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The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales

F. Habakuk Jephson's Statement
In the month of December in the year 1873, the British ship Dei Gratia steered into
Gibraltar, having in tow the derelict brigantine Marie Celeste, which had been picked up
in latitude 38 degrees 40', longitude 17 degrees 15' W. There were several circumstances
in connection with the condition and appearance of this abandoned vessel which excited
considerable comment at the time, and aroused a curiosity which has never been satisfied.
What these circumstances were was summed up in an able article which appeared in the
Gibraltar Gazette. The curious can find it in the issue for January 4, 1874, unless my
memory deceives me. For the benefit of those, however, who may be unable to refer to
the paper in question, I shall subjoin a few extracts which touch upon the leading features
of the case.
"We have ourselves," says the anonymous writer in the Gazette, "been over the derelict
Marie Celeste, and have closel questioned the officers of the Dei Gratia on every point
which might throw light on the affair. They are of opinion that she had been abandoned
several days, or perhaps weeks, before being picked up. The official log, which was
found in the cabin, states that the vessel sailed from Boston to Lisbon, starting upon
October 16. It is, however, most imperfectly kept, and affords little information. There is
no reference to rough weather, and, indeed, the state of the vessel's paint and rigging
excludes the idea that she was abandoned for any such reason. She is perfectly watertight.
No signs of a struggle or of violence are to be detected, and there is absolutely nothing to
account for the disappearance of the crew. There are several indications that a lady was
present on board, a sewing-machine being found in the cabin and some articles of female
attire. These probably belonged to the captain's wife, who is mentioned in the log as
having accompanied her husband. As an instance of the mildness of the weather, it may
be remarked that a bobbin of silk was found standing upon the sewing-machine, though
the least roll of the vessel would have precipitated it to the floor. The boats were intact
and slung upon the davits; and the cargo, consisting of tallow and American clocks, was
untouched. An old-fashioned sword of curious workmanship was discovered among
some lumber in the forecastle, and this weapon is said to exhibit a longitudinal striation
on the steel, as if it had been recently wiped. It has been placed in the hands of the police,
and submitted to Dr. Monaghan, the analyst, for inspection. The result of his examination
has not yet been published. We may remark, in conclusion, that Captain Dalton, of the
Dei Gratia, an able and intelligent seaman, is of opinion that the Marie Celeste may have
been abandoned a considerable distance from the spot at which she was picked up, since
a powerful current runs up in that latitude from the African coast. He confesses his
inability, however, to advance any hypothesis which can reconcile all the facts of the
case. In the utter absence of a clue or grain of evidence, it is to be feared that the fate of
the crew of the Marie Celeste will be added to those numerous mysteries of the deep
which will never be solved until the great day when the sea shall give up its dead. If
crime has been committed, as is much to be suspected, there is little hope of bringing the
perpetrators to justice."
 
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