When I was a child I had a book of ghost stories from Nova Scotia. One of the stories was about the ghost ship called the Mary Celeste. I read it so many times, how could I not stop at Spencer’s Island, where she was built?
The Spencer’s Island shipbuilding company, in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, launched its first ship, named the Amazon, in 1861. On her maiden voyage the captain became sick and died. Her next unfortunate incident happened when she ran aground off the coast of Cape Breton Island. An American company salvaged the ship, reconstructed and brought her back into service as a merchant ship rechristened the Mary Celeste. She put her troubled beginnings behind her and sailed the Atlantic Ocean for several years successfully without incident, until …
On December 5, 1872, Captain David Morehouse came across an abandoned ship adrift about 400 miles off the Azores near Gibraltar, Spain. He brought his ship up beside the Mary Celeste and gave the order for a crew to board her. The boarding party found the ship’s cargo intact, all the crew’s belongings undisturbed in their cabins, a galley full of food and supplies and the only life boat missing. Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, their two-year-old daughter and crew of seven were never heard from again. A mystery that intrigues nautical lovers to this day.
When the shipbuilding era passed the dockyard was converted to a lumberyard, and when the lumber industry waned the owners reinvented the yard as The old shipyard campground. I am here to have a quick look around.
I walk the beach circling the lighthouse.
A plaque dates the lighthouse to 1904. I saw a sign on the road marking this as the home of the Mary Celeste, but it was located on a twist in the road with no shoulder, and it was impossible for me to stop and get a photo.
I walk the shoreline until the cold wind sends me fleeing back to my truck. Somewhere there is a bronze plaque memorializing the ill-fated Mary Celeste. The campground is not yet open for the season and I think I may have already used up my trespassing good luck, at Joggins fossil cliffs- UNESCO WHS. With nobody around to ask, I have to leave without finding it.
For those interesting in knowing more, check out What happened to the Mary Celeste? (source Smithsonian.com.) Also, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a paper on her and there is a cenotaph dedicated to the captain and his wife located in Evergreen Cemetery in Marion, Massachusetts.
Onward I go to my next adventure around Cape Chignecto, Nova Scotia.
Cheers and Happy travels from Maritime Mac.
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