Synopses & Reviews
On December 4th, 1872, a 100-foot brigantine was discovered drifting through the North Atlantic without a soul on board. Not a sign of struggle, not a shred of damage, no ransacked cargo—and not a trace of the captain, his wife and daughter, or the crew. What happened on board the ghost ship Mary Celeste
has baffled and tantalized the world for 130 years. In his stunning new book, award-winning journalist Brian Hicks plumbs the depths of this fabled nautical mystery and finally uncovers the truth.
The Mary Celeste was cursed as soon as she was launched on the Bay of Fundy in the spring of 1861. Her first captain died before completing the maiden voyage. In London she accidentally rammed and sank an English brig. Later she was abandoned after a storm drove her ashore at Cape Breton. But somehow the ship was recovered and refitted, and in the autumn of 1872 she fell to the reluctant command of a seasoned mariner named Benjamin Spooner Briggs. It was Briggs who was at the helm when the Mary Celeste sailed into history.
In Brian Hicks’s skilled hands, the story of the Mary Celeste becomes the quintessential tale of men lost at sea. Hicks vividly recreates the events leading up to the crew’s disappearance and then unfolds the complicated and bizarre aftermath—the dark suspicions that fell on the officers of the ship that intercepted her; the farcical Admiralty Court salvage hearing in Gibraltar; the wild myths that circulated after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published a thinly disguised short story sensationalizing the mystery. Everything from a voodoo curse to an alien abduction has been hauled out to explain the fate of the Mary Celeste. But, as Brian Hicks reveals, the truth is actually grounded in the combined tragedies of human error and bad luck. The story of the Mary Celeste acquired yet another twist in 2001, when a team of divers funded by novelist Clive Cussler located the wreck in a coral reef off Haiti.
Written with the suspense of a thriller and the vivid accuracy of the best popular history, Ghost Ship tells the unforgettable true story of the most famous and most fascinating maritime mystery of all time.
"On December 4, 1872, a small merchant ship, the Mary Celeste, was discovered floating without a crew. Members of another vessel, the Dei Gratia, boarded her and saw no trace of struggle, no serious weather damage or any other trouble that would have prompted sailors to abandon ship. Hicks (Raising the Hunley) is a master of cliffhanging phrases, and he hooks readers with warnings of the ship's bad luck and poor timing. His chronicle, rigorously researched and written with spare, precise clarity, takes a while to gather emotional momentum and present its characters. He generates excitement with the introduction of a colorful villain, queen's proctor Frederick Solly Flood. Convinced the Dei Gratia crew members who brought the Mary Celeste into port were guilty of foul play, Flood indulged in what Hicks calls "a full-fledged witch-hunt." He tautly documents Flood's hysteria, along with his rage upon learning red marks on the ship's floor weren't the bloodstains he'd hoped for. The Dei Gratia crew emerged after a salvation hearing with tarnished reputations, and the Mary Celeste's mystery remained unsolved. With Flood's disappearance from the story, the passionate sweep of the saga diminishes, and Hicks explores so many theories readers are cast adrift on a sea of speculation. Still, the haunting image of a cursed ship lingers, and Hicks succeeds in making the Mary Celeste a character as human as any of the sailors and reporters who spent their lives struggling to make sense of her puzzling, often painful history. B&w photos. (On sale June 1) Forecast: Bestselling author Clive Cussler, who founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency, discovered the wrecked Mary Celeste in 2001. He's contributed a blurb to Hicks's book, and having his name attached to the work should bump sales." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An excellent, clear-eyed primer to one of the world's most resilient ghost stories." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Brian Hicks, a senior writer with The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, is the co-author of two previous books on maritime subjects: Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine and Into the Wind: The Story of the World’s Longest Race. The recipient of the South Carolina Press Association’s award for Journalist of the Year, Hicks lives in Charleston with his wife and their son.