Dating of wreck's timbers puts wind in sails of the 'Mary Celeste' mystery

One of the most enduring mysteries of the sea has taken yet another twist. The Mary Celeste, located and recovered amid much celebration four years ago, is not the Mary Celeste, according to new evidence.

One of the most enduring mysteries of the sea has taken yet another twist. The Mary Celeste, located and recovered amid much celebration four years ago, is not the Mary Celeste, according to new evidence.

The legendary ship, discovered empty and adrift of the Azores more than 130 years ago, is still out there.

In 2001, the author Clive Cussler claimed to have found the wreck of the brig, sunk off the coast of Haiti, and retrieved timbers as proof.

Now, though, a Canadian analysis looks to have proved him wrong. Scott St George of the Geological Survey of Canada and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, analysed samples brought back from Haiti and discovered that the wood was cut from trees still living at least a decade after the Mary Celeste sank.

"I analysed some of the timbers and the tree-ring dating suggested that they couldn't have been part of the Mary Celeste," said Mr St George. "The outermost ring suggests the timber was from trees still growing in 1894, but the Mary Celeste sank 10 years before that."

Mr St George also said that the type of wood - longleaf pine - was unlikely to have been used in the construction of the Mary Celeste, because it was not native to Nova Scotia, where she was built, or the area around New York, where she was refitted.

His claims look set to reignite interest in the story of a ship which many at the time, and in the decades since, have believed is cursed.

In December 1872, the ship set sail from New York with a cargo of alcohol bound for Genoa. She was discovered well stocked, in good condition and under full sail, but inexplicably abandoned by her captain, his family, and the crew, between the Azores and Portugal. No trace of anyone aboard was found.

Theories to account for the disappearance have ranged from mutiny and murder to an attack by a giant octopus, or even alien intervention. More scientific explanations are based around seaquakes, slanting water spouts or a small explosion in the cargo hold causing the crew to hurriedly abandon ship, with all hands subsequently lost.

After her discovery, the Mary Celeste was recommissioned, but continued to be linked with suspicious deaths and misfortune before she was sunk in an insurance scam in January 1885.

Mr St George's claims are reported in the first authoritative book on the case for three decades. The British historian Paul Begg, author of Mary Celeste: The Great Mystery of the Sea, which is published next month, said: "Nobody seems to have had any luck with that ship at all, right down to Clive Cussler.

"It looks like the jinx of the Mary Celeste has continued into the 21st century, and she is getting the last laugh from the grave."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones