Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Flying Dutchman

The Curse of the Flying Dutchman

Most people today recognize the legendary Flying Dutchman as the ship seen in the Johnny Depp “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, but its origins and its curse are much older than Hollywood itself.
The first recorded document that makes reference to the Cursed ship appears in Chapter VI of A Voyage to Botany Bay, written in 1795 by George Barrington during his sea voyage to New South Wales , Australia, of which Mr Barrington writes:

"I had often heard of the superstition of sailors respecting apparitions, but had never given much credit to the report; it seems that some years since a Dutch-man-of-war was lost off the Cape of Good Hope, and every soul on board perished; her consort weathered the gale, and arrived soon after at the Cape. Having refitted, and returning to Europe, they were assailed by a violent tempest nearly in the same latitude. In the night watch some of the people saw, or imagined they saw, a vessel standing for them under a press of sail, as though she would run them down: one in particular affirmed it was the ship that had foundered in the former gale, and that it must certainly be her, or the apparition of her; but on its clearing up, the object, a dark thick cloud, disappeared. Nothing could do away the idea of this phenomenon on the minds of the sailors; and, on their relating the circumstances when they arrived in port, the story spread like wild-fire, and the supposed phantom was called the Flying Dutchman. From the Dutch the English seamen got the infatuation, and there are very few India men, but what has some one on board, who pretends to have seen the apparition "

Almost 100 years later the Flying Dutchman was seen by the future King George V, Prince George of Wales. In 1880 Prince George and his Brother Prince Albert were sailing aboard the HMS Inconstant when the ship had to pull into port in Australia for repairs, the two Royal brothers were sailing their tutor, Dalton. It was Dalton who recorded the following:

At 4 a.m. The Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her ... At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the fore top mast cross trees on to the top gallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.

So it would seem the curse was believed by folk long ago, mind you it was superstitious times.
The curse, it is said goes something like this. The Flying Dutchman is a ship doomed to sail the seven seas forever, never to return home. The Dutchman, if seen is a portent of certain doom for the ship and crew of the person who witnesses it.

Most legends say the ship is usually seen at a great distance and often seems to be surrounded by a glowing light, sometimes a glowing fog.
In this day and age, the ship is rarely seen...

First published

17 December 2012 
  © 2012 Allen Tiller

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