The Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship that is never able to make port, being doomed to sail the ocean forever. The oldest recording of the story dates to the late 18th century. Sightings of the ship in the 19th and 20th centuries have claimed the ship to be glowing with ghostly light.
If hailed by another ship, claims are, the Flying Dutchman will attempt to send messages to land, or to people who have long since died. The sighting of the phantom ship is said to be an omen of doom for the crew who spots it.
The earliest reference of the ship in print appears in Travels in various part of Europe, Asia and Africa during a series of thirty years and upward (1790), by John McDonald. McDonald states, “The weather was so stormy that the sailors said they saw the Flying Dutchman.
The common story is that the Dutchman came to the Cape in distress of weather and wanted to get into harbor but could not get a pilot to conduct her and was lost, ever since in very bad weather her vision appears.”
Some say the Flying Dutchman is a schooner seen under full sail, sometimes in the distance, sometimes at night or through the fog and sometimes it is seen gliding above the water.
Some people have also stated that the term Dutchman refers to the captain of the ship, a man who was doomed to keep trying to maneuver the stormy cape forever. Whatever the specifics of the legend, the Flying Dutchman has become a famous and common part of maritime lore.
Legend has it that this insane Dutch sea captain was struggling to make it around the Cape of Good Hope, in South Africa, during a terrible gale that threatened to sink the ship and everyone aboard.
The sailors warned him to turn around and the passengers pleaded with him, but the captain, either crazy or drunk, refused to change course. Instead, he pressed on, singing loud and obscene songs, before going below to his cabin to drink more and smoke his pipe.
Huge waves pummeled the sides of the large ship, the fierce howling winds bent the masts and tore at the sails, but still the captain held his course, challenging the wrath of God Almighty by swearing a blasphemous oath.
Finally, there was a mutiny on board, the crew and passengers attempted to take control of the ship. However, the captain, roused from his drunken stupor, killed the leader of the rebellion and threw him overboard. As soon as the crewman’s body hit the water, the clouds parted, and a shadowy figure materialized on the quarterdeck.
“You’re a very stubborn man,” the shadow said, to which the captain responded, “I never asked for a peaceful passage, I never asked for anything. So clear off before I shoot you too.”
The figure didn’t move and when the captain drew his pistol, the gun exploded in his hand. And the figure spoke again, “As a result of your actions you are condemned to sail the oceans for eternity with a ghostly crew of dead men, bringing death to all who sight your spectral ship, and to never make port or know a moment’s peace,”
The shadow went on to say, “Furthermore, gall shall be your drink, and red hot iron your meat.” Reckless to the end, the captain cried “Amen to that!”
We may never know if the legend of the Flying Dutchman is true, or if the name refers to the ship or a crazed and reckless captain, but if you ever find yourself out on the open sea and you see a strange glowing ship in the distance, look away quickly. There may still be time to save yourself.
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