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Legend of the Flying Dutchman, the ship that never reached port.

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posted on Jun, 19 2004 @ 05:51 PM
Many of you have heard of the mysterious Flying Dutchman but not many know the whole story.

On the tip of South Africa in 1939 on the sands of Glencairn beach some 60 people soaked up the sun. Out of the haze, sailed a full rigged East Indiaman that had not been in the waters off the cape for several centuries. The first people who noticed called to others to look and soon everyone on the beach stood to look at the ship.

The newspaper report from the next day reported the ship “with all her sails drawing well, although there was not a breath of wind at the time, appeared to be standing toward Muizenberg.”

The British South Africa Annual of 1939 reported:

With uncanny volition the ship sailed steadily on as the Glencairn beach folk, shaken from their lethargy, stood about keenly discussing the whys and wherefores of the vessel which seemed to be bent on self-destruction somewhere on the sands of Strandfontein. Just as the excitement reached its climax, however, the mystery ship vanished into thin air as strangely as it had come.

Scientific Explanations

The only explanation that held any water was that the watchers at Glencairn had seen a mirage and that the mystery ship was, by some accident of light refraction, the image of a ship sailing several hundred miles away.

Problems with Science

As those who had sighted the ship pointed out, the broad, squat hull and high poop, and even the rigging, were unlike those of any modern sailing ship. It was unmistakably a 17th century merchantman.

Another problem there was not one ship at see during the time of the sighting that in the very least matched the description given by the beachgoers.

Among the witnesses on the beach that day was Helen Tydell she stated:

Let the skeptics say what they will, that ship was none other than the Flying Dutchman

Even before the story inspired Richard Wagner to write his opera, Der Fliegende Hollander, the Flying Dutchman legend had been known to many generations of sailors around the world.

The Facts of the Dutchman

Old records show that in 1680 a Dutch East Indiaman captained by Hendrik Vanderdecken sailed from Amsterdam for the Dutch East Indies settlement at Batavia. Vanderdecken, a man of fearless and adventurous disposition, apparently had few principles and an unsavory reputation. But he was a skilled seaman, and the owners had few qualms about giving him command of the vessel, in spite of his boasts in the waterfront wine shops that he would return with a fortune.

All Seemed to have gone well with Vanderdecken and his crew as they sailed south through the tropical seas, but near the Cape of Good Hope a sudden tropical gale tore the sails to shreds and wrecked the rudder. For weeks the vessel foundered off the cape, unable to make headway against the battering force of a southeasterly gale.

The ship never made it to Batavia.

The Legend of the Dutchman

Enter the legend, or shall we say the juicy part of the story. According to legend, Vanderdecken became increasingly furious as every trick of navigation and seamanship he tried failed to bring him around the cape.

Taking advantage of Vanderdeckens state of mind, the Devil, suggested to him in a dream that he should defy God’s attempt to stop him from rounding the cape. In a rage the Dutch sea captain took up the challenge in a famous quote generations of seaman know all too well:

With frantic mien the appalling oath he took,
And loudly cried above the tempest’ dim:
“My destined course and resolute career
The power of God I thus defy to stay
Nor shall the Fiend of Hell awake my fear
Though I should cruise until the Judgment Day.”

Who first quoted the damned captain’s words is not known. However, retribution came swiftly as the angel of the Lord commanded that Vanderdecken must keep his vigil until doomsday.

Since 1680 there have been countless sightings of his ship reported. Any ship that sights the phantom is said soon to encounter bad luck.


The most famous sighting was in 1880 when the future King George V, then a midshipman on the HMS Bacchante, saw the doomed ship and a figure in ancient dress on her poop as the Bacchante sailed 50 miles off the cape. The next day a member of the crew fell from the rigging and was killed.

One of the first recorded sightings was by the captain and crew of a British ship in 1835. They recorded that they saw the phantom ship approaching in the shroud of a terrible storm. It came so close that the British crew feared the two ships might collide, but then the ghost ship suddenly vanished.

On January 24 1923 the ship appeared before four witnesses. Fourth Officer NK Stone reported seeing the ship yet where it sails should be all that remained was a luminous mist. The second officer remarked “Oh my God, it is a ghost ship”. The second and Fourth officer confirmed the sighting yet the cadet and helmsman that also witnessed the ship vanished.

In September 1942, four people sitting on their balcony in Cape Town saw the ghostly East Indiaman sail into Table Bay and vanish behind Robben Island.

In 1996 The Australian Aircraft Carrier, HMAS Anzac, sighted the Dutchman, and promptly warped a propeller shaft, causing major at-sea repairs and several injuries

In 1999 a South African excursion boat full of vacationers which foundered and sank after sighting the damned ship, killing 17 of the passengers.

Scientific View

The scientific view continues to be that what everyone has seen is mirages of ships 100’s of miles away.

However the one thing that science has not and cannot explain is the constant similarities of detail given by those who have seen the East Indiaman- or the fact that ships of her type last sailed more than 200 years ago.


Strange Stories, Amazing Facts, Readers Digest. 1980

Artistic Representation of the Flying Dutchman

[edit on 19-6-2004 by BlackJackal]

posted on Jun, 20 2004 @ 02:06 PM
wow this is an intresting legend BlackJackal, and it made me read up on this topic a little more. But there are so many different interpretations of the lengend itself.....but it does make for an intresting read

posted on Jun, 21 2004 @ 12:11 PM
Does anyone know of any more sightings of the dutchman? I looked for as many as I could find but I didn't really find any specifics just passages that say "the dutchman has been sighted many times." I would really like to get some details about sightings other than the ones I mentioned.

posted on Jun, 21 2004 @ 03:04 PM
yeah iv read a couple of sightings on this one website, but they don't give dates :

The burning ship of the Northumberland Strait has often been seen off the coast of Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island in Canada. Often it appears as a three-masted sailing ship on fire. Another witness observed, "One October night I was returning from visiting a neighbor; while walking along I was looking out over the Northumberland Strait where I saw a ship burning. It was a clear night and I could make out the outline of the ship quite distinguishably. I watched it for about twenty minutes and then it disappeared. I had heard so much about the phantom ship that I decided that it must be it." can find more on this website:|160x600A/ 617/RETURN-CODE

but thats the only sighting i can find apart from the ones listed here already.....hope that helped

posted on Jun, 21 2004 @ 04:03 PM
We have a simular story of a ghost ship up here in Maine called the "DASH"
This was a n armed brig during the war of 1812 if I remember correctly.
There have been lots of sightings of this ship under full sail and the crewmen at their posts. This usually occurs during foggy conditions. The most interesting evidence, was that this ghost ship was actually picked up on radar in Casco Bay near Portland during WWII. This set off a lot of commotion due to the concerns of Nazi Subs and the huge Liberty Ship shipyard in the harbor. Apparently folks still see it to this day.

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