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The Flying Dutchman


The Legend of the Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is ghost ship, said to be crewed by cowards, rogues, and shirkers. In some ways it has even become a generic term meaning any ghost ship. Often it appears in fogs or the edge of storms. It is said that seeing it is a bad omen, and that doom is sure to follow for the unlucky sailor and his ship.

Versions of the story are numerous in nautical folklore and some are related to earlier medieval legends, such as that of Captain Falkenburg who was cursed to ply the North Sea until Judgment Day, playing at dice with the Devil for his own soul.

According to some sources, the 17th century Dutch captain Bernard Fokke is the model for the captain of the ghost ship. Fokke was renowned for the uncanny speed of his trips from Holland to Java and was suspected of being in league with the devil to achieve this speed.

Other sources say that the legend of The Flying Dutchman is said to have started in 1641 when a Dutch ship sank off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope :

Captain Van Der Decken was pleased. The trip to the Far East had been highly successful and at last, they were on their way home to Holland . As the ship approached the tip of Africa , the captain thought that he should make a suggestion to the Dutch East India Company (his employers) to start a settlement at the Cape on the tip of Africa , thereby providing a welcome respite to ships at sea.

He was so deep in thought that he failed to notice the dark clouds looming and only when he heard the lookout scream out in terror, did he realize that they had sailed straight into a fierce storm. The captain and his crew battled for hours to get out of the storm and at one stage it looked like they would make it. Then they heard a sickening crunch - the ship had hit treacherous rocks and began to sink. As the ship plunged downwards, Captain Van Der Decken knew that death was approaching. He was not ready to die and screamed out a curse: "I WILL round this Cape even if I have to keep sailing until doomsday!"


The first reference in print to the ship itself appears to be in Chapter VI of George Barrington's Voyage to Botany Bay (1795).

There have been many reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman on the high seas in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the most famous was by Prince George of Wales (later King George V of the United Kingdom ). During his late adolescence along with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales (sons of the future King Edward VII), he was on a three-year-long voyage with their tutor Dalton aboard the 4000-tonne corvette HMS Bacchante. On 11 July 1881 , the Royal Navy ship was rounding the tip of Africa , when they were confronted with the sight of The Flying Dutchman. The midshipman, Prince George , recorded that the lookout man and the officer of the watch had seen the Flying Dutchman and he used these words to describe the ship:

"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."

It's pity that the lookout saw the Flying Dutchman, for soon after on the same trip, he accidentally fell from a mast and died. Fortunately for the English royal family, the young midshipman survived the curse.


Many people have claimed to have seen The Flying Dutchman, including the crew of a German submarine boat during World War II.

In Fitzball's play, the Captain is allowed to go to shore once every hundred years, in order to seek a woman to share his fate. In Wagner's opera, it is once every seven years. Itís important to note that contrary to some recent pirate films, Davy Jones is not the Captain of the Flying Dutchman, though the squid faced Jones of Disney fame does bear some of the characteristics of Flying Dutchmanís Captain.


Other interesting notes:

The Flying Dutchman is the official mascot of Hope College in Holland , Michigan .

All KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) aircraft carry the name "The Flying Dutchman" on their fuselage.



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