otherwise, there was no damage and no trace of violence. There were plenty of provisions.

The Ellen Austin was Boston bound, but had to detour south due to headwinds. (Ah, that's how she got into the Bermuda Triangle.) Baker decided to take his prize to Boston.

After two days of calm, a storm struck right on time for the witching hour. The crew of the Ellen Austin could see the derelict's navigation lights all through the night, until early in the morning, when the rain was blown horizontally into their faces from that direction so they couldn't look there anymore.

After two dark and stormy days, fair weather returned, but the derelict had vanished. Three days later at dawn, she was sighted once more.

She was sailing so erratically that it took almost an hour to board her. Of course, she was deserted once more.

But that's not all. The food was untouched, the bunks had not been slept in, and the new logbook had vanished. The navigation lights had burned out. The crew of the Ellen Austin had filled them with whale oil to last three days straight — and now they were dry again! Had they really burned out — or was it like nobody had ever been on board?

Spooky, huh? But whether it's spooky already or not, Winer won't let you get up from the campfire after just one prize crew!

Yes, another prize crew is placed on board. All of them are armed. A lifeboat is towed behind the derelict. The prize crew is ordered to abandon ship at the slightest sign of trouble.

After two days of sailing, the ships get separated in a haze. When the Ellen Austin gets back to the spot where the derelict was last seen, she's gone! And neither she nor any of the prize crews is ever seen or heard from again!

Winer's account being so very vivid and detailed, there are three options: He was there (doubt it), he located the mother of all sources (please tell us, Richard), or his account is largely fictional. I tend to think the last option is the right one.

In one of Quasar's better efforts, he researched the following facts: The American schooner Ellen Austin was a New York to London [sic] packet with the Blue Swallowtail Line of Grinnell, Minturn & Co., a big ship of 1,812 tons, 210 feet long, built of white oak at Damariscotta, Maine, in 1854. She last sailed under the American Flag under Captain A.J. Griffin.

Something would appear to be amiss here. The Blue Swallowtail Line linked New York to Liverpool; the New York to London service was the Red Swallowtail Line.

Unfortunately for a true believer like Quasar, this is where the story really starts to fall apart. According to his research, the Ellen Austin made only one voyage in 1881 under that name, before she was renamed the Meta. The Ellen Austin left London on December 5, 1880, and arrived in New York on February 11, 1881.

Quasar notes that this was an unusually long voyage, and that the delay could have been due to her searching for the prize-crew-snatching derelict. But he also, quite reasonably, assumes that the captain of the Ellen Austin would have had to account for a loss of crewmen. Yet Quasar could find no casualty report at Lloyd's for that year. Besides, the legendary Ellen Austin was allegedly bound for St. John's or Boston (depending on whether you believe Gould or Winer), not New York.

So if the incident occurred in 1881, the destination or the name is wrong. If it occurred before 1881, the year is wrong. If it occurred after 1881, the year and name of the ship are wrong.

Quasar speculates that the old salt that told Gould this yarn had forgotten the right year, as the incident had happened many years before. Also, that illiterate old salt would have identified ships by their beakheads or figureheads, as sailors traditionally did. So that hypothetical old sailor would still have identified the ship as the Ellen Austin, never noticing that the name had been painted over.

Any way you slice it, the facts don't match. There's at least one error even in the least sensational version of the story, Gould's. So it looks like whoever originally told the story was at least in one respect an unreliable witness.

"However, as with all second or third hand information, there is room for mistakes," observes Quasar. Yet, as with all second or third hand information, there is also a good chance it never really happened. Without a credible contemporary source, the story seems to be just that — a story.

So what we do not have is a good source for this story, which would indeed be very mysterious (though not necessarily supernatural) if it were true. The only source we have, Gould, while good as in reasonable, recorded the "incident" (if an incident it was) about half a century after it allegedly happened.

What we do however have is a 1911 short story by British maritime writer William Hope Hodgson, "The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship," which describes a very similar incident of a repeated loss of salvage crews on a derelict. (Spoiler: In the story, the recurrent salvage crew vanishings are due to the derelict being a trap by pirates. The pirates hide in a secret compartment accessible through hollow masts.)

So we have two options: Either there was a real incident, which inspired both Hodgson's fictional short story and Gould's allegedly factual account later on. Or someone who knew Hodgson's short story attached the name of a real ship, Ellen Austin, to it and sold it to Gould as the real McCoy. Until someone finds a contemporary historical account of the incident, like in a newspaper, a logbook, or a casualty report, one has to assume that this story, fascinating as it may be, is nothing but a sailor's yarn run amuck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

HMS Atalanta

HMS Atalanta, January 31, 1880.

The HMS Atalanta was built in 1844 as the 26-gun frigate HMS Juno. She was converted into a training ship and on January 10, 1878, renamed HMS Mariner and on January 22, 1878, HMS Atalanta. On January 31, 1880, she sailed from Bermuda to Portsmouth, only to vanish in the Atlantic with 290 cadets and officers. She is presumed lost in a storm.

Your friendly neighborhood mystic would try to mystify the vanishing like this:

The report of the investigating committee on the loss of the British training ship Atalanta was published on December 29, 1880, and stated no reliable trace had been found. The committee said they considered the Atalanta a very stable ship, except at the large angles of the heel, and that the alterations in her rig only tended to increase her safety. The committee spoke favorably of her officers and crew, and pointed out that at the time of her loss exceptional storms proved fatal to a number of merchant vessels. The only exception was that survivors or debris in the other cases were always found.

Experts agreed that the Atalanta must have encountered stormy weather, but so did scores of other vessels that crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the same time; yet the other vessels met with no mishaps other than slight delays. They pointed out that a British naval vessel was much safer than a merchant ship.

If military men could not manage a well-equipped sailing vessel in storm, what would happen to them if they found themselves in mid-ocean on board a disabled ironclad? (Spencer, pp. 91.)

Kusche quotes extensively from the coverage of the London Times (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, pp. 36.):

April 13, p.6: First the store ship Wye and then the whole Channel Squadron were sent to search the Atalanta.

April 14, p. 2:
When the Atalanta left Bermuda there were 109 tons of water on board, and an ample supply of provisions. The ship was in all respects sound, possessed of unusual stability, and commanded by an officer of good judgment and high professional qualifications; but the unexpected delay in her arrival affords cause for anxiety for her safety, bearing in mind the many disasters which have occurred during the past two months, consequent on the very severe weather which has been experienced in the Atlantic.

The easterly gales had been blowing for nearly a month. The Tamar is rumored to have seen a capsized copper-bottomed ship. This, however, cannot have been the Atalanta, as the weight of her water tanks and her forty-three tons of ballast would not have allowed her to float once capsized.

April 15, p. 10: The captain of the Tamar sent a telegram saying he did not pass a ship bottom upwards. Great excitement in Portsmouth because the Atalanta docked in Falmouth. It was, however, the merchant vessel Atalanta, not the HMS Atalanta.

April 19, p. 6:
On Saturday a report was bruited abroad to the effect that a lifeboat had been found, with the name Atalanta painted on the stern. This was not confirmed, and even if it had been the boat could not have belonged to the missing ship, as it is not a custom in the navy to paint the names of the men-of-war to which they belong on the stern or anywhere else.

April 20, p. 12: The gunboat Avon arrived in Portsmouth and reported immense quantities of floating wreckage in the vicinity of the Azores.

April 21, p. 8:
There can be no question of the criminal folly of sending some 300 lads who have never been to sea before in a training ship without a sufficient number of trained and experienced seamen to take charge of her in exceptional circumstances. The ship's company of the Atalanta numbered only about 11 able seamen, and when we consider that young lads are often afraid to go aloft in a gale to take down sail… a special danger attaching to the Atalanta becomes apparent.

April 26, p. 8: The Channel Squadron found nothing in the Azores.

April 27, p. 10: The crew of the Tamar arrived in Portsmouth. Among the passengers was an able seaman, John Varling, who had been invalidated from the Atalanta on January 3.

Varling's account of the performance of the training ship is far from reassuring, though the question will, of course, arise as to the value of his opinion. She is reported as exceedingly crank, as being overweight… and as having aroused the distrust of Captain Stirling… She rolled 32 degrees, and Captain Stirling is reported as having been heard to remark that had she rolled one degree more she must have gone over and foundered. During the trying situation the peculiar weaknesses of the ship's company were brought prominently into notice. As, with the exception of two, the officers were almost as much out for training as the crew, Captain Stirling scarcely ever left the deck, and the work of shortening sail and sending down the spars was left to the able seamen on board, who, including marines (mostly servants) petty officers, and cooks, only numbered about 50 in a crew of 250… The young sailors were either too timid to go aloft or were incapacitated by sea-sickness… Varling states that they hid themselves away, and could not be found when wanted by the boatswain's mate. It took the ship 31 days to go to Barbados from Tenerife… or about nine days [extra]…

May 10, p. 8: The Channel Squadron arrived in Bantry Bay and still had heard or picked up nothing from the Atalanta.

May 18, p. 10: A letter from a master mariner by the name of Allen Young recounts captains reporting "a storm of unusual violence… in the probable track of the Atalanta" and lists a litany of ships that were wrecked or missing on account of that storm.

There continued to be sightings of capsized wrecks and finds of messages in bottles and on barrels staves, which were discounted as inauthentic.

So where does that leave us?

"The committee said they considered the Atalanta a very stable ship" — how stable she really was is disputed.

"The committee spoke favorably of her officers and crew" — how many of them deserved to be so spoken of is disputed.

"The only exception was that survivors or debris in the other cases were always found." It is dishonest to say that no wreckage of the Atalanta was found. There was plenty of debris, and some of it was very possibly from the Atalanta. It's just that all of it was unmarked, including Royal Navy lifeboats, so one can't be sure either way.

"Experts agreed that the Atalanta must have encountered stormy weather, but so did scores of other vessels that crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the same time; yet the other vessels met with no mishaps other than slight delays." If Allen Young is to be believed, this is a barefaced lie.

Plus, "pointed out that at the time of her loss exceptional storms proved fatal to a number of merchant vessels" flies straight in the face of "the Atalanta must have encountered stormy weather, but so did scores of other vessels that crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the same time; yet the other vessels met with no mishaps other than slight delays." Did those vessels meet with no mishaps other than slight delays or did exceptional storms prove fatal to them? You can't have both, and particularly not in back-to-back paragraphs.

They pointed out that a British naval vessel was much safer than a merchant ship.

If military men could not manage a well-equipped sailing vessel in storm, what would happen to them if they found themselves in mid-ocean on board a disabled ironclad?


The young sailors were either too timid to go aloft or were incapacitated by sea-sickness… Varling states that they hid themselves away, and could not be found when wanted by the boatswain's mate.


And again, only a short part of the course of the Atalanta was in the Bermuda Triangle. She may have been lost far outside it, yet she is inevitably chalked up as a victim of the Triangle.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Failure of Imagination

"Almost every fire or major failure we looked at in the refinery resulted from a chain of events that no one had even anticipated or thought possible, generally in combination with a series of stupid human screwups."

So there then is your Bermuda Triangle. Funny that people have no trouble imagining Martians or death rays from Atlantis, but will balk at the chains of coincidences, weather events, technical failures, and human errors that really cause freak accidents.

Such human follies would be funny if the same irrationality and mysticism that makes people go for a three hour deep sea fishing tour shit faced, in some leaky tub, without lifejackets, with a radio full of loose contacts, with no navigational instrument save an atlas, in the face of an oncoming hurricane and then wonder why they get zapped by the death rays from Atlantis didn't make others fly airliners into skyscrapers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mary Celeste

Mary Celeste, December 4, 1872.

The brigantine Mary Celeste, often misspelled as Marie Celeste, was discovered without her crew midway between the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal, on December 4, 1872. The crew of the ghost ship was never seen or heard from again. The disappearance is often called the greatest maritime mystery in history.

The Mary Celeste was a 282 gross ton brigantine. She was built by the shipbuilders of Joshua Dewis in 1861 as the ship Amazon at the village of Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia. She was the first of many large ships that were built in that small community.

Her first captain, Robert McLellan, contracted pneumonia nine days after taking command and died at the beginning of her maiden voyage. That made him the first of three captains to die aboard her. The next captain, John Nutting Parker, hit a fishing boat with her and had to return her to the shipyard for repairs, where she suffered a fire. That was followed by a collision in the English Channel on her first Atlantic crossing.

After some uneventful and profitable years, she was blown ashore in a storm from her anchorage off Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, in 1867. She was salvaged, sold to one Richard Haines of New York, repaired, transferred to the American registry, and renamed Mary Celeste. At the time of her ghostly interlude, her ownership was divided into twenty-four shares held by James H. Winchester (twelve), Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs (eight), Sylvester Goodwin (two), and Daniel T. Sampson (two).

Now, maybe the name change caused her bad luck. Then of course, the bad luck must have traveled back in time. But if you accept that changing a ship's name is bad luck, you can't really object to reverse causality.

A more likely assumption is that her being the first large ship built in that neck of the woods, she may have had some hidden constructional flaw that caused some or all of the accidents. Maybe Captain Briggs secretly knew it or at least sensed it, making him leery of her and abandon her prematurely.

On his fateful voyage, Captain Briggs was accompanied by his wife, Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter, Sophia. Their seven-year-old son Arthur stayed with Briggs' mother in Marion, Massachusetts. A crew of seven — first mate Albert G. Richardson, second mate Andrew Gilling, and cook Edward William Head were Americans and the four seamen Volkert Lorenzen, Arian Martens, Boy Lorenzen, and Gottlieb Goodschaad were Germans — brought the company to an even ten.

Spelling variations of the sailors' names abound. I suspect most writers had a hard time deciphering the handwritten crew list. I can't blame them; I'm unsure myself. What I give here is my best guess given my knowledge of German and of North Frisian culture. Most, if not all, of the Germans apparently hailed from the island of Föhr. (Wilkins, p. 301.)

On the East River, the Mary Celeste took on board a cargo of 1,701 barrels of raw alcohol Meissner Ackerman & Co was shipping to Italy for fortifying wines. The cargo was valued at $35,000, while ship and cargo together were insured for $46,000.

The night before he sailed, Briggs dined with an old friend, Captain David Reed Morehouse, and their wives. Morehouse, from Nova Scotia, was the master of the Canadian merchant ship Dei Gratia, a brigantine like the Mary Celeste.

They discovered that both ships shared a similar course across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and into the Mediterranean. Morehouse, however, still had to wait for his cargo, 1,735 barrels and 500 cases of refined petroleum. (Wilkins, p. 288.)

On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste set sail for Genoa, Italy. (There is some dispute whether she sailed November 5 or 7. The solution appears to be that the ship left New York Harbor on November 5, but had to anchor off Staten Island until November 7 to wait for heavy seas to slacken.) The Dei Gratia followed suit on November 15. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 32.) The last time anyone heard anything of the crew of the Mary Celeste was when she exchanged signals with another ship two days out of and 300 miles southeast of New York. (Gould, p. 23.)

On December 4, 1872, the Dei Gratia was at 38° 20′ north 17° 15′ west, 590 miles west of Gibraltar, midway between the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 31.) This date corresponds to December 5 sea time, which measures the day from noon to noon instead of midnight to midnight. (Group, p. 24.) At 1:30 PM sea time (Wilkins, p. 278.), her helmsman, John Johnson, spied a ship about five miles off the port bow.

Johnson and second officer John Wright agreed that there was something wrong with that vessel. She was sailing erratically and her sails were somewhat torn, so they notified Captain Morehouse. (Group, pp. 24.)

When they came closer, they identified the mystery ship as the Mary Celeste, which was supposed to have arrived in Italy by then. The Dei Gratia approached to within 400 yards of the Mary Celeste and observed her for two hours.

No one was to bee seen at her helm or on deck. Some sails were set, and she was sailing slowly and erratically. While there was no distress signal, it looked very much like she was derelict and drifting. They hailed her, but got no answer. (Group, pp. 25.)

The first mate of the Dei Gratia, Oliver Deveau, boarded the Mary Celeste with Johnson and Wright (Winer, Devil's Triangle, p. 161.), to find no one on board and that "the whole ship was a thoroughly wet mess." Although there was a great deal of water between decks and three and a half feet of water in the hold, the Mary Celeste was not sinking, but still seaworthy. (Wilkins, p. 278.)

The captain's cabin was very wet, as a skylight was open. The captain's bunk was unmade, and there was the impression of a child's body in it. (Group, p. 25.) The water had ruined the ship's clock. (Snow, Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast, pp. 315.) An upside-down clock face had been inserted that way by a Deveau trying to fix the clock. (Wilkins, pp. 293.)

Only one of her pumps was operational, while the other had been disassembled. (Wilkins, p. 278.) Deveau stated: "I found the sounding rod [dipstick for a pump] on deck alongside the pump." (Wilkins, p. 280.)

The fore and the lazarette hatches were open, but the main hatch was closed. The wheel was not lashed. The binnacle had been knocked over and the compass broken. (Group, p. 25.)

Chronometer, sextant, ship's register, and navigation book had disappeared, but the logbook was still there. (Spencer, pp. 83.) The last entry in the logbook was dated November 24, 100 miles southwest of San Miguel Island in the Azores. The last entry on the log slate was dated 0800, Monday, November 25, 1872, when she had passed six miles north of Saint Mary's Island (now called Santa Maria Island) in the Azores, about 800 miles from Portugal. This does not mean that anything happened to her immediately after the last entry. On such small merchant ships, the log was not kept daily or at all regularly; on the Mary Celeste, there had been seven entries in eighteen days before she reached the Azores. (Gould, p. 24.)

Most of the sails were furled, with the exception of the jib and the foretopmast-staysail (both were set), the lower foretop-staysail (partly set and hanging by its corners, the top of the sail having been ripped from the yard fastenings), the foreupper-topsail and foresail (both blown away), and the two headsails (both trimmed for the starboard tack). The running rigging (which raises, lowers, and directs the sails) was tangled, as if by a storm, and the peak halyard was parted. (Group, pp. 25.)

The peak halyard, the rope used to hoist the main sail, was gone or parted. Maybe it was the rope that was tied to the ship with the other, frayed, end trailing in the water.

The lifeboat, which had sat above the main hatch, had vanished. (Wilkins, p. 279.) A second boat had originally hung astern, but been damaged in New York, and not been on board for this voyage. (Group, p. 25.)

The cargo of alcohol seemed to be intact, but when it was unloaded in Genoa, nine barrels turned out to be empty. It is, however, not clear whether these nine barrels were empty or missing. In the latter case, the discrepancy may simply be due to a miscount. (Group, p. 26.)

The water casks had been moved. (Wilkins, p. 285.) The stove in the galley had been knocked out of place. (Wilkins, p. 286.) Both could have been done by a wave.

There was plenty of food and freshwater. The crew's personal possessions were untouched. Money, clothes, and even the sailors' pipes were still there, as if the ship had been abandoned in a great hurry. (Group, p. 25.) Deveau stated that no sailor would abandon his pipe except in a great haste. (Wilkins, p. 285.)

While it looked like the Mary Celeste had been abandoned in a hurry, there was no trace of violence. Thus, it appeared unlikely that an act of piracy or mutiny had occurred.

Some say: "The main cabin had been boarded up as if someone had wished to create a stronghold to repel attackers." (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 71.) Like pirates or a mutinous crew. This, however, is likely a misunderstanding on account of the windows being battened with boards and canvas. This was common practice in winter, just like you'd board up your windows before a hurricane hits. (Group, pp. 25.)

The tale is often padded with claims that a clock was still ticking, breakfast with cups of tea, still warm, was on the table, or a vial of oil or "a bobbin of silk was found standing upon the sewing-machine, though the least roll of the vessel would have precipitated it to the floor," as future mystic Arthur Conan Doyle so irresponsibly fictionalized. Naturally, or rather, supernaturally, the mystics seize onto such trash to deny any explanation involving bad weather or any kind of waves.

Neither of the latter two claims can possibly be true, as the crew of the Dei Gratia had for two hours watched the Mary Celeste sailing erratically while the sea was running high. (Wilkins, p. 278.) Plus, Deveau stated at the inquiry that there was nothing to eat or drink in the cabin. (Wilkins, p. 277.)

These claims originated with fictional accounts of the incident, most notoriously Arthur Conan Doyle's "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement." This is also where the misspelling Marie Celeste originated.

Deveau and two sailors, Augustus Anderson and Charles Lund, sailed the Mary Celeste to Gibraltar. (Wilkins, p. 280.) The Dei Gratia arrived in the evening of December 12, and the Mary Celeste, the next morning. (Gould, p. 25.) There, the vice admiralty court had to investigate what had happened and to decide on salvage rights.

Frederick Solly Flood, QC, attorney general of Gibraltar, the queen's proctor to the court, ordered an examination of the Mary Celeste by the surveyor of shipping in Gibraltar, John Austin, an inspector, John McCabe, and a local diver, Ricardo Portunato. They found a gash in the railing that might have been caused by an ax, spots that looked like blood, and a sword similarly stained.

The gash in the railing may have been made after she had docked, as it had not been seen before. A missing strip of wood from the railing may have been torn away in a storm. (Group, p. 26.)

The US consul in Gibraltar, Horatio J. Sprague, had the Mary Celeste examined by US Navy Captain R.W. Shufeldt of the USS Plymouth. Shufeldt concluded that that the cuts were scratches that could have been caused by anything, and that the "blood," including that on the sword, was rust. Tests later performed presumed to prove the latter claim, although the methods available to nineteenth-century science were not exactly sophisticated.

Eventually, the crew of the Dei Gratia was awarded one-sixth of the $46,000 insurance money. This relatively small amount might indicate that the court still suspected they were somehow complicit in whatever fate had befallen Briggs and company. Or the judge may still have been angry that Morehouse, who knew little to help the investigation, had remained, while Deveau and his crew had left. The judge had threatened to cut the award for that. (Wilkins, pp. 286.)

The US government issued an APB to its consuls to watch out for the personages and equipment missing from the ship. Be it in the nearby Azores ports or anywhere else around the globe, no one and nothing was ever reported.

James Winchester had finally had more than enough of the now notorious Mary Celeste when she added his father, Henry Winchester-Vinters, who drowned in Boston, to her body count. After Winchester sold her at an enormous loss, she was sold and resold seventeen times in thirteen years.

The last owner and captain of the Mary Celeste, Gilman C. Parker, was unable to turn a profit with the dilapidated ship and deliberately wrecked her, along with an over-insured cargo of scrap, boots, and cat food, on Rochelais Reef west of Port-au-Prince and south of Gonâve Island, Haiti, on January 3, 1885. When she failed to sink, Parker proceeded to burn her, but even then the hull remained intact. He did, however, succeed at destroying the ship's historically significant log containing Captain Briggs' entries.

When Parker filed his fraudulent insurance claim, he was arrested. The partially burnt hulk of the Mary Celeste was considered a total loss, unsalvageable, and left to slip off the reef and sink.

In 2001, Clive Cussler (the founder of the "National Underwater and Marine Agency," better known as the guy who's been writing the same book over and over again for over twenty years, now assisted by his son in writing said book) claimed he found the wreck of the Mary Celeste, identifying her by her position, ballast, fastenings, timbers, and traces of fire. Yet there are many similar wrecks, and an analysis of tree ring data indicated that wood in the wreck is from trees that lived at least another decade after the Mary Celeste went down.

The possible causes for the abandonment of the Mary Celeste come in three flavors: (A) crime, (B) premature abandonment, and (C) "everybody happened to jump or fall overboard for some reason."

(A) Crime:

(A1) Piracy by pirates unknown:

Despite the lack of evidence supporting this theory, piracy cannot be ruled out, either.

It is, however, considered unlikely, as the Royal Navy had supposedly put an end to piracy in those waters, any traces of violence on board were faint at best, and the ship had not been looted. (Group, p. 29.)

Still, in a similar vein, this website purporting to be a transcript from a 1913 copy of the Liverpool Mercury features not only "Abel Fosdyk's Story," given in more detail below, but also the account of one R.C. Greenough, the self-styled second officer of the SS Tortuguero.

This venerable old salt claims he found the proverbial message in a bottle next to a skeleton on one of the islets of St. Paul's Rocks (Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago). When that message in German is finally deciphered, it turns out to be the deathbed confession of the former owner of said skeleton, who claims he was the captain of some shady steamship whose crew came down with something along the lines of food poisoning. The survivors found themselves shorthanded on their steamer, hardly able to keep up enough steam to make headway.

As fate would have it, they fell in with the Mary Celeste. Abandoning the uninsured steamer, whose part owner our shady and anonymous captain was, was out of the question. For reasons of his own, he does not negotiate with Captain Briggs for a salvage crew, but with his few sick and weak men boards the unfortunate brigantine and at gunpoint impresses the whole company as firemen for his steamer.

His chronometer having run down while everybody was down with the ship's cook's revenge, our anonymous Snidely Whiplash appropriates the Mary Celeste's. Unfortunately, they're not sure whether the latter is off by some minutes, so that the steamer goes off course and ends up on the rocks, whereupon the whole lot of them is drowned, except for Whiplash, whom fate grants enough time on the island to write his confession before being removed by dehydration.

While it is of course not impossible that the crew of the Mary Celeste was shanghaied by a shorthanded pirate, this specific tale obviously smacks of a tortured exercise in creative writing. It's just too much poetic justice that the stolen chronometer should doom the thief; besides, it's suspicious that all the verifiable details like names were allegedly obliterated by mildew, while the details matching the particulars of the Mary Celeste, like what became of the missing chronometer, by some crazy chance survived intact. It's nifty to account for the chronometer that way, but it's obviously too good to be true. On the other hand, one researcher, Anne MacGregor, came to the conclusion that Briggs' chronometer was indeed faulty.

It's also interesting that the tale misspells the ship's name as Marie Celeste, just as Doyle did. One wonders whether that misspelling was introduced during translation/transcription or whether it was present in the original manuscript, if it ever existed. Sure, Celeste sounds French, and one may think it is tempting to misspell the name the French way, but it's still highly suspicious and makes it look like this yarn was fashioned from Doyle's tale.

(A2) Piracy by the crew of the Dei Gratia:

The crew of the Dei Gratia murdered that of the Mary Celeste for the salvage rights. (Wilkins, passim.)

Again, any traces of violence on board were faint at best. Plus, Captain Morehouse was an old friend of Captain Briggs, so would he be ready to murder him and his family for comparatively little money? Finally, the Dei Gratia sailed more than one week after the Mary Celeste and would not have been able to catch up with her unless something else had already happened to her.

(A3) Fraud by the crew of the Mary Celeste:

The crew of the Mary Celeste, possibly on behalf of Briggs and his partners, attempted to defraud the insurance companies.

Her crew set the Mary Celeste on a course for some rocks and took to the lifeboat, but a gust of wind blew the ship to safety, while the lifeboat foundered and the crew was drowned or dashed to death on the rocks. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 35.)

(A4) Fraud by both crews:

The crews of the Mary Celeste and the Dei Gratia defrauded the insurance companies together.

Briggs and everybody else on the Mary Celeste would have had to assume new identities. The insurance payout would have gone mostly to Briggs' partners. Also, the ship and cargo would have to be lost for there to be any payout at all, unless one assumes Briggs and company got to share the salvage award. Yet, even if the court had not been suspicious and had paid out a higher award, it would not have been much to go round with both crews sharing, and that award would have come in part out of part owner Briggs' pocket. (Gould, p. 27.)

(A5) Mutiny:

The crew mutinied and killed Captain Briggs and his family before fleeing in the lifeboat.

As any of them would have assumed a new identity, this would account for the fact that no survivor ever showed up, without having to assume that all were killed at sea. However, there is no positive evidence: no traces of a fight and Briggs had a good reputation, like all of the crew. And why would the mutineers abandon the ship? (Gould, p. 27.)

(A6) Drunkenness:

The crew got the alcohol, got roaring drunk, and murdered Captain Briggs and his family before fleeing in the lifeboat.

Again, as any of them would have assumed a new identity, this would account for the fact that no survivor ever showed up, without having to assume that all were killed at sea. However, there is no positive evidence: no traces of a fight and all of the crew had good reputations. Plus, Briggs was a teetotaler and would not have tolerated a crew of drunkards on board.

(B) Premature abandonment:

In all these explanations, the crew took to the lifeboat. The explanations mostly differ in the cause of taking to the lifeboat.

(B1) Storm:

The Mary Celeste was abandoned as sinking in a storm. (Gould, pp. 28.)

When the Mary Celeste was found, there was more water in the bilge than there should have been, though that may have leaked in after she was abandoned. Also, one of her pumps had been disassembled. Though the amount of water in the bilge was not enough to sink the ship, the crewman at the pump may have misread the depth and/or with a pump out of commission Briggs may have made the mistake of deeming the lifeboat safer, only for it to get separated from the ship and swamped or capsized in the storm. Briggs and other experienced crewmembers may even have been swept overboard in the storm, so that there was no one to correct mistakes and prevent a panic.

At the inquiry, Oliver Deveau considered that the likeliest solution. (Gould, p. 28.) Gould gives examples of this actually having happened on other ships.

But some, like our trusty people's encyclopedia, say:

There was some storm activity on the Atlantic during October 1872; but this particular voyage was made entirely during November of that year — a storm-free month for the Mary Celeste.

In short — for this theory, no storms were reported in the area at the time, only mildly choppy weather.

Yet Charles Fay got the following answer from the metrological service in the Azores:

From the records from Angra do Heroismo and Ponta Delgada, the two only stations existing in 1872, it is concluded that stormy conditions prevailed in the Azores on the 24 and 25 November 1872. A COLD FRONT passed Angra do Heroismo between 3 and 9 P.M. on the 25th. the wind shifting then from SW to NW. The minimum of pressure was 752 mm. and the wind velocity attained to 62 km. at Ponta Delgada at 9 P.M. on the 24th. Calm or light wind prevailed on the forenoon of the 25th., but later, the wind became of a gale force. As usually the wind direction before the cold front was WSW to SW; after the cold front NW. 14 mm. of rain were collected at Angra from noon 24 to noon 25, and 29 mm. at Ponta Delgada.

Deveau stated they had stormy weather from November 15 to 24. (Wilkins, p. 281.) The weather had been stormy before they found the Mary Celeste, too. (Wilkins, p. 278.) Another storm hit the Mary Celeste and the Dei Gratia after the ghost ship was discovered, on December 11, off Cape Spartel, Morocco. (Spencer, p. 85.)

(B2) Waterspout:

Just like the storm, just with a waterspout. (Group, pp. 30.)

If the Mary Celeste was his by a waterspout (the maritime version of a tornado), as Gershom Bradford first proposed, that would explain quite a few strange things in connection with the ghost ship. The water all around the ship may have made it look to the crew like she was going down. The sudden drop in air pressure may have directly impaired their judgment, too, along with the shock of being struck by a waterspout.

The waterspout would also have sucked up water in the pump, and a valve would have kept it from flowing back out, so that upon sounding it appeared to the crew that there was much more water in the ship than there really was. If the captain believed the sounding, it would look like an enormous amount of water had rushed into the hull in no time flat, like she was making water fast, like she was going down like a stone.

It would also explain why the ship was soaking wet when boarded. And it would explain the damage on board, like the broken compass and the hatches sucked away.

Dave Williams, advocate of the seaquake theory, argues: "Waterspouts are not common outside the tropics, especially in November," yet:

While many waterspouts form in the tropics, locations at higher latitude within temperate zones also report waterspouts, such as Europe and the Great Lakes. Although rare, waterspouts have been observed in connection with lake-effect snow precipitation bands.

Though the majority occur in the tropics, they can seasonally appear in temperate areas throughout the world, and are common across the western coast of Europe as well as the British Isles and several areas of the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea. They are not restricted to saltwater; many have been reported on lakes and rivers including the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Waterspouts are fairly common on the Great Lakes during late summer and early fall, with a record 66+ waterspouts reported over just a seven day period in 2003. They are more frequent within 100 kilometers (60 mi) from the coast than farther out at sea. Waterspouts are common along the southeast US coast, especially off southern Florida and the Keys and can happen over seas, bays, and lakes worldwide. Approximately 160 waterspouts are currently reported per year across Europe, with the Netherlands reporting the most at 60, followed by Spain and Italy at 25, and the United Kingdom at 15. They are most common in late summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, September has been pinpointed as the prime month of formation.

Waterspouts have long been recognized as serious marine hazards. Stronger waterspouts are usually quite dangerous, posing threats to ships, planes, helicopters, and swimmers.

(B3) Seaquake:

Just like the waterspout, just with a seaquake instead of the waterspout.

The Mary Celeste was rocked by a seaquake, which cracked open the nine barrels of alcohol later found empty. The quake also dislodged the galley stove, which sent showers of embers all over the place. Given the shock from the quake and the explosive mixture of alcohol fumes and embers, the crew cannot be faulted for jumping ship PDQ.

To the credit of this theory, the area is very active seismically. Yet there is no evidence that any ship or Azorean islander observed any seaquakes, earthquakes, shocks, or tremors at that time: "No record of any earthquake is kept in the registers, neither in the local newspapers which we have searched."

It might have been a foreshock of an 8.5 magnitude earthquake that hit later that December, a foreshock felt on the islands as one of many such tremors happening too frequently to report or remember. Or it might never have happened. Besides, if there was that explosive mixture of alcohol fumes and embers, it's quite a coincidence that there was no explosion.

(B4) Tsunami:

Just like the earthquake, just with a tsunami instead of the earthquake.

The Mary Celeste was hit by a tsunami caused by an earthquake or a landslide in the Canary Islands or the Azores. The crew was washed overboard or so shocked they abandoned ship. This would explain why the ship was so wet.

But just like there is no report of an earthquake, there is no report of a landslide or a tsunami, either. Everybody would have to be on deck at the same time, or everybody would have to be shocked enough to believe the ship was sinking. Tsunamis only rise above the sea level in shallow water — in deep water they are harmless — so the ship would have had to be near land when it happened.

(B5) Rogue wave:

Just like the tsunami, just with a rogue wave instead of the tsunami.

The Mary Celeste was hit by a rogue wave. The crew was washed overboard or so shocked they abandoned ship. This would explain why the ship was so wet.

Everybody would have to be on deck at the same time, or everybody would have to be shocked enough to believe the ship was sinking.

(B6) Explosion:

Just like the earthquake, just without the earthquake. (Snow, Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast, pp. 326.)

Captain Briggs had never carried a cargo of alcohol before and did not trust it. Nine barrels were later found to be empty. These were of the more porous red oak, instead of white oak like the others. Thus, the alcohol could evaporate and the vapor accumulate in the hold. When the crew discovered the vapor buildup, they feared an explosion and abandoned ship. There may have been a frightful rush of fumes when the hold was opened.

There was no trace of an explosion or a fire. (Gould, p. 25.) Still, some say there may even have been an explosion or a short-lived alcohol fire that was not hot enough to leave burn marks, though Gould discounts that. (Gould, p. 28.) "Lloyd's of London, who paid the insurance, inclines to the theory that a sudden but short fire of the alcohol cargo may have frightened the crew off the ship and then gone out, given the properties of alcohol for sudden flare-up, burning with a blue flame, and then extinguishing itself." (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 71.)

However, the boarding party found the main hatch, which would have been blown off by an explosion, sealed. Neither did they smell alcohol vapor in the hold, although there would have been a strong alcohol odor at that time if the theory were correct.

In all the above explanations, the crew launched the lifeboat, got in, and maybe tethered it to the ship with the rope that was later found trailing in the water, so they could get back on board if she survived. When a gust hit the ship, she made a sudden move, and the rope snapped. The ship outsailed the lifeboat, and the crew perished in the small lifeboat, from dehydration, starvation, or getting it swamped and drowning, before they could make landfall or be picked up by anyone.

(B7) Shifting sandbar:

The Mary Celeste ran aground on a "ghost island," a shifting sandbar.

The crew gave up on dislodging their ship and took to the lifeboat. The lifeboat sank, but the sandbar shifted again, setting the Mary Celeste free and adrift. (Kusche, Bermuda Triangle Mystery, p. 35.)

(B8) Rocks:

While becalmed, the Mary Celeste began drifting towards the rocks of Santa Maria Island.

The crew took to the lifeboat to see what would happen. What happened was that a sudden squall blew the ship away from the rocks and the lifeboat and swamped the latter. (Gaddis, Invisible Horizons, pp. 155.)

(B9) Miscellaneous premature abandonment:

Just like the other premature abandonment theories, just with another cause.

Captain Briggs may have thought for some reason that the Mary Celeste could not make it to Italy. An examination of the surviving logbook entries seems to indicate that Briggs reached Santa Maria Island three days later than he expected. Thus, his chronometer may have been faulty.

On top of that, he may have been worried about the bilge pumps. The ship had been rebuilt recently and carried coal on the previous voyage, so the pumps may have been clogged by construction debris and coal dust.

Santa Maria was the last land for hundreds of miles. Maybe Briggs, concerned for the safety of his family, would rather abandon the ship than risk crossing the open ocean to Europe. So everybody made for Santa Maria in the lifeboat, but it sank before they got there.

Indeed, one of two pumps had been disassembled. However, according to Deveau, the Mary Celeste did not have any sounding pipes, so the pump may have been disassembled in order to sound the pump well, not because the pump was clogged. Deveau did not report any problems with the one pump he used. (Wilkins, p. 278.) One also wonders why Briggs would not come into port in Vila do Porto or anchor off Santa Maria instead of allowing his ship to drift.

(C) Everybody happened to jump or fall overboard for some reason:

(C1) Ophthalmia:

Everybody jumped overboard due to ophthalmia.

Ophthalmia (also called Ophthalmitis) is inflammation of the eye. It is a medical sign which may be indicative of various conditions, including sympathetic ophthalmia (inflammation of both eyes following trauma to one eye), ophthalmia neonatorum (a form of bacterial conjunctivitis), and actinic conjunctivitis (inflammation resulting from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays).

Noted historical sufferers

Ophthalmitis was a common disease of sailors, possibly related to scurvy or poor nutrition. In the book "Negro Builders and Heroes" by Benjamin Brawley in the chapter entitled "The Wake of the Slave-Ship" is described this condition afflicting, on slave ships, sometimes the whole crew and captive slaves. Christopher Columbus suffered ophthalmitis late in his life.

Stories abound where one old-time sailing ship fell in with another one sailing erratically, only to learn upon hailing that on the latter everyone had gone blind and thus helpless with disease. Horrified, fearing infection and a similar fate, the crew of the former would sail away, abandoning their fellow sailors on the latter to a death by disease, dehydration, starvation, storm, or madly jumping overboard to end their horrible suffering. (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, pp. 68.)

(C2) Ergotism:

Everybody jumped overboard due to ergotism. (Berlitz, Bermuda Triangle, p. 71.)

Ergotamine in the flour may have given the crew ergotism. Ergotamine is a precursor of LSD and may have similar hallucinogenic effects, so the crewmembers killed each other or jumped overboard.

Yet the flour on the Mary Celeste was likely consumed by the prize crew of the Dei Gratia, who suffered no ill effects. (Wilkins, p. 277.)

(C3) Sea monster:

A giant squid or the like, for reasons of his own, picked off every last man, woman, and child on board without materially damaging the ship in the grope, grasp, and grab process.

(C4) "Abel Fosdyk's Story" AKA the Abel Fosdyk papers AKA shark race with playpen:

Everybody jumped/fell overboard due to rampant stupidity.

In 1913, The Strand Magazine asked for submissions providing solutions to the Mary Celeste mystery. One of the responses came from one A. Howard Linford of Magdalen College, Oxford, headmaster of Peterborough Lodge. He claimed he found the true story of the Mary Celeste among papers received from an old servant on his deathbed, Abel Fosdyk.

Allegedly, Fosdyk got on board unrecorded because he was a friend of Captain Briggs and asked him to get him out of the US. During the voyage, Briggs had the ship's carpenter build some sort of a playpen or observation deck on the bowsprit.

One day, Briggs challenged the mate to a swimming contest in clothes. They jumped overboard and started to swim around the ship.

Others stepped onto the playpen or viewing platform for a better view of the spectacle. One of the swimmers was attacked by a shark.

Now everybody left on board crowded onto the platform to see what was going on. Naturally, the overloaded platform collapsed, precipitating everyone who had been on board the Mary Celeste into the sea.

The sharks, of course, ate everyone — except Fosdyk, who by chance had ended up on the remains of the platform. The Mary Celeste drifted away, but he made it back to terra firma anyway. As he was afraid no one would believe his story and he would be held responsible for the deaths, he never talked about what had happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste.

There is little if any evidence that such a platform was built. For the marks that were found on the ship, there are simpler explanations. The official report to the court of inquiry by John Austin, Gibraltar's surveyor of shipping, indeed mentioned some strange marks on the Mary Celeste:

On approaching the vessel I found on the bow, between two and three feet above the water line on the port side, a long narrow strip at the edge of a plank under the cat-head cut away to the depth of about three eights of an inch and about one and a quarter inches wide for a length of about six to seven feet. This injury had been sustained recently and could not have been effected by weather or collision and was apparently done by a sharp cutting instrument continuously applied through the whole length of the injury. I found on the starboard bow but a little further from the stern of the vessel a precisely similar injury at the edge of a plank but perhaps an eighth or tenth of an inch wider, which in my opinion had been effected simultaneously and by the same means and not otherwise. However; as the Official Surveyor for this Court of Inquiry, I must profess intense bewilderment as to the tool used to cut such marks and why they would have been cut in any vessel at these locations.

Those marks are sometimes cited as evidence that such a platform was anchored there. (Wilkins, p. 307.) Captains Winchester and Shufeldt, however, felt that it was simply splinters that had popped off the planks, which had been steamed and bent to follow the curve of the bow. (Gould, p. 25.) Williams concurs and adds that excessive caulking might have increased the pressure to make the popping off more likely.

Plus, the story does not explain the missing boat, papers, and instruments. The names and nationalities (English) of the crew Fosdyk gives do not match those on record. Finally, he overstates the tonnage of the Mary Celeste as 600 tons.

I think I do not have to elaborate on what I think of this deathbed confession.

Personally, I think the waterspout theory fits the facts best — sucked-off hatches, soaked ship, water being sucked up in the pumps to make it look like the ship was going down fast, etc.

What's more, whatever mystery the Mary Celeste may be, she is not a Bermuda Triangle mystery. She wasn't even close to the Bermuda Triangle — a triangle between Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan. She was on the wrong fucking side of the Atlantic.

But, hey, it's billed the greatest maritime mystery in history, so we've gotta include it. Maybe the Atlanteans took a trip.

We could have the Bermuda Triangle open a branch triangle — let's call it the Bermuda Triangle East. Or we could make the whole damn ocean one big Atlantic Triangle.

No, wait, we could just as well extend the Bermuda Triangle to cover the whole world for total coverage. Might yield another half dozen sensationalist books for the peons to spend the money on the tax gatherer didn't get.

Still, this case is in one way exemplary of tales of mysterious vanishings and accidents in and outside the Bermuda Triangle. In this like most such cases, for example the Marine Sulphur Queen, there is no lack of logical, naturalistic theories — there are too many of them.

So it demonstrates that there is no need for any supernatural explanations, like aliens or Atlantean death rays. The mystics' chief contention is that things go bump in the Bermuda Triangle for which there is no logical, naturalistic explanation.

They like to trot out other arguments, like shoddy statistics meant to show that more accidents happen in the Bermuda Triangle than elsewhere. But those "statistics" are one and all concoctions full of Texas sharpshooter fallacies and outright fabrications.

If you ask professionals, like Lloyd's or the Coast Guard, they will show you that in the Bermuda Triangle there are no more accidents than in any other part of the sea with comparable traffic and weather conditions. Any would-be Texas sharpshooter could draw a triangle across any populated part of the world and come up with, say, the dread Casablanca Triangle or the infamous Oregon Triangle powered by the notorious Oregon Vortex.

So what's left for the mystics is to come up with at least one case that cannot be explained rationally. However, all the case we have looked at so far fall into three categories: Those that have an unambiguous rational solution, those that have more than one possible rational solution, and those for which there is no evidence that they ever happened, i.e., clear fabrications.

There are no cases that cannot be explained rationally. There are only cases where there is not enough hard evidence to prove which one of the several rational explanations suggested by the available evidence is the true one.