We all know about the Flying Dutchman, maybe some of us heard about it through a famous yellow sponge. *Wink* No matter where from, you likely know about it and the legend that surrounds it, although there are more than one. This notorious ship is forever bound to sail the seas and never dock on land. If you are unlucky enough to spot it on your journey, it is said to be an omen of upcoming death and doom.
One legend goes as follows…After horrible storms and obstacles, Captain van der Decken and his crew eventually made it to the Far East Indies from Holland to obtain goods like silk, spices, and dyes. After they purchased the items, they set out on another voyage to Amsterdam. Though, this time, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Another storm threatened the life of the Captain and his crew as they plead for him to turn back the way they came. It is not certain the state of mind that the Captain was in at the time, but he stood his ground and refused their requests. As waves crashed around them and the winds grew more aggressive, the Captain murdered an opposing leader and heaved his lifeless body into the sea. Afterward, the vessel allegedly spoke to him, asking him if it was his intent to journey through those waters, to which Van Der Decken’s reply was careless as he stated that if he did, may he be eternally bound to roam the seas until Judgement day.
While there have been numerous sightings of the Flying Dutchman, there is one well-known case in 1880 by the future King George V. The Prince, his older brother Prince Albert Victor, and their tutor spotted the ship on their three-year journey off of the coast of Australia along the Bass Strait. One of the brothers (undetermined by which exactly) recorded their experience in a journal. They described it as being a “phantom ship all aglow” with a red light and stated they saw it at 4 a.m. He also stated after they arrived at the source of what they saw, that there were no remnants or evidence of a ship and that the night was ‘clear’ and the sea was ‘calm’.
Throughout the years, the legend of the Flying Dutchman and the ship itself has been shown in various pieces of literature (books, poems, or other written works), the first being ‘Travels in Various part of Europe, Asia and Africa during a series of thirty years and upward, written in 1790 by John MacDonald and another being ‘Scenes of Infancy‘ by John Leyden in 1803. It has also been utilized in paintings, one by Albert Ryder and is simply called The Flying Dutchman, now in the Delaware Art Museum. The media also has a hand in depicting the ghost ship in television shows like Scooby-Doo, Spongebob Squarepants, One Piece, Soul Eater, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Supernatural, and many more shows and movies, even in plays and theatre, like ‘The Flying Dutchman‘ opera by Richard Wagner. Basically, the ghost ship has been and is still used widely across various forms of entertainment and likely will for years to come.
Regardless of the eye witness account and numerous testimonies, there is a popular-known explanation to the reason why this phantom ship has been spotted throughout the past few centuries. It is known as Fata Morgana, a complex mirage (an optical illusion where ray lights bend to form a misplaced image in the sky or on the water in the distance) that is spotted in a narrow band along the ocean horizon. This occurrence can morph the original depiction into something slightly different or it can be completely unfamiliar, taking on numerous forms. It can either be inverted or it can look to be floating above the waters. Because it is typically caught in the distance, it can make the object appear ‘phantom-like’ or create a misty depiction. If there is an actual ship there though, its appearance can still be easily manipulated by Fata Morgana, so it can hard to tell which is real and which is just the mirage.
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