“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 Indiamen, but what has some one on board, who pretends to have seen the apparition.”
Thus the flying dutchman is described in chapter VI in a book called A Voyage to Botany Bay from 1795, what is considered the first refrence in writing about the infamous haunted ship.
We did an article not so long ago about ghosts and hauntings of all kind, where we mentioned how objects can be haunted as people can. The flying dutchman is perhaps the most famous example of this.
The legend of the flying dutchman is believed to have originated in the 17 century, a fanciful story that begins with a man called Hendrik Van Der Decken. The story says that Hendrik was a unscrupolous and greedy man who made a pact with the devil.
Hendrik Van Der Decken was the captain of the Flying Dutchman and planned to make his fortunes in the East Indies. He set of from Amsterdam on a voyage that would prove uneventful until he tried to round the Cape of Good Hope, when a terrible storm formed. The flying dutchman was battered with winds and the sails torn to pieces.
According to the legend this went on for days and finally the devil appeared to the impatient captain and asked him if he was willing to challenge god’s will and head straight into the storm. Hendrik agreed and thus was cursed by god to wander the seas forever until judgment day in his haunted ship, which we know as The Flying Dutchman.
Blackwood Edinburgh Magazine released a story about the Dutcman in may 1821 where the name Van der Decken is first introduced:
She was an Amsterdam vessel and sailed from port seventy years ago. Her master’s name was Van der Decken. He was a staunch seaman, and would have his own way in spite of the devil. For all that, never a sailor under him had reason to complain; though how it is on board with them nobody knows. The story is this: that in doubling the Cape they were a long day trying to weather the Table Bay. However, the wind headed them, and went against them more and more, and Van der Decken walked the deck, swearing at the wind. Just after sunset a vessel spoke him, asking him if he did not mean to go into the bay that night. Van der Decken replied: ‘May I be eternally damned if I do, though I should beat about here till the day of judgment. And to be sure, he never did go into that bay, for it is believed that he continues to beat about in these seas still, and will do so long enough. This vessel is never seen but with foul weather along with her.
Many people have reported seeing the Flying Dutchman, all over the world. Perhaps the most infamous and respected of them all would be the 16 year old Prince George, a royal midshipman who later would be crowned King George the V. In 1881, 11 july he made the following log aboard the HMS Inconstant of the coast of Australia:
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 foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.