Mary-Celestia Project Outline

We are now in the post-prodution process which is being adjusted to incorporate the ground breaking Photogrammetry fly-throughs and 3D shipwreck visualization resulting from our UCSD collaboration. Please contact us for updated information.

The Outline below was written in the beginning of the project in 2011.

This is a teaser of our upcoming film on the Mary-Celestia, including the recovery of wine hidden in it's bow:

In June 2011 a joint US/Bermuda archaeological team will excavate and recover the wine and other contraband items from the bow of the Mary-Celestia.

We will follow the wine’s remarkable journey from the bottom of the ocean to the labs of UC Davis in California to the table of one of the world’s most respected wine connoisseurs. 

The civil war wine recovery is told amid the story of Bermuda of 1864 - the front line of the civil war blockade running and the point of collision for secret service agents, gun runners and millionaire business men. Was the sinking of the Marie Celeste a deliberate act? We explore new theories as to who may have plotted to sink her.

This film is a LookBermuda / LookFilms production and is being produced in Hi Definition to International Broadcast standards.


Project Outline (written in 2011):

Mary-Celestia (aka Marie-Celeste aka Mary-Celeste)

Mary-Celestia, Civil War Wine.

The recovery of the  Civil War Wine is a rescue marine archaeology project initiated by the Custodian of Historic Wrecks Dr Philippe Rouja. The project developed after he recovered an intact bottle of wine from the wreck of the blockade runner the Mary-Celestia during a post hurricane survey in 2009 and then a second during a post winter storm survey in January 2011, (see above trailer, filmed during the latest survey).

The project involves the excavation and recovery of artifacts from the front bulkhead of the bow section of the wreck. What is unique about this find is that while the main cargo holds of the wreck were salvaged at the time of her sinking in 1864 and later excavated on several occasions after the advent of SCUBA this section of the bow has remained relatively undisturbed, except by storm action, to this day. The location of the wine and cases in the small front bulkhead suggests that what has been found is a stash of private contraband, separate from her general cargo, upon an infamous contraband ship. The plan is to rescue any remaining artifacts which we anticipate will include bottles of wine, the cases they came in and any other items of value destined for the confederate south that can add to the story of this celebrated ship and its role in the civil war.

This will be an archaeological collaboration between Bermuda and the United States with Bermuda’s Custodian of Historic Wrecks, Dr Philippe Rouja and the Director of the Maritime Heritage Programfor the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),Dr James Delgadoleading the archaeological recovery, who has previously hosted the Sea Hunters series on the National Geographic and History Channels .

Bottles removed from the site will be hermetically sealed and sent to UC Davies in California. Scientific analysis of the wine residue will aim to identify the grape, region and possibly the wine itself.

If the bottles have settled cork down there is every chance that the wine will be ‘intact’ and may still be drinkable. If this is the case a wine expert will be invited to comment on the quality of the wine as part of a civil war era taste test.

The collaboration details have been ironed out with  the recovery starting in June 2011.

The sinking of the Mary-Celestia has always been shrouded in mystery. A local pilot seemingly ran her onto the reef on south shore. Although foul play was touted at the time and an enquiry into the pilots action were called for, the incident has long been accepted as a tragic accident. However, further study into the circumstances of the sinking of the Mary-Celestia has unearthed more questions than answers. Research into the political and economic climate of the time has lead to new avenues of investigation to identify who might have had the motive and the means to deliberately sink her.

1864, and to Lincoln’s mind an end to the civil war was long overdue – the superior numbers and industrial resources of the north should have ensured a relatively quick victory. However the supply of military materials flowing into southern ports was helping to keep the confederate cause alive. A lethal game of cat and mouse between the US navy and the confederate blockade runners was playing out along the eastern sea board. The center of operations for the blockade runners and the front line for the US campaign against them was the tiny island of Bermuda.

The film explores the remarkable place that Bermuda was. A neutral port with open support of the confederacy and the point of collision for merchants, sailors, secret service operatives, gun runners, naval officers and millionaire business men.

Exploring the blockade running industry from this pivotal location the film reveals just how much was at stake financially and militarily as well as those with vested interests in the game of cat and mouse.

While the film follows the recovery of this civil war era wine from the bow of the Marie Celeste, 65 feet below the surface of Bermuda’s waters to the labs of UC Davies in California, and with some luck to the table of a wine expert. We will also pursue the trails of evidence to tackle the theories of who may have plotted to sink the Mary-Celestia. 

If you would like more information or to support this project, please contact us.