going to work. The staves, as it turned out, obviously weren’t entirely composed of white oak, and the non-white oak staves were weeping whiskey through the stave walls and the stave joints. Our 100year whiskey was a few-month leaker. So back to the Mary Celeste. Of those 1,701 barrels the nine barrels that were empty were made of red oak. During the voyage, the barrels had completely leaked out and into the hold. The new running theory is that someone went down into the hold with a torch for light, and whoomp, there was a flash of alcohol vapor as a result of the leaking barrels. When the ship was found, there was a 400’ line hanging from the back, the captain’s
log book was missing, and the lifeboat was missing. It’s now thought that after the whoomp, the crew abandoned the ship temporarily, perhaps tying their lifeboat to that line. The ship was found with the sails still rigged and still underway. If the line parted while the crew were all in the lifeboat, then they may have watched the ship sail away unmanned leaving them adrift on the Atlantic. Tests have been performed in the last few years in England with Butane to replicate the conditions of a possible flash fire and it was determined that the fumes from the empty barrels could have caused the ghosting of the Mary Celeste. That testing also showed that such a fire (or whoomp) could have occurred without leaving
a trace associated with larger conflagrations. In our rapidly innovating industry, we’re all constantly experimenting and looking for novel ways to do things. The Mary Celeste can be a new and additional reminder to think about safety, ventilation, and lighting in our barrel ricks and warehouses.…and beware the used barrel from antique dealers. This article is in thanks to Stuff You Should Know Podcast, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste.
John McKee, along with his wife Courtney, are the co-owners of Headframe Spirits in Butte, MT. This summer you’ll be able to find John on rivers in the west, hopefully not in ghost-ship mode. For more info, email john@ headframespirits.com.
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