On December 4, 1872, a British-American ship called “the Mary Celeste” was found empty and adrift in the Atlantic. It was found to be seaworthy and with its cargo fully intact, except for a lifeboat, which it appeared had been boarded in an orderly fashion. But why? We may never know because no one on board was ever heard from again.

In November 1872, the Mary Celeste set sail from New York bound for Genoa, Italy. She was manned by Captain Benjamin Briggs and seven crew members, including Briggs’ wife and their 2-year-old daughter. Supplies on board were ample enough for six months, and luxurious—including a sewing machine and an upright piano. Commentators generally agree that to precipitate the abandonment of a seaworthy ship, some extraordinary and alarming circumstance must have arisen. However, the last entry on the ship’s daily log reveals nothing unusual, and inside the ship, all appeared to be in order.

Theories over the years have included mutiny, pirate attack, and an assault by a giant octopus or sea monster. In recent years, scientists have posed the theory that fumes from alcohol on board caused an explosion that, as a result of a scientific anomaly,did not leave behind signs of burning—but was terrifying enough that Briggs ordered everyone into the lifeboat.

The Mary Celeste mystery ranks up there with the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in terms of captivating the imagination of generations that followed, but this never before seen photo may contain clues behind Earheart’s disappearance.

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