Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ghost Ships - The Biggest Mystery of Them All, The Mary Celeste

On November 5th 1872, the Mary Celeste, a brigantine merchant ship, commanded by Captain Benjamin
Spooner Briggs, set sail from Staten Island, New York, bound for Genoa, Italy. She carried a
cargo of commercial alcohol intended for fortifying Italian wines, worth about $35,000. The ship
and cargo were insured for $46,000. The crew of seven included one Dane, four Germans and two
Americans. All spoke fluent English and were considered to be trustworthy, capable and
experienced seamen. In addition the vessel carried the captain's wife and two-year-old daughter.

Waiting for his cargo to arrive before setting sail on a similar course, was an old friend of
Briggs, Captain David Reed Morehouse of the Canadian ship "Dei Gratia". Briggs was the first to
leave while Morehouse had to wait another seven days. Although there had been some bad weather
reported in the Atlantic during October, the "Dei Gratia" did not encounter any of it and had an
uneventful journey until, on December 4th, the helmsman sighted a ship 8 km off their port. He
noticed that there was something strange about the vessel as she was yawing slightly and flying
torn sails. Moving closer they saw that the ship was the "Mary Celeste", who should have reached
Italy by this time, having had a head start. The crew's account states that they approached to
400 yards from the "Mary Celeste" and observed her for two hours as she sailed erratically on a
starboard tack, heading toward the Strait of Gibraltar. No-one could be seen at the helm or on
deck, so they concluded that the ship was drifting, even though she was flying no distress

The first mate of the "Dei Gratia" was the first to board the "Mary Celeste". According to his
report there was a lot of water between decks and in the hold and only one operational pump, (two
having been disassembled). However the vessel was not in danger of sinking and was still
seaworthy. But where were the captain and crew? He found no-one on board, the ship's papers,
sextant and marine chronometer were missing, the deck hatches were removed, the clock was not
working, the compass was destroyed and the only lifeboat was gone. The cargo seemed intact, but
when finally unloaded in Genoa, it was found that nine barrels were empty. A six-month supply of
food was found, there was fresh water and the crew's personal possessions looked untouched. This
seemed to rule out the possibility of piracy. The vessel had apparently been abandoned in a
hurry, but there was no sign of any sort of struggle or violence. Strangely, a long, strong rope
was found dragging behind the vessel, attached to its stern but frayed at the other end. It seems
that stories of untouched breakfasts and warm cups of tea on the cabin table developed from
fictional accounts based on the story of the "Mary Celeste".

Captain Morehouse put his first mate in charge of the "Mary Celeste" and they headed for
Gibraltar, where an investigation was held. The enquiry lasted for three months and excited the
worlds press. The ship was examined by a surveyor, diver and marine expert and the whole vessel
was found to be in good order, with no trace of anything to show that she had suffered any
accident and no evidence of mutiny, struggle or violence. Eventually the salvagers received
payment of one-sixth of the insurance covering the ship and cargo and the remainder of the
alcohol was taken to Genoa as intended. Consuls and port officials were instructed to report
sightings of anyone matching the description of Briggs and his crew and to look out for any of
the missing items from the "Mary Celeste". Nothing was ever found!

Can a ship be cursed?

The "Mary Celeste" had had a chequered history even before Briggs took over as captain.
Originally named the "Amazon", her first captain, Robert McLellan contracted pneumonia only nine
days after taking command, and died at the beginning of her maiden voyage. John Nutting, the next
captain struck a fishing boat and while his vessel was being repaired, a fire broke out on the
ship. Her next captain collided with a vessel in the English Channel and was dismissed from his
post. During an uneventful but profitable six years she transported a wide range of cargoes to
the West Indies and Central and South America, but then ran aground during a storm in 1867. After
she was salvaged she was renamed "Mary Celeste" and Briggs became one of the four joint owners.

What could have happened?

Newspapers of the time reported that the incident was no mystery but an insurance fraud, others
favoured the idea of mutiny by a drunken crew, or that the vessel was a victim of piracy. Fiction
writers confused public thinking by producing wild tales that were later published by the media as
true accounts. Conan Doyle, the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes, was one of the most widely read
authors inspired by the boat's disappearance. In fact if it were not for fictional retellings of
the story, the disappearance of the "Mary Celeste" may well have been forgotten. One theory,
published on the front page of the New York Times, was that the crew had got at the alcohol and
murdered Briggs and his family in a drunken frenzy, but this idea was later changed in favour of
a conspiracy between Briggs and Morehouse.

Many stories blame freaks of weather for the catastrophe. Some believe that the vessel
encountered a waterspout, rogue wave or sea-quake, but in that case some heavy damage would be
expected to be sustained, and none was found. Sea monsters too have been blamed for the
disappearance of the crew, though the idea of such a monster picking off all the crew in turn,
including the missing items of equipment, is highly improbable.

One of the favourite theories is based on the nine empty barrels found when the vessel reached
Gibraltar. It seems that the majority of the barrels were made of white oak, which is watertight,
(the reason why it is used for liquids). The nine empty barrels were apparently made of red oak,
which has open pores and is usually used only for dry goods. The alcohol in these barrels would
have soaked through them and although alcohol evaporates quickly the smell would have permeated
the ship's hold. The removed deck hatches imply that the crew were trying to disperse the
flammable fumes, but as alcohol vapour is heavier than air, it is unlikely that they could have
got rid of it easily. In this scenario the slightest spark could have caused an explosion and the
crew could well have been frightened enough to take to the lifeboat. The captain would have taken
with him the bare essentials needed for navigation, such as sextant and chronometer, but left
behind the non-essentials. Does the presence of the strong line, imply that they secured the yawl
to the "Mary Celeste" until the danger was over and it had become accidentally severed, casting
the whole crew adrift? Unable to catch up the ship, had they tried to reach the Azores, but
become swamped by the ocean and sunk without trace? The fumes may well have had time to disperse,
so that none of Captain Morehouse's crew would have smelled anything.

Over the years so called "survivors" have come forward claiming to have the true account of what
happened aboard the "Mary Celeste", but without exception these have been proved to be hoaxes.

A twist to the tale.

In 1884 an old, unkempt, "Mary Celeste" was bought by Gilman C. Parker, loaded with freight and
insured for $30,000. She headed for Port-au-Prince in Haiti, but on January 3rd 1885 she ran
aground on a coral reef. The insurance companies regarded Parker's claim with suspicion and found
that he had loaded his vessel with rubbish, deliberately run her aground and set her alight.
Parker was charged with fraud and criminal negligence, but managed to get off because of a legal
technicality, in spite of evidence seeming to prove that he was guilty of a whole range of
maritime crimes. So he and his fellow conspirators walked free, or did they? Perhaps the curse of
the "Mary Celeste" was still working its gruesome magic. It was not long before Parker went
bankrupt and died in poverty and disgrace. One of his associates went insane and was committed to
a mental institution where he died. Another committed suicide.

So - was the "Mary Celeste" simply unfortunate or cursed? We shall never know what happened on
that fateful journey and no doubt many more theories will be put forward to explain her plight.
Undoubtedly though she remains the archetypal "ghost ship" and her name will be forever linked
with unexplained disasters.
The Yacht Market has a wealth of information about all boating services and also useful articles
( )

Posted by Stow Away Marine

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Brief History Of Clay Target Shooting

Clay Pigeon Shooting or Clay Shooting is most simply described as the sport of shooting moving
Clay Targets or Clay Pigeons with a shotgun. I refrain from describing the Targets or Clays as
being shot into the air to simulate the flight of pigeons as the sport attempts (or at least
originally) attempted to simulate the flight of several types of birds and movement of animals
such as rabbits. The sport is known by several terms such as Clay Target shooting and trap
shooting but the original 'Clay Pigeon Shooting' is the one that helps us understand the history
of the sport best.

* A Sport For The Gentry.. 

The beginnings of the sport are rooted in Game Shooting that was popular with the aspiring middle
classes of England. It allowed them to practice their shooting techniques before the arriving at
the weekend shoot of a friendly astistocrat.. The gentlemen of the London clubs devised a means
by which their appetite for betting and shooting could be satisfied. Just as the game of Cricket
was developed on the back of gambling so was the sport of 'Clay Pigeon Shooting' but in the
beginning the targets were not Clay Pigeons.

* Live Pigeons Trapped Under A Hat.

Real Pigeons were used so participants could realistically practise their field game shooting
technique.. In the early nineteenth century when gentlemen wore top hats, the hats were often
used to trap the pigeons until they needed launching.. The hats containing the pigeons would be
place on the ground at various distances in preparation for the shooter to call: 'Pull'. A Rope
is pulled, pulling over the top hat that allows the pigeon to escape. As the sport developed the
pigeons would be held in specially designed traps and the trap mechanism would be opened, again
by means of pulling a tether with the command: 'Pull'. The first official records show that the
Old Hats Tavern just west of London. It is likely, however, that various differing participants
may have started their own clubs to participate in this sport. The Hurlingham  Polo and Shooting
club being a further example The Old Hats Tavern may have catered more for the gambling crowd..

* Shooting Glass Balls. 

By the time shooting live pigeons from live traps was made illegal in the U.K. in 1921, the
'artificial bird shooting' had already evolved in several ways as it had travelled the world. It
is not clear whether having a more consistent bird flight, shortage of pigeons or just early
animal rights lobby but?) the shooting of feather filled glass targets was started. When the
targets are hit they leave a spectacular cloud of feathers. This type of shooting is attributed
to have been invented in the U.S. by Charles Portlock. The limited way in which the glass balls
were launched did not make the sport as interesting or as varied as the real thing.. When, in
1877, Adam Bogardus patented the launching catapult, the glass balls could be thrown further. It
is at this point the sport became more interesting and attacted more participants.. In a classic
piece of early marketing Bogardus appeared with the show men of his day, such as 'Buffalo Bill',
in exhibition shoots and the spectacle gained a set of rules by which everyday men and women
could enjoy the sport.

* The Real Clay Pigeon Arrives. 

It was not until 1880, however, when more familiar clay pigeon was invented. George Ligowski can
be credited with this invention (His patents are on record). He had earlier patents for Glass
ball targets but saw the development of the clay disc as an improvement for the sport being
better in flight, where the range was further and the launching could be done to replicate the
flight of birds more realistically.He also invented a way of launching the clay pigeons and
demonstrated this with the same marketing prowess as Bogardus. He organised demonstration events
where famous 'sharp shooters' would compete.. The cost of manufacture, the absence of broken
glass and the variety of flight meant that eventually the clay pigeon replaced the glass ball and
the trapped live pigeon shooting disciplines.

The sport of Clay Pigeon Shooting has not however stood still and just has it evolved from a
number of geographical and social areas, it continues to encompass different disciplines and
disciples, from your Olympic Athletes to your occasional fun participant, it can be enjoyed by
anybody and everybody.
H.Winchester is an avid Clay Pigeon Shooting Enthusiast with 25 Years experience of Clay Pigeon

Posted by Stowaway Marine

Friday, January 11, 2013

Start A Career In Underwater Videography And Photography With Professional Lessons

Some people are into photography and videography. With limitless opportunities today and amazing
camera innovations, taking photos and videos are easy even for a 2-year old. Mobile phones are
also equipped with the feature. But cameras from companies like Nikon, Canon and many more have
made the hobby of taking videos and photos at par. Truly, you can take pictures and capture
moments live with just a click.

But did you know that aside from taking photos and videos on land and air, you can also enjoy it
under the sea? You can even make it as a business venture of yours, being an underwater
videographer or photographer. It is easy to do if you have the proper training and certification.
You need lessons to do just that. Be ready for this experience, though. It can be quite a ride.

First off, you have to locate a PADI certified instructor who can give you a course on underwater
photography or videography. You can find one in your area by searching the internet. Type your
search browser and use these keywords: underwater photography lessons (your area) or underwater
videographer class near (your area). In a split second, results of coaches and courses will
appear to your view. Contact at least 5 coaches and speak to them about your intent to take a

Now that you are in the process of selecting which class to attend or instructor to hire, there
are 3 things you have to check. Is the instructor PADI certified? How many years has he been
doing this teaching thing and what are comments of the other students? These three questions will
answer your ultimate query of who to trust regarding your videography or photography lessons.

Next on, you have to be equipped with the proper diving paraphernalia. Usually, these instructors
will provide for you a list on which equipment is safe for you. Do not use cheap diving equipment
because it will come back to you and endanger your life underwater.

Lastly, underwater videography or photography is a marvelous experience. It can be a hobby that
you want to enhance and make into a business or you can be a first-time
diver/videographer/photographer. But no matter, every dive is a different but beautiful moment.
Treasure it more by taking the best photos and videos. But you can only do that if you have
adequate training from a certified instructor. If this will be a business venture for you, you
will have to love what you are doing. Photography and videography is a work of art and who knows,
Discovery Channel or National Geographic may knock on your door and buy your work. (Just a
Learn how to take under water videography and photography today by visiting and start a career with it.

Posted by Stow Away Marine

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Taking Up Fishing As A Hobby

Undoubtedly the worlds oldest and most favoured pastime is fishing and it is a sport that can be
enjoyed by people of all ages. Fishing is also a sport that is relatively inexpensive to get
into. Just a basic rod and reel is required for your first fishing trip.

There are several forms of fishing: fly fishing which mimics flies landing in the water is a more
active form of fishing. Then you have coarse fishing which falls into two categories: Match
fishing and Carp fishing. Sea fishing in yet another form of fishing and is the most popular

Whatever form of fishing you take up you can begin with just the basics. A local fishing tackle
shop will stock a number of items that will be necessary for your first fishing trip. For lake
and river fishing just a basic rod and reel will be required. Once you have got to grips with the
basics your fishing tackle can be updated as and when necessary. Sea fishing tackle is far heavier
and includes bigger reels and rods and a much stronger line. Sea fishing tackle needs to be far
more substantial due to the further casting distances and strength of the fish you're playing.
For fly fishermen the basics will include a fly rod and a spinning reel. Once again, as you learn
the sport these items can be upgraded when necessary.

If you are a Carp fishermen then you are spoilt for choice when it comes to fishing venues. Carp
fishing has enjoyed the largest increase in popularity over the last decade or so and to meet the
demand more carp fishing venues can now be found around the world. A number of celebrities have
also taken up this enjoyable sport as it continues to strengthen in popularity around the world.

Whether as a sport, or as a livelihood fishing can be a relaxing yet competitive sport. It is
also a sport that can be enjoyed by entire families since children can participate from a very
early age. It is also a sport that is popular with both men and women.

If you are considering taking up fishing as a sport or hobby then pop into your local fishing
tackle shop or look online for information on basic fishing equipment, local venues and good
places to fish. Information on the best baits can also be acquired which will help you get the
most out of your days fishing.
Fishing tackle can be bought online at hugley reduced prices at
bait boats to bivvies we stock a variety of tackle and accessories at

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