History of the Ship Pre-Disaster

The Mary Celeste was originally launched in 1861 as the Amazon.1 During this time period the ship was based out of Nova Scotia and served primarily as a trading vessel.1 The story of the ship is not a smooth one to say the least. On its maiden voyage the captain of the Amazon fell ill and died before crossing the Atlantic.1 In 1867 the Amazon was sold off to Richard W. Haines to cover debts owed to him by the original owners. However, Mr. Haines himself was also heavily in debt and before the year was over the ship was seized by his creditors.3 Despite his brief ownership, Mr. Haines was able to leave a lasting mark on the vessel as it was him who named it the Mary Celeste.1

After passing to its new owners the Mary Celeste continued to serve as a trading ship criss-crossing the Atlantic ocean on a regular basis. The new owners were a group of investors led by the new captain of the ship, Benjamin Spooner Briggs. Captain Briggs was at the command of the Mary Celeste when it made its fateful voyage in 1872.1

An example of an American Brigantine the USS Lexington as depicted by F. Muller4

The Amazon (later the Mary Celeste) was constructed as an American Brigantine. A common variety of trading ship known colloquially as a “Brig.”2 The vessel was 100 feet long and 23 feet wide, with two main masts rigged in a square sail configuration.3 This type of ship gained such prominence amongst Atlantic traders because of its versatility, ease of repair, and reliability under varying weather conditions.2