Ghost Ships: The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman

Captain Vanderdecken departed from Amsterdam in 1680, on course for Batavia, a port in Dutch East India. The ship encountered a terrible storm as it circled the Cape of Good Hope. Vanderdecken ignored the severity of the storm, even though his crew believed it was a sign from God (to find land I’m thinking). The ship was destroyed by the storm and all the crew perished in the Sea. For ignoring his crew and the ferocity of the storm the legend goes Vanderdecken and his ship are cursed to sail around the Cape forever.

Sounds just like a tragic maritime fable, except many people claim to have actually seen The Flying Dutchman even as late as the 20th century. One of the first recording sightings was a captain and crew of a British ship in 1835. They witnessed a phantom ship approaching in within mist of a dangerous storm. It approached so closely the crew feared collision, but then the ghost ship magically vanished. (that’s how ghost ships roll)

Two crewmen of the H.M.S. Bacchante reported seeing the ship once again in 1881. The next day, one of the men fell from the rigging and died. Most sightings go unreported (wonder why, right). In March of 1939, the ghost ship was seen off the coast of South Africa by dozens of beach goers who provided exceptionally detailed descriptions of the ship, although most had probably never seen a 17th century merchantman. The British South Africa Annual of 1939 wrote about the sighting

“With uncanny volition, the ship sailed steadily on as the Glencairn beach folk stood about keenly discussing the whys and wherefores of the vessel. Just as the excitement reached its climax, however, the mystery ship vanished into thin air as strangely as it had come.”

The last recorded sighting was sometime in 1942 just off the coast of Cape Town. Four people saw the Dutchman sail into Table Bay… and disappear.

To me, the tale of the Flying Dutchman sounds like residual energy rather than a ghost presence. Its like the events befalling the Dutchman are running on a loop. Or at least, I would like to think the Captain is finally at peace, somewhere else.


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