Flying Dutchman

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Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman is a mythical ghost ship that legend says is destined to sail the oceans forever without making port. People who reportedly saw the Flying Dutchman, in the 19th and 20th centuries, stated that it emitted a ghostly light. According to the legend, if the Flying Dutchman is seen, it spells disaster for those who saw it.

The Earliest Version of the Flying Dutchman Myth
The earliest version of the Flying Dutchman myth dates to the 18th century and is likely to have emerged from the successful era of the Dutch East India Company. This version, in a book by John MacDonald, states that the Flying Dutchman was a ship that couldn’t get a pilot to guide her into port during bad weather and was lost. He goes on to say that ever since that incident, a vision of the Flying Dutchman appears in very bad weather.

Flying Dutchman and the Cape of Good Hope
A slightly later version in a book by George Barrington, dated 1795, tells the story of a Dutch man of war that was lost with all hands in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope. Her consort survived the gale however, when returning around the Cape, she was caught in another storm and some of the sailors on night watch reported seeing the lost ship sailing towards them as if it would run them down. When the storm abated the ship disappeared. Following the arrival of the ship in port, the story of the phantom ship spread and it became known as the Flying Dutchman.

The Legend of the Flying Dutchman Grows
As the years passed by, the Flying Dutchman began to appear in more literary works with many adding their own embellishments to the legend. John Leydon wrote that the crew of the Flying Dutchman were guilty of a dreadful crime, and Sir Walter Scott referred to the Flying Dutchman as a ship that had originally been loaded with great wealth, but that a horrid act of murder and piracy had taken place on her.

Captains of the Flying Dutchman
17th Century Frisian born Bernard Fokke, who was a captain for the Dutch East India Company, is seen by some as the origin for the captain of the Flying Dutchman. Fokke was famed for the speed of his voyages between the Dutch Republic and Java. His speed led to speculation that he was in league with the devil. An early story of the myth of the Flying Dutchman appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in May 1821. In this story the captain of the Flying Dutchman was named as Captain Hendrick Van der Decken.

King George V and the Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman was seen by the future King George V, Prince George of Wales and his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales while on a three year voyage with their tutor. The Princes were aboard HMS Inconstant in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, when one of the Princes recorded in his log that on July 11, 1881, at 4am the Flying Dutchman crossed their bows. The log entry tells of a strange red light, all aglow as of a phantom ship, as well as describing the masts, spars and sails of a brig coming up on the port bow, where the mythical ship was also seen by the Officer of the Watch, who was located on the bridge. Flying Dutchman was also seen by the quarterdeck midshipman who went to the forecastle but saw nothing on his arrival there. The log then tells how the ordinary seaman, who had reported the Flying Dutchman, was killed later that morning when he fell from the foretopmast crosstrees.

Explanations for the Sightings of the Flying Dutchman
The most likely explanation for the various sightings of the Flying Dutchman is optical illusions. Mirages, Fata Morgana, Looming and other optical phenomena can all have led to the sightings believed to have been this mythical ship.

Flying Dutchman in Paint
Many artists have created paintings depicting the Flying Dutchman including American illustrator Howard Pyle, whose painting is on display at the Delaware Art Museum, and American painter Albert Ryder whose painting is displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C.

Flying Dutchman in Film and Television
The Flying Dutchman has appeared in many cartoons and television series as both a ship and a man. Among these programs is Scooby Doo, Spider-Man, SpongeBob SquarePants, The Simpsons, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Fantasy Island. In the 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, the Flying Dutchman is a man, while in the film Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest, the Flying Dutchman is a ship whose characteristics were inspired by the legend.

Other Adaptations of the Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman has been adapted for use in numerous books, plays, operas, musical pieces, and video games. These include: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which gives a description of a ghost ship which resembles the Flying Dutchman; John Boyle O’Reilly’s The Flying Dutchman, Brian Jacques’ Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, the opera The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner, the song Flying Dutchman by Jethro Tull, a reference to the Flying Dutchman in Jimmy Buffett’s Remittance Man and Flying Dutchman appears as a warship in the video game Warship Battle 3D.

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Published 2018

Global Anchor Limited

Modified 2018

By James Drake

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