It is said that all legends have a basis in fact and the legend of the Flying Dutchman bears no exception to this illation. Of all the spectres of ghost ships perceived to be seen and spoken out aloud, the spectre of sighting the Flying Dutchman ship is one that intensifies the aspect of scariness and eeriness.
The myth of the ghost ship has been often been depicted in movies and operas. But these depictions have been filled with hyperbole so as to enhance the imagery of ghostliness associated with the haunted vessel. The origin and the continuance of the myth however is completely different, though no less eerie.
Origin of the Myth
Purported to be a man-of-war, the Flying Dutchman ship is said to have come across turbulent waters in the South-western African Cape of Good Hope in the mid-1600s. The much recounted folklore and the mystery shrouding the vessel are not for the vessel itself but for the man who skippered the ghost ship.
Accounts vary about the name of the skipper of the Flying Dutchman. According to some, the captain was one Hendrick Van der Decken whose deep contemplation about the plight of his seamen and resultant oblivion to the approaching storm in the coast of the Cape led to the ship being destroyed. In accordance with this anecdote, it has also been iterated about the captain’s utterance to bring the vessel around the Cape even if it meant for him to sail the vessel “until doomsday.”
This statement made by the skipper while the vessel was in its last dregs, it is said that brought about the ghostly plight of the vessel to sail the seas forever, without making ground in any port or harbour ever.
In an alternate folklore relation, the captain of the vessel is said to be one whose onboard activities were satanic and whose pride, when encountered a storm in the Cape led to the ship being mercilessly tossed into its eye instead of turning back. For this sense of courting danger, according to the folklore rendition, the captain and the vessel were cursed to sail the oceans without ever making port or harbor.
Spectre Sighting & Omens
The realm of oceanic navigation is one that involves superstition. Haunted ships have always been typecast into being omens of ill luck and potentially fatal incidents. The Flying Dutchman ship however, is talked of much eloquently and when the aspect of superstition is involved.
The Dutchman is called the harbinger of death and destruction for those vessels which have sighted it. It has also been retold countless times that letters and missives used to be passed onto those ships that passed the Dutchman in their route. The opening of these letters and missives by the crew resulted in the ships getting destroyed and the crew parting with their lives.
Right from the time the myth emerged in the 1600s; various sightings of the ghost vessel were reported in the Cape of Good Hope. All these sightings happened when the weather was extremely stormy and the gales were lashing hard.
According to the narrations penned down, the ghost vessel came across as being caught in the storm and almost on the verge of colliding with rocks, before vanishing into the darkness. Prominent amongst these reports of sightings is the one seen by the Bacchante, a British Royal Naval vessel, in the year 1881.
Prince George V, who was serving as a midshipmen as a part of the vessel crew, is said to have sighted the ghost ship in the Australian waters at around four in the morning. And while, the Prince did not encounter any fatality, the seafarer who had first reported about the ghost vessel sighting, met his end after falling down from the top-mast, lending further credibility about the ominous sighting of the vessel among the seafarers of yore.
The latest sighting of the vessel was reported in the 1940s by people who gave accurate description of a vessel of the 1600s without having any prior knowledge about the vessels of that era. At present, the oceanic realm seems to be quiet with respect to the sighting of the Dutchman though its allure has not lessened in any manner whatsoever.
In contemporary times, more than ghost ships, the threat of pirate vessels looms on a really massive scale. And while the spectre of the Dutchman cannot be overruled, skippers and the crew would be more wary of pirate vessels taking advantage of the situation under the guise of a centuries-old ghost vessel rather than sighting an actual ghost ship itself.
References: occultopedia, perdurabo10, unexplained-mysteries, strangeworldofmystery