What are some of the best stories of the unexplained, unknown and strange things that have happened throughout history.
The Mary Celeste--multiple theories but nothing conclusive. What are some others?
Vapor emission from barrels of alcohol
The most plausible explanations are all based on the barrels of alcohol. Captain Briggs had never hauled such a dangerous cargo before, and did not trust it. The idea was put forth by the ship's major shareholder, James Winchester, and is the most widely accepted explanation for the crew's disappearance.
Nine of the 1,701 barrels of alcohol in the hold were later discovered to be empty. They had been made of red oak, not white oak as the others. Red oak is more porous and thus more likely to emit vapor. This would have caused a buildup of vapor in the hold. Poorly secured barrels could rub against each other, and friction between the barrels' steel bands could cause sparks. The possibility of explosion, however remote, might have panicked the crew into abandoning ship.
Historian Conrad Byers believed Captain Briggs ordered the hold to be opened, resulting in a violent rush of fumes and steam. Believing his ship was about to explode, he ordered everyone into the lifeboat, failing to properly secure it to the ship with a strong towline. The wind picked up and blew the ship away from them. Those in the lifeboat would either have drowned or died of hunger, thirst or exposure.
A refinement of this theory was proposed in 2005 by German journalist Eigel Wiese. At his suggestion, Dr Andrea Sella at University College London created a reconstruction of the ship's hold in 2006 to test the theory of the alcohol vapor's ignition. Using butane as the fuel and paper cubes as the barrels, the hold was sealed and the vapor ignited. The force of the explosion blew the hold doors open and shook the scale model. Ethanol burns at a relatively low temperature with a flash point of 13°C or 55.4°F. A minimal spark is needed, for example from two metal objects rubbing together. But none of the paper cubes were damaged, or even scorched. This theory may explain the remaining cargo being found intact and the fracture on the ship's rail, possibly by one of the hold doors. Perhaps this fire in the hold would have been violent enough to scare the crew into lowering the boat, but the flames would not have been hot enough to leave burn marks. “What we created was a pressure-wave type of explosion,” says Dr Sella. “There was a spectacular wave of flame but, behind it, was relatively cool air. No soot was left behind and there was no burning or scorching." Brian Dunning in a Skeptoid podcast on this subject adds, "The ethanol vapors in the Mary Celeste's hold would burn even cooler and quicker than butane, though probably much less dramatically, with a blue or invisible flame, unlike like the butane's yellow flash. But it certainly would have been every bit as alarming to the crew, if it had happened."
A frayed rope trailing in the water behind the ship is suggested as evidence that the crew remained attached to the ship, hoping the emergency would pass. The ship was abandoned while under full sail and a storm was recorded shortly thereafter. It is possible that the rope to the lifeboat parted because of the force from the ship under full sail. A small boat in a storm would not have fared as well as the Mary Celeste. This is perhaps the simplest and most convincing explanation that was expounded in a 2008 investigation and television documentary that both featured and satisfied one of the descendants of the original ship's captain.
In recent books, Brian Hicks and Stanley Spicer revived the theory that Captain Briggs opened the hold to ventilate it while becalmed. The release of noxious alcoholic fumes from the hold might have panicked the captain and crew into abandoning ship for the yawl tied to the halyard by an inadequate rope. If this broke with a weather change and consequent wind, then it could easily have explained the sudden and mysterious exit from the ship. Hicks claims that the cargo was a different material, methanol, which is toxic. The records do not support this.
This theory's main flaw is that the boarding party found the main hatch secured. Upon going into the hold they did not report smelling any fumes or vapor, which would have still smelled very powerful by that point if this theory were correct. Nor did people who came aboard at Gibraltar and Genoa report smelling any vapors. There was no evidence of alcohol outside the barrels in the hold. What happened to this missing alcohol from the nine empty barrels is as much a mystery as what happened to the crew, although it could have gone missing at any stage of the journey, from before being put on the ship in New York to after Gibraltar.
Why could Heath Ledger not have lived to be an old man? He coulda been a contenda... Think of all the wonderful entertainment we will never see. Ponder that.
But, r2, Heath Ledger's death is not "unexplained, unknown and strange". We know why he died - drug abuse.
Tiffani Thiessens's face was not nearly so fat on "Saved by the Bell".
Roanoke Island has always intrigued me. How can all those people disappear without a trace, where'd they go?
But it's probably something mundane, like they were absorbed into the Indian populations. Not all natives were "savages".