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MYSTERIES OF THE OCEAN., Wanganui Chronicle, Issue 20031, 14 March 1914, Supplement
MYSTERIES OF THE OCEAN.
THE MARIE CELESTE AND
(From "The Scotsman."
Everyone knows that sailors. g;u tue •credit of spinning yarns so tougii tha t no one will believe them except the Marines, who are popularly supposed to be guillible enough to swallow anything. But it is doubtful if the toughest sailer's yarn ever conceived could possibly •be one whit more amazing or incredible than are many well attested facts.
THE MARIE CELESTE
Tako for instance the cruesome and Mnysterioi's story of the Marie Celeste. This vessel sailed from New York m November 1872, bound for Genoa with a cargo of oil. There were thirteen souls •on board of her all told, including Captain Brigg's wife and child. She was :.sighted on th« 4th December by the barque Deo Gratia, who signalled her, and receiving no response, "suspected -that something was wrong. When a boat was sent off to investigate, the Marie Celeste was found to l»e absolutely deserted.
Not a living thing was to be seen on "her. Everything seemed in perfect order fore and aft, and the vessel was holding her course exactly as though she were under control. From that day to thia not the faintest clue has be-on obtained as to what happened to the crew, ■or why, or even how they left her. The liull and cargo were intact, the rigging •and spars were sound, and the sails were set for a light breeze such as was blowing at the time. The boats were every one at the davits, and there were no ■signs of either mutiny or bloodshed. In the cabin a half-eaten breakfast for four was on-the table, and a bottle oi cough medicine, with a dose measured out in a tumbler, was beside a plate,, where the captain's wife sat.' A' sewingmachine, with a child's gown under the Tieedle, was against the bulkhead, just as the user had left it to have break-, "fast. In the galley the crew's food was cooked but not served out; and nothing 3n the forecastle gave any signs of coming trouble. The men's kits were in their usual places, and the weekly wash was hung tip on the upper deck. The log-book, • posted to within 48 hours of being sighted by the Deo Gratia, showed the voyage to have been favourable, the last entry being tho -ship's position, and "slight wind from ■S.E." and it was quite clear that no xough weather had ovei taken her in the interval. Everything appeared to be going on as usual up until the moment that the crew -had been spirited away fey some mysterious agency which has never been revealed.
The Marie Celeste was towed into Gibraltar and a fresh crew put on board of her. But misfortune seemed to dog her through her whole career. Strange superstitions were oonlnected with her. Crew -after crew asserted that the" ship was haunted, and that the lost crew were still on board and interfering with the working of the vessel. Finally she was alleged to have been deliberately cast away on the coast of South America, for which action her captain had to stand trial on a charge of barratry.
THE CASE OF THE RESOLVEN
A case in many Tespectsi similar to the Marie Celeste was that of the M*ig Re•solven, which left St. John's, Newfoundland, on a voyage- to Labrador iri August, 1884 with a crew of eleven all told. -ISarly in the morning of the third day sifter leaving port she was discovered by H.OVI. gunboat Mallard quite deserted. The commander of the Mallard had his -attention drawn to her owing to the strangeness of her behaviour.
On hailing her and getting no reply a boat was sent to board her. So far as could be seen everything was in proper order. Her log-book was posted to within six hours of being sighted by the gunboat. The galley fire was alight, and both the binnacle lamp and side lights were burning. . Her sails were set, but owing to the helm not being under control she was steering a very erratic oourse. No sign of disorder appeared anywhere. A bag of gold which was intended for the purchase of cargo, was found in a locker in the captain's cabin.
Why the crew abandoned her is one of the mysteries of the.sea that will probably never be cleared up. At first it was thought that they had only left her temporarily for some purpose, though it is a little difficult to understand why they should have done so with all sail set. The Mallard remained in the' vicinity of the spot where she fellin with the Resolvon'for a couple of days, but failed to get any indication of the fate of the crew, and then towed the abandoned vessel into the harbour.
THE GRUESOME OCEAN QUEEN
A far more gruesome story than either of the above was that of the Ocean ■Queen, a clipper barque which, sailed from Rangoon with a general cargo early in May 1876, bound for Melbourne. Her crew numbered nineteen all told, of ■whomf more than one-half were foreigners of various nationalities. In addition to these there were some passengers, probably about a doaen in all. From the time of her leaving Rangoon nothing was heard of her until she was picked up on July 27th by H.M.S. Orontes about 400 miles east of the Seychelles groups.
When the boat's crew of bluejackets boarded her their first impression was that there had been a mutiny or that the Ocean Queen had been attacked by pirates. No fewer than tw-enty-seven bodies in every stage of decomposition were scattered about the deck. Some of them had only been dead a few days, others again were reduced to skeletons. Some were clad in their every day clothes, others were naked.
In the cabin was the skeleton of a woman and two children. The youngest was a mere baby, and it was evident that the mother had died while nursing it; the other had died hugging its doll to its little breast. None of the bodies showed any signs of violence, nor were there any arms lying about. So far as the vessel itself was concerned there was absolutely nothing to account for this extraordinary state of things. No attempt whatever had been made to either broach the cargo or rifle the cabins, in which there was a considerable amount of mtney. It was fairly evident that she had experienced some rough weather, but when the well was sounded there was found to be only six inches or so of water in it.
Everything of importance appeared to be intact, and tho Ocean Queen was in good seaworthy condition, and well equipped with provisions and water. The log-book, however, was missing, and so also was the manifest.
On the chart the course was marked up for about three weeks after the vessel left Rangoon, the last mark being made at lat. lSdeg. 3omin. S.. 64deg. 28min. E. —that is to say. in the neighbourhood of Rodriguez Tsland. which would be a considerable distance out of her course. Assuming this to be correct, where did the vessel pass the intervening eight weeks or so which must have elapsed between the making of the last mark on the chart and her being picked v bj the Orontes? It is hardly
likely that she could have passed all that time in the track of ships to and from India and China without once being sighted. Conjectures have been offered, but there is so much that is inexplicable about the whole thing that it would only be foolish to repeat them here. The Orontes sent a party on board of her to olear up the desks and dispose of tho bodies, afterwards leaving a crew to work her to Colombo. Four days after tho vessels parted company, the Ocean Queen was spoken to by one of the Messageres Maritimes boats, and this was the last that ever was heard of her. She vanished off the face of the ocean, and carried her secrets with her. Had she reached port. where she could have been more thoroughly examined, it is probable that some at least of the mystery surrounding her would have been cleared up. But it was decreed otherwise.
THE TALE OF THE FOXDALE.
The story of the schooner Foxdale is perhaps as curious as any recorded of the sea. On October 13, 1891 this vessel left the Tees in ballast for Helsingfors. Oa tho second day out she was caught in a squall, and c-apsized, completely turning turtle. After drifting about'for a couple of days in this condition, a warship was sent out to sink her, as sho was a danger to other vessels.
When the warship sighted the derelict, the commander of her ordered up the gun's crews for practice, using tne capsized schooner as a target. As sooxi as tho smoke of the first discharge had cleared away, the commander, looking through his glasses, was amazed to see two men frantically waving to him from the bottom of the upturned craft, while a third was struggling in the water. Proceeding to the spot with all possible speed he succeeded in rescuing the whole party, and then learned an almost incredible story. It appears that at the time the squall struck and capsized the Foxdale there was only one man on deck, while two men and a boy were below. So suddenly was the vessel over* turned that the- air had hot time to escape from between decks. As soon as the crew recovered their 6enses sufficiently to realise the situation, they saw that there was no- immediate danget, for they had both food and water beside them, and the air might last for a week or more.
It was on the fourth day of their imprisonment that they wero released under such strange circumstances. Immediately after the shot from the warship ripped open the planking one of. them ran to the hole and was almost lifted off his feet by the rushing out of the imprisoned air. The other two, quickly followed suit.
It may be that sailors are, superstitious and cling to a belief in the supernatural. Who can blame them when there are so many mysterious and inexplicable things happening to those who go down to the sea in ships. Even the British Admiralty are not altogether free from the taint of superstition as could very easily be shown.
MYSTERIES OF THE OCEAN., Wanganui Chronicle, Issue 20031, 14 March 1914, Supplement
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