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April 22, 2016     The Catalina Islander
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April 22, 2016
 

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From page 1 childhood as the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, were all approach- ing the islands we now refer to as the Greater Antilles, including Cuba and the island of Hispaniola. There, in the darkness the crew saw something that shouldn't have been there. "...the Admiral (Columbus)," says the ship's log, "at the tenth hour of the night, while he was on the sterncastle saw a light..." A number of other crew mem- bers on two of the three ships were also witnesses to this "light." "It was seen once or twice," con-- tinues the journal, "and it was like a small wax candle that rose and lifted Up,r which to few seemed to be an indication of land." How~ in the year 1492, could a bright pinpoint of light be manifest- ing itself out in the Atlantic? What was its source and what became of it? The sighting was largely forgotten due to the momentous discoveries that were made by Columbus in the ensuing days and weeks. Forgotten, that is, until later years when scholars began look- ing over Columbus' journal. In the intervening years, much has been said and written about this incident and possible theories as to its origins have emerged, not the least of which have been seized upon by UFO researchers. Because of the high winds that night, it's unlikely that any of the local indigenous islanders were out small-fire aboard: ......... And given the "small wax can- die" description, the possibility of bioluminescence or St. Elmo's Fire being the culprits has pretty much been quashed as well. Since it was bobbing up and down, it's safe to assume this strange light was ema- nating from some kind of seaborne ship. Jim Watson Columnist THE 'MARY CELESTE' Perhaps the most celebrated, or perhaps infamous, case of a "Flying Dutchman" in maritime history involved the American brigantine the Mary Celeste. In November of 1872, after waiting out two days of inclement weather, the Mary Celeste left on her fateful cruise for Genoa, Italy, with a cargo of 1,700 barrels of denatured alcohol. Before sailing, Captain Benjamin Briggs had written a letter to his mother, stating that "Our vessel is in beautiful trim and I hope we shall have a fine passage." It was the last message she would ever receive from him. There was, of course, no sat- ellite communication in those days and there was no news of the Mary Celeste until another ship, the Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia, sighted her off the Azores island chain near Portugal. The helmsman of the Dei Gratia had sighted the erratically-sailing ship with an "odd set of sails" according to author Paul Begg, in his account of the mystery "Mary Celeste: The Greatest Mystery of the Sea." After establishing that the mystery ship was indeed the Mary Celeste, and after receiving no response to their hails, the Dei Gratia's Captain David Morehouse assembled a boarding party to visit the ship. What they found aboard chilled them to the bone and set the Mary Celeste on course to become one of the most confounding mysteries in mar- itime lore. After climbing aboard the drift- ing Celeste, the boarding party found no one aboard. Some of the rigging was in disarray and a num- ber of the hatches were open, but there was no Significant amount of water in the bilge, meaning the ship was not in any danger of sinking., 'The last~'entry in the Ship's log had been made at 8 a.m. on November 25, only nine days earlier. The ship's last recorded position was about 400 nautical miles away from where the Dei Gratia had found her. The ship's single lifeboat was missing, as were some of the navi- gation papers and instruments, but there were no signs of fire or vio- lence or anything else out of the ordinary. All signs pointed to an orderly abandoning of the ship. But why? Why leave tile perfect safety of the ship for the wilds of the North Atlantic for no visible cause? (As you may recall, this reporter himself was in those very same seas only three months ago aboard the cargo ship Rickmers Singapore, but--alas--I have no sightings to "report. I do, however, remember it was unusually chilly and foggy in those waters). There have been many theories as to what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste, from a waterspout carrying the crew and lifeboat away (yeah, right) to the crew getting into the cargo of "denatured alcohol" and the ensuing party getting out of control (not likely since the ship was basically tidy) to foul play involving that root of all evil, money in the form of an insurance payoff. One theory even suggests the crew of the Dei Gratia killed the crew and passengers of the Mary Celeste and faked the "abandoned vessel" theory. But none of these theories have ever decisively settled the matter, and likely never will. CATALINA'S CONTRIBUTION So, Mysterious Jim, what does all of this have to do with Catalina Island?, you ask. In the previous two columns we've discussed North Korean ghost ships, a mummi- fied German sailor, the sighting of a "phantom ship" by the HMS Bacchante in the South Pacific, Christopher CoLumbus and now the Mary Celeste. The answer to your question lies in one of the most intrigu- ing Catalina "ghost ship" mysteries I've ever come across. And it all involves a cursed yacht known to these waters named the "Joyita." The story takesus_ back to :Catalina in the days of the Silent Film stars and involves a love tri- angle between Hollywood star" lets Jewel Carmen (a.k.a. Florence Lavina Quick) and Thelma Todd along with producer Roland West. Throw in a mysterious death or two a.nd a great, hulking phantom ship seen just before the disappear- ance of the Joyita and all of her crew and you have the story of the Curse of the Joyita. NEXT WEEK: THE CURSE OF THE JOYITA Catalina's premier in-room visitor resource! The Catalina In-Room Magazine will be published in total of 15,000 magazines will be printed and distributed to hotels, and vaca- tion rentals throughout Avalon and Two Harbors. In addition, 5,000 of these magazines will be inserted into the Catalina Islander in time to kick-off the summer. Editorial will feature the fascinating history of Catalina Island that has been published in the Catalina Islander over the years. This has made the In-Room magazine a collector's item to many interested readers, Don't miss this opportunity to reach your customers where they sleep - In their rooml .(ATALINA ISLAHDEP Aclvertlsing Jon Remy Ceil 714-504-9437 Avalon Office 310-510-0500 :. Fax 310-510-2882 Entail advertising@thecatalinaislander.cont jtremy@yahoo.cont "'[10ing business uJi{hou{ adver{ising is [ike winking a Jr a girt in {he dark. You kn0w tuba{ g0u are doing. bu{ nobodu else does.'" - S{euar{ It. 8ri{{ THE CATAUNA ISLANDER Friday, April 22, 2016111