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But is that what Captain Briggs ordered? If so, why? His ship was seaworthy. MacGregor learned that the captain was experienced and respected in shipping circles. Did Briggs, then, have a rational reason to abandon ship? MacGregor figured that if she could determine the precise spot from which Briggs, his family and crew abandoned ship, she might be able to shed light on why.

MacGregor asked Richardson "to work backward and create a path between these two points. Richardson said he would need water temperatures, wind speeds and wind directions at the time, data that MacGregor found in the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set ICOADS , a database that stores global marine information from to and is used to study climate change. Their conclusion: yes, it could have, even without a crew to sail it.

At that point, MacGregor considered the fact that a captain would most likely order a ship abandoned within sight of land. He wrote that he saw nothing unusual about the voyage until the last five days, which is why he transcribed the ship's log starting five days from the end. The ship's log is believed to have been lost in , so those transcriptions provided the only means for MacGregor and Richardson to plot the course and positions logged for the ship.

The two then reconsidered those positions in light of ICOADS data and other information on sea conditions at the time. Their conclusion: Briggs was actually miles west of where he thought he was, probably because of an inaccurate chronometer. By the captain's calculations, he should have sighted land three days earlier than he did. Solly-Flood's notes yielded one other piece of information that MacGregor and Richardson consider significant: the day before he reached the Azores, Briggs changed course and headed north of Santa Maria Island, perhaps seeking haven. Still, MacGregor reasons, rough seas and a faulty chronometer wouldn't, by themselves, prompt an experienced captain to abandon ship.

Was there something else? With the pump inoperative, Briggs would not have known how much seawater was in his ship's hull, which was too fully packed for him to measure visually. At that point, says MacGregor, Briggs—having come through rough weather, having finally and belatedly sighted land and having no way of determining whether his ship would sink—might well have issued an order to abandon ship. Subscribe or Give a Gift. Sign up. SmartNews History. History Archaeology.

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