Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Motivation and Mary Celeste

Hello there! How's everyone doing with the challenge?

Before I get to the Mary Celeste, my second boat mystery of the challenge, I wanted to talk about motivation. We're all motivated by different things, be they financial gain, personal gain, fame, artistic urges, or whatever else. I see people ask what motivates others, and I often have trouble answering that question about my writing. I'm not doing it to make a fortune, because the reality of that is dismal. Unless you're Stephen King, making a ton of money doesn't seem like something that can happen. So I'm not motivated by money. If I were, I'd give up my fiction writing and focus on non-fiction only. At least I've made money writing articles. I can say with confidence that I've not made any money with my fiction or with my photography.

Fame? What does that mean? As a writer, chances are you won't be recognized on the streets. Sure, I'd recognize Stephen King if I saw him, but anyone else? Nope. (Okay, other than those I've actually met, but that doesn't count). You won't be on talk shows unless you're Anne Rice, so that element of fame sure won't get to you. Will the paparazzi follow you? Happily, probably not. I'd rather not ever reach paparazzi-level fame. Not that it's a realistic possibility, but still.

Recognition. Is this different from fame? What does it mean? Awards? I wouldn't mind winning some writing awards. Who am I kidding? I'd love to! However, I don't think I write the type of thing that will garner awards. Still, I'll call this one a yes.

Mostly, I want to share my stories. I want others to read them, to understand them, to enjoy them. I want to get them out of my head and onto paper. That's my motivation for writing. Making money at it some day would be something I certainly wouldn't turn down, but realistically it may not happen.

What's your motivation?

is for Mary Celeste.

On November 7, 1872, the Mary Celeste set sail from New York City with a crew of eight, plus Captain Briggs, his wife and infant daughter. Her cargo was 1,701 barrels of American industrial alcohol worth approximately $35,000, headed toward Genoa to help in wine making.

On December 5, 1872, she was spotted by a British ship, the Dei Gratia, out of control in the Atlantic Ocean. Captain Morehouse, of the Dei Gratia, knew Captain Briggs, of the Mary Celeste. They'd met for dinner before Briggs set sail, Morehouse to follow eight days later, and Morehouse felt confident Briggs was a good captain, so it stood to reason there was something wrong. He attempted to hail the ship, watching for signs of trouble or a distress call. When there was no response, he sent a crew over on a small boat.

Painting of the Mary Celeste
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What they found was an intact ship, cargo still on board (though nine barrels were empty), but not one person, alive or dead. The ship had been deserted, most items left behind. All clothing, goods, pipes, and oil skin boots remained, though they were unable to find a chronometer, sextant, and navigation book. There were also no lifeboats, and it appeared there should have been at least one. The hold was full of food, the ship in good shape and running well. The only trouble was one pump that had been disabled, causing there to be some water between decks. However, this did not disable the boat. In fact, she was sailed to Gibraltar by one of Morehouse's crew after the discovery.

The ship's slate showed they had last documented a stop on November 25 on St. Mary Island.

Tales of the Mary Celeste have long said she was in perfect shape, not a thing out of place, food half eaten, and that there was a bloody sword. Sadly, none of this was true. Though it appeared the crew had left in a great hurry, there were no signs of violence, and no partially eaten meals set out. Everything on the ship was wet except for those items kept safely in trunks. Ropes were reported hanging off the side.

The crew were never discovered, and theories abounded. Piracy was a possibility, but with nothing of value missing, and no signs of violence, it made no sense. It was suggested that when the pump stopped working, they thought it was sinking and abandoned ship, but Captain Briggs had commanded several ships, and was by no means new at it. He wouldn't have abandoned the ship unless there was a real need to.

Perhaps there was a mutiny, but then not everyone would have abandoned ship, and there would have been
Benjamin Briggs, Captain of the Mary Celeste;
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
signs, such as blood, had anyone been injured. Sea monsters, perhaps, or the ever-present aliens? Maybe the missing alcohol had spilled in the hold, causing fumes that forced ship abandonment. There was no sign of this when the ship was boarded later, but the amount of water on the ship could have taken care of the problem. No trace of the missing alcohol was found, no scent remained, and it's unknown where the alcohol went. Other suggestions included a sea quake or waterspout. It's thought that they had abandoned the ship for whatever reason, but kept a rope tied between the larger ship and the smaller. The rope was severed, setting them adrift and at the mercy of stormy seas (it was confirmed by Morehouse that there had been storms for days).

In addition to the other possible causes of the disappearance, it was posited that Captain Morehouse either worked with Briggs to commit insurance fraud (the ship, plus its goods, were insured at $46,000) or that he took out the crew to gain the ship (Morehouse got the ship as a salvage).

A few interesting extras:

The Mary Celeste was considered cursed by some well before Briggs, his family and crew disappeared into the waves. Three captains died while commanding her, there was a fire, and a couple collisions with other ships.

Captain Briggs had a second child, a seven-year old son, who had remained behind with his grandmother to continue attending school.

The Mary Celeste went back into service, and was sold many times until a new captain intentionally wrecked her in Haiti for the insurance money. He didn't get away with it, but she was a splintered wreck, never to sail again.

One of the salvagers from Morehouse's crew reported that there was blood on the deck, a gash in the railing, and blood on a sword. An investigator said the supposed blood was actually rust, and the gash could be due to just about anything, and wasn't of concern.

I found one report saying five bodies turned up on an island later on, one wrapped in an American flag. This was the only place it was mentioned, though, and no further details were included.

There have been other abandoned ships found, including The Latin, The Hermania, and The Marathon.

So why did the crew of the Mary Celeste disappear? What scared them off? Or were they forced off? What happened to the missing nine barrels of alcohol?

May you find your Muse.

*Letter M courtesy of Marlene,


mshatch said...

Did investigators ever search St.Mary's island for evidence? It would seem obvious everyone left in the lifeboats but the question is, why? And where the heck did they go? Another fascinating mystery!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I suppose if they all left in lifeboats and it was storming, their bodies could have been lost at sea? But it still leaves the question of why leave in the first place? Intriguing...

Unknown said...

The Mary Celeste is one of my favourite mystery's, I love that you included her here. I also loved the post above on Motivation and why you right, beautifully done and may I say here, here.

Unknown said...

I knew M would be Marie Celeste :-)!!! I've often wondered what happened to her crew - true they could've got into lifeboats, but why? Well written and intriguing.

Tyrean Martinson said...

My motivation? I love to write, and I hope that readers will enjoy my stories.

It's fascinating to think about an abandoned ship like that. I wonder if . . .

Oh, and BTW, congrats on your story in Sunday Snaps! I have a story in there too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If it was piracy, odd they would only take a few barrels of alcohol.

eN said...

If there were no people, lifeboats and alcohol, well , all of them must be together, but then did everyone perish in the storms. Quite intriguing!

I write to get stuff out of my system. Motivation - jumbled thoughts and trying to bring semblance to them

Fe said...

What a lovely mystery. I'd of course heard of the Mary Celeste but it's always so interesting to read about it again.

I write because there's a story to be told. I actually feel that I'm the scribe in the characters' life story so I have to write or I will let them down.

KC Weldon said...

When in doubt, blame the aliens.

But seriously, I think they probably were in the small boat, the rope broke and they got lost at sea. It seems the most likely in my mind.

KC @ The Occasional Adventures of a Hermit & Oh Frog It

Lucy said...

Love a good mystery and we always want to try to figure out the motivation of others, like what made them abandon the ship in the first place?
As far as what motivates me to write my blog? I just like to 'tell' my stories and love the feedback I get.
Lucy from Lucy's Reality

Maple Syrup Land said...

Pirates maybe? Although you'd think pirates would take more than some barrels of alcohol

My writing motivation is to empty out my brain of all the random thoughts crowded in it feels good to make someone laugh or smile with my posts :)

Julie Flanders said...

I hadn't heard about Mary Celeste before. Another interesting story!

Just read about your anthology story over on Alex's blog. Congratulations!! That's awesome!!

Unknown said...

Motivations are so fascinating and sometimes difficult to pinpoint. I agree with you... no fame for me, thank you. I like my privacy, lol.

I think for me, writing is about being creative and working through life in my head. Writing helps me process.

I think also that I hope to inspire others to also do what truly makes them happy, no matter the set backs :)

nutschell said...

what a fascinating mystery!! As for motivation, mine is just getting the chance to share my stories.:)


Andrew Leon said...

Who knows?
Well, I know. I was there. But, if I told you, I'd have to disappear you, too.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

The Captain looks a little like Billy Connolly.

TaMara Sloan said...

This is fascinating. One would assume they all left in the lifeboats, but why?

Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

Susan Scott said...

I agree about writing and sharing stories. And there's something about getting an Idea into form, hopefully in an interesting way.
I'm not familiar with the Marie Celeste but of course I am now intrigued.
thank you Shannon! (Susan Scott's soul stuff)

Mark Means said...

I blame....

...The Flying Dutchman!!!

Or, maybe, aliens :)

Some interesting facts and I think I remember seeing this ship's story on that old show "In Search Of..."

Unknown said...

This was a great post! I love these mysteries. I've never heard of this one. And so strange that the ship was in fine sailing condition.
We Are Adventure

katie eggeman said...

The sea knows everything. It is so vast and so much can happen while at sea, that there are a lot of unsolved mysteries.
Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

Unknown said...

They must have abandoned ship for some reason, then been lost at sea. Funny, I read about this ship earlier today researching Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia, where she was built.

Kristen said...

I love a good mystery, so your posts are all fascinating to me. As far as motivation goes, sitting outside with my dog and cats in the sun.

For the mystery, I would say whatever is the most plausible, because I tend to be a logical thinker. All that goes out the window when I write or read a book, however. :)

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

Jennifer Duggin said...

This is an amazing story! I'm hooked. Jennifer a.k.a Urban Gypsy Girl

AloneInTheWorld said...

Great post! I love a good mystery, and this would make an amazing story :) Thank you for sharing your writing motivations. It made me think about mine. I like creating stories, and there's nothing better than reading the (good) reviews, the bad reviews, not so much.

Unknown said...

The Mary Celeste. I always wondered what could have happened on that ship. Definitely aliens. When in doubt, blame aliens.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina said...

Oh how I love a good boating idea on this one. Maybe they drank all the alcohol, causing bad decision making, and then did something so utterly stupid we have no idea...
As to motivation, I write because I can't NOT write. Stories screaming to be let out. I write in my head all the time, and have to carry a notebook everywhere so that those stories don't disappear. I'm certainly not in it for fame or fortune, just to tell stories that others enjoy.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Anonymous said...

Motivation: getting the voices in my head to shut up. Telling a story. Leaving my (small) mark on the world. And avoiding a job where I'd have to wear pantyhose.

Rachel said...

How strange. Perhaps they fled the ship, thinking that there was a danger. (Maybe the alcohol could cause a fire?) Then the storm came along and took them away? Or even pirates sneaking aboard and holding the child hostage, so nobody would fight back, but the storm kept them from stealing anything?

Jak said...

"Mostly, I want to share my stories. I want others to read them, to understand them, to enjoy them. I want to get them out of my head and onto paper. That's my motivation for writing. Making money at it some day would be something I certainly wouldn't turn down, but realistically it may not happen."

That is pretty much me exactly, but there still is the lack of the actual doing it that frustrates me. I can't ever figure out what it is, or why that particular block exists.

As for the Mary Celeste... Hmm this is an intriguing one. I was thinking pirates at first, but pointless given no loot was stolen.

I actually like the idea of some planned out insurance fraud, though. I would imagine — just like today — there were many attempting to make some easy money.

Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

Shannon Lawrence said...

Marcy, I wondered the same thing. One would hope so, but hoping doesn't mean it happened. It did sort of sound like they might have, though.

Madeline, definitely. Why did they leave? More compelling than where they ended up, really.

Wicked, why, thank you! I'm glad you'd heard of her before.

Susan, yay, you guessed it! And thank you!

Tyrean, congrats to you, too! I've noticed your name on the list.

Alex, yes, quite odd. I could see them taking those WITH other goods, but not just those. And if you're escaping a ship, you don't take liquor barrels unless you don't have a lifeboat.

Nandana, it's hilarious if they took the liquor with them when they fled!

Fe, that's an interesting reason to write. I like it!

KC, it does make sense (the breaking rope, not the aliens, LOL).

Lucy, that's a good way to put it: we want to know people's motivations. Why, why, why?

Maple, I would love it if I could get my brain empty!

Julie, thank you!

Emilyann, I like that last part, and I feel like that, too. I try to do it with my blog and with the writing groups I'm part of.

Schell, that, too!

Andrew, eek! Well, then I just won't ask.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Daft Scots Lass, he does! Haha!

TaMara, it would seem that way, but why is exactly the question.

Susan, the shaping of the story is fun, as well. Sometimes getting there is hard.

Mark, I never thought of that! Totally the Flying Dutchman, ha!

Elliot, that's the part that beats all. The ship was fine!

Katie, I'm willing to bet someone could fill a month with posts about disappearances at sea.

Jan, fun coincidence!

Kristen, as it should be!

Jennifer, delighted to hear it!

Joanne, bad reviews scare me, but I know they'll come along. Can't wait for good reviews, though.

Imogen, oh, without a doubt. Always the aliens.

Tina, I do the same thing, writing things in my head. And on various and sundry items. And in my notebook (when I happen to have it with me).

MB, you had me at pantyhose.

Rachel, oooh, could be! And then THEY had to abandon ship. But then what happened to the child?

Jak, there definitely were, including on the same ship years later.