The Legend of the Flying Dutchman
The first Flying Dutchman Legend was written in 1795, when Irish pickpocket George Barrington wrote his "Voyage to Botany Bay". According to his report, sailors told a story of a Dutch ship that got lost at sea during a horrendous storm. The same ship later wrecked other ships in bouts of ghastly fog. This was the result of captain Bernard Fokke's behaviour: he was known for the "devilish" speed on his trips from Holland to Java. Some said that Fokke was aided by the Devil...
Another version of the legend starts in 1641 when a Dutch ship sank off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope. The trip to the Far East had been successful and the ship was on its way back home to Holland, so captain Van der Decken was pleased... and failed to notice the dark clouds looming. Only when he heard the lookout scream in terror, he did realise they sailed straight into a heavy storm. Van der Decken and his crew battled for hours to get out of the storm, but then they heard a sickening crunch: the ship had hit a rock and began to sink. As the ship plunged downwards and the captain knew death was approaching, he screamed out a curse: "I will round this Cape even if I have to keep sailing until Doomsday!"
Misfortune, greed, and fidelity collide in this storm-battered tale of one man's quest for life-saving love. Wagner retells the legend of the fearsome Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail the seas until he finds a woman who will love him until death, in his famous opera...
Sightings of the Flying Dutchman
So, whenever a storm brews off the Cape of Good Hope, don't look into the eye of it, because you will see the Flying Dutchman... And whoever sights the ship will die a terrible death.Most people agree the "history" of the Flying Dutchman is merely a legend, and still the ship has been sighted on various occasions in the Cape of Good Hope by reliable witnesses.
Lighthouse keepers reported seeing her and here is a selected list of famous sightings:
In 1823, captain Owen of the HMS Leven recorded two sightings in the log. In 1835 the sailors of a British vessel saw a ship approach them in the middle of a storm. It appeared there would be a collision, but the ship suddenly vanished.
On 11 July 1881, the Royal Navy ship Bacchante was rounding the tip of Africa, when the crew was confronted with the sight of The Flying Dutchman. The midshipman, who later became King George V, recorded that the lookout and the officer of the watch had seen the ship and used these words to describe it: "A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the mast, spars and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief." Soon after the sighting, he accidentally fell from a mast and died.
In 1879, the crew of the SS Pretoria saw the Flying Dutchman and in 1911 a whaling ship almost collided with her before she vanished. In 1923, some members of the British Navy sighted the haunted ship and gave documentation to the Society for Psychical Research. In 1939 the Flying Dutchman was seen by people ashore and German admiral Karl Doenitz maintained his U Boat crews logged various sightings. In 1941 people at Glencairn Beach saw the phantom ship vanish before she crashed into the rocks. In 1942 four witnesses saw the ship enter Table Bay and in 1959 the Magelhaen nearly collided with the phantom ship.
Despite the descriptions of ghoulish glows, scientists have offered a more reasonable explanation: the Flying Dutchman could be a 'fata morgana', a mirage that occurs when, in calm weather, warm air rests right above dense, cold air near the surface of the ocean. The air between the two masses acts as a refracting lens, which will produce an upside-down, distorted image of the upright object. Even though a ship may be beyond the horizon, the observing crew may see an inverted, blurry image of the "mirage ship" that could appear several times larger than its actual size, and much closer.
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