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The Flying Dutchman - The phantom Ship Destined to Sail Forever...


The tale of the Flying Dutchman has been the inspiration for a number of books and poems. The popular Novel, THE MYSTERY SHIP, by Captain Federick Marryat (1839), relates Phillip van der Decken’s successful, but disastrous, search for his father – the captain of the Flying Dutchman. Also based on this legend are big names like, Richard Wagner’s famous opera, DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER (1843), Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, RIME OF THE ANCIENT WARRIOR (1798). So do we deduce this legend as fact or fiction? The legend of the Flying Dutchman, however, has been told for generations, and not everyone who claims to have seen her can have their accounts dismissed as fantasy. The legend’s origin, however, is obscure. Some say it dates back to 1490, when the Portuguese navigator, Barthololmeu Dias, was drowned when his ship sank off the Cape, barely two years after he had made history by being the first European to round the most of the Southern tip of Africa. But the most oft-repeated version dates back to the early seventeeth century...
Here are some sightings from captains as published by Rob Marsh’s book, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (1994).
**Extract.
Sightings of a ghost ship have been reported on a number of occasions. In 1899, the captian of the steamship, HANNAH REGAN, which was sailing in the Pacific off the coast of Okinawa, made the following entry in the ship’s log:
It was a fine, calm and clear night when my attention was drawn to what I at first thought was a peculiar shadow some half a mile distant from my ship. I watched it closely for some time and then, to my astonishment the shadow assumed the shape and appearance of a sailing vessel, clearly distinguishable but of a type which had not sailed the seas for at least two hundred years. There could be no mistaking it. She was headed in our direction, and driving along as if in the grip of violent winds, yet she carried no sail. I stood spellbound and was about to shout, to summon help, for it looked that she could not help but running us down, but then it flashed in my mind that this was a phantom and no material vessel. The spectral ship came on, her starboard quarter almost awash and with masses of heavy water pouring over her. She came right alongside, and then I doubted my own shocked senses, for I could see right through her, though every detail of her deck work and rigging stood out, clearly. Two of her boats were hanging from their falls and dragged alongside. So she passed us by, still lower and stern and in such a way disappeared beneath the sea...
Admiral Doenitz, Commander in Chief of Germany’s U-boat fleet during the Second world war, recorded the following:
... certain of my U-boat crew claimed that they saw the flying Dutchman or some other so-called phantom ship on their tours of duty far east of suez. When they returned to their base, the men said the preferred facing the combined strength of Allied warships in the Northern Atlantic than know the terror a second time of being confronted by a phantom vessel...

During the summer of 1939, a group of holiday-makers at Glencairn, near Muizenberg in the Cape, claim to have seen the flying Dutchman materialize out of thin mist and vanish just as mysteriously. The sea layed dead calm at the time making the ghost ship clearly visible as she moved majestically across the horizon. A Report in the CAPE TIMES the following day said that the ship...
With all her sials drawing well, although there was not a breath of wind at the time, appeared to be standing towards Muizenberg. The ship then sailed steadily on until it seemed certain run aground on the sands of Starndfontein beach and then vanished into thin air...

The legend of the Flying Dutchman
It is told that the ship was about to sail around the Cape of Good Hope when a mighty wind started to toss the tiny vessel around by sundown. When the storm was at his height all crew and passenger members approached Captain Van der Decken, begging him to steer the ship to safety towards the nearest port, but he did not listen to their pleas. “WE WILL CONTINUE. NOTHING SHALL STOP US. NEITHER WIND OR WEATHER, NOR GOD HIMSELF” the captain shouted over and over and cursed the most obscene words. At some moment, a wall of water swept up from the dark depths below and threw itself upon the already stricken craft. By then it is said that with every splash of wave or wind the captain cursed ‘DAMN YOU ALL! I SHALL COMPLETE THIS JOURNEY OR SAIL THE SAME COURSE UNTIL DOOMSDAY!’ It was then that an apparition of the Almighty is said to have appeared before him on the deck of the ship, but in his madness, Van der Decken withdrew his pistol and fired upon the shape while shouting ‘COME NOT FOR ME NOW!’ and, with this, the ship started sinking... From that instant, Van der Decken was destined to sail the oceans of the world forever in the Flying Dutchman and be a torment for sailors until the day of judgement, or until he could find another vessel willing to carry a letter back to Holland begging his forgiveness for having put so many innocent souls at risk. The appearance of the ghost ship, however, strikes terror into everyone who see her, and no-one has been prepared to help...