Bodem stempels

I came. I saw. I clicked.


Versions of the story are numerous in nautical folklore and are related to earlier medieval legends such as that of Captain Falkenburg who was cursed to ply the Nort Sea until Judgment Day, playing at dice with the Devil for his own soul. The first reference in print to the ship itself appears to be in Chapter VI of George Barrington's Voyage to Botany Bay (1795):

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.[1]

According to some sources, the 17th century Dutch captain Bernard Fokke is the model for the captain of the ghost ship. Fokke was renowned for the uncanny speed of his trips from Holland to Java and was suspected of being in league with the devil to achieve this speed.

However, the first version to appear in print seems to be that which featured in Blackwood's Magazine for May 1821. This puts the scene of the action as the Cape o GooD Hope: the 'Flying Dutchman' is a dead man on a ship.

She was an Amsterdam vessel and sailed from port seventy years ago. Her masterís name was Captain Hendrik 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: 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 to 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.

There have been many reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman on the high seas in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the most famous was by Prince George of Wales (later King George V of the United Kingdom). During his late adolescence, in 1880, along with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales (sons of the future King Edward VII), he was on a three-year-long voyage with their tutor Dalton aboard the 4000-tonne corvette HMS Bacchante. Off the coast of Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton records:

"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."