Mary Celeste Monument – Diligent River, Nova Scotia - Atlas Obscura

Mary Celeste Monument

Diligent River, Nova Scotia

Commemoration of a sea voyage gone mysteriously wrong. 


It makes little sense that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stylized the sinking of the Mary Celeste. The story certainly doesn’t need intrigue, or a bizarre cast of characters. In fact, the real story is so strange, that it could happen tomorrow and would still send a chill down the spine of everyone who heard about the discovery of the unmanned Canadian ship.

The Mary Celeste was built in 1861 in Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia. For the first five years of its existence, the 282-ton ship had nothing but bad luck. Eerily foreboding, through 1866 the ship went through three captains; two crashed the ship and one died of pneumonia within a week of the ship’s first voyage. Those were mini-crises, but the real oddity occurred in 1872 when the ship was spotted 600 miles off the coast of Portugal.

Completely unmanned when it was discovered, two men boarded the ship that should have reached Italy by the time it was found in the middle of the Atlantic. What they found sent shivers. There was not a single man aboard, and one life boat was missing. However, the ship was completely seaworthy except for a few unexplained problems; the captain’s logbook was missing, the clock and ship’s compass were broken and it appeared that the ship was left in a hurry.

Immediately questions swirled around the mystery vessel. It wasn’t attacked, and hadn’t crashed, but had been abandoned. Some blamed seaquakes and tsunamis, while others suggested piracy, drunken mutiny or alcohol-induced explosion. Each story explained a part, but couldn’t explain the whole mystery behind the rapid abandonment.

Today, the Mary Celeste is something of legend, and a commemorative memorial was dedicated to the crew in the place it was built on Spencer’s Island. Along with the monument, a theater in the shape of the Mary Celeste was also erected near the monument to commemorate the fateful and mysterious voyage of 1872 that will never be perfectly explained.

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November 15, 2011

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  • The Sage of The Mary Celeste Stanley T Spicer
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