Auntie Doris’s Mysteries of the Unexplained #9: The Strange Case of the Mary Celeste

image Nobody knows what went on on that ruddy ship, back in 1872. It set sail from New York, bound for Italy on November the 5th that year. It was carrying a load of barrels of alcohol that the Italians were going to put into their wine, so that they could get drunk with it more quickly. But it never got there. One month later, the crew of another ship, the “Dei Gratia” spotted it drifting aimlessly around the sea, about 600 miles from Portugal.
They sailed over and took a proper look, and were shocked to discover that there was no one at all on board, there was no sign of a struggle or a disaster of any sort, and all the cargo and other valuables were untouched. That put the ruddy willies up them, no mistake, and contrary to popular belief, most sailors don’t enjoy having the willies put up them. Some do, admittedly, but no greater a proportion than in any other profession, with the possible exception of hairdressers.
Any road. They were all baffled, and as the story spread around the world, people started getting hysterical and coming up with all sorts of explanations. Of course, these days most people believe that the unfortunate crew of the Mary C must have been sucked off by aliens from another planet, submitted to humiliating medical probes and then made to wrestle each other with their clothes on back to front. But back in 1872, that didn’t have such sophisticated ideas about the possibility of life on other worlds. Star Trek hadn’t even been invented yet. So they went to the only person they could think of. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Sir Arthur was only thirteen years old at the time, but he was already a brilliant surgeon, who had written a load of stories about Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian, as well as playing as a goalkeeper for Portsmouth Football Club and as a cricketer for the MCC who once bowled WG Grace out. They just don’t make blokes like that any more.
Anyway, Sir Arthur thoroughly investigated the incident as only a youth in the first flush of puberty can, and wrote up his findings in the form of a story about a ship called the Marie Celeste. He couldn’t even get the ruddy spelling right. Strangely enough, he blamed the whole thing on a murderous black man. Because Sir Arthur was Scottish, I can’t believe that he was being racialist. But I suppose I might be wrong. Any road, he was only thirteen and Nelson Mandela would have forgiven him.
Meanwhile stories about the table on board ship being discovered as if breakfast had just been served were doing the rounds. There was still warm coffee in the cups, the bacon was freshly fried and the yolks on the eggs were still runny. There was even tobacco smoke still drifting in the air. This evidence points firmly towards the “sucked off by aliens” theory.
However, some versions of the story tell of three bowls of porridge in the galley. The big bowl was too lumpy, the medium bowl was too salty, but the little bowl was just right.
That does it for me. I reckon that the solution to this mystery is clear. The crew of the Mary Celeste had decided to go for a swim in the sea before breakfast. Imagine their faces when they swam back only to discover that captain Goldilocks of the Dei Gratia had taken the ship into Gibraltar, leaving them high and dry. Or low and ruddy wet! He had probably broken a little chair and was at that very moment sleeping in the smallest bed, whist some Mediterranean carpenter fixed it.