Achilles: Found Abandoned At Sea
By James Donahue
We have all heard the classic story of the abandoned brigantine Mary Celeste, found
adrift with sails set and no crew on board off the coast of Portugal in 1872. It has remained one of the classic mysteries
of the sea to this day. Yet the Mary Celeste is not the only ship found abandoned and adrift.
Yet another sailing ship, the English barque Achillies was found in the same condition,
a drifting derelict with no crew to be found, in March, 1886. She was discovered by the brigantine Albert Rene. The Achillies
was carrying a cargo of coal. The Rene reportedly took the derelict in tow and brought it to Penarth Roads, Wales. The crew
of the Rene said the ship appeared to have been “recently abandoned.”
Unlike the Mary Celeste, the mystery of what happened to the Achillies was eventually
learned. She was sailing from Cardiff, Wales and got caught in a severe storm on March 17, 1867. The gale tore away the ship’s
bulwarks, lifeboats and left the 12-member crew helplessly adrift at sea.
The crew was rescued by a passing vessel identified only as the China. This ship
took off all of the crew members, who had been marooned on their floating derelict for nine days, and brought them to Halifax,
Nova Scotia. At that time the Achillies was left adrift.
The obvious mystery to all of this is the conflict in dates. The report in an old
news clipping telling of the discovery of the wreck by the Albert Rene lists the date as March, 1886, twenty-one years before
the Achillies was left abandoned at sea. Did this same event happen to two different sailing ships bearing this same name
and in the same area, or was date given in one of the reports incorrect?
The story of the rescue appears in the Board of Trade Wreck Reports of 1867. Consequently
we believe this to be the more accurate date.
The records also show that the Achillies was launched in 1831 and was registered
at Liverpool. The ship was abandoned in 1867