Saturday, September 14, 2013


    In twenty years of hauling all manner of cargo around the world, Briggs had never carried alcohol before. It would have been natural of him to be nervous about it.  Because of its flammability, alcohol was considered, along with coal, one of the three most dangerous cargos for a ship to haul.  In the stories that would come, much was made of the alcohol aboard the Mary Celeste and what, if any, role it had in the crew’s disappearance. Many people assumed the alcohol was some sort of distilled spirit and spun wild tales of a drunken, mutinous crew.  But there was little chance this crew would be tying one on during the voyage.  The generic alcohol the Mary Celeste carried was most likely some kind of industrial ethanol or methanol, something that not even sailors could drink.


  Briggs did not even allow his crews to carry their own liquor on board.  It was a rule inherited from his father, who swore off alcohol as a boy after an old blacksmith slipped him a drink of moonshine.

Brian Hicks, Ghost Ship, The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and her Missing Crew, New York, Ballantine Books, 2004.


  1. "Generic alcohol", eh?

    (Now there's one I don't think that European locomotive driver who took a tight turn at warp speed even considered trying, but a sharp Caine Mutiny-style nautical lawyer might have had a go.)

    1. I know -- generic alcohol. The Mary Celeste story goes on and on. Like many people, I'm sure I first read about it in comic book form when I was very young. That's also when I saw The Caine Mutiny, come to think of it, which also goes on and on in my imagination. I remember being very confused seeing Fred MacMurray playing a villain (something he did very well). At that point I had only seen him on the sitcom My Three Sons and regarded him as an all-around nice guy. I had also seen him interviewed on live tv during a terrible fire in Bel Air in the early 1960s which destroyed many homes, including obviously, movie star properties. He showed a lot of poise, as I recall. The only person I ever saw (also in the context of a house fire) who showed that kind of cool was Ringo Starr. You had the feeling that both of them were well-grounded. Curtis