Have you ever heard of the Flying Dutchman legend? Yes, perhaps! A legend is so well-known that it has been re-enacted in literature, opera, and even on the big screen.
But there is some truth to this legend; in fact, several sailors claimed to have seen the famed ship and her crew, which is what has kept this ship a mystery.
In European maritime tradition, the Flying Dutchman is a phantom ship cursed to sail forever; its presence to mariners is said to presage impending tragedy. Do you want to learn everything there is to know about this phantom ship? Curiosity has conducted extensive research, and today we provide you a summary of all we’ve learned about the mythical phantom ship Flying Dutchman.
The Flying Dutchman mythology and the ghost ship
The mythical ghost ship, Flying Dutchman, emerges on stormy nights in the middle of the sea, floating aimlessly since that is what it was doomed to do, and appears to tourists on the brink of the wreckage to remind them of its fate.
The Flying Dutchman will never reach a port; like Sisyphus ascending the hill in Greek mythology, this ship and its history are condemned to repeat themselves throughout the years. It’s an eternal curse that no one can break, and the ship will only live on in the eyes of those who stumble upon it adrift and then vanish.
A legend left incomplete
Hendrik Van der Decken was the commander of the ship that became known as the Flying Dutchman. Captain Hendrik was returning to Amsterdam from India in 1641 when he encountered a severe storm that sank the ship.
From this point on, legends differ; some claim that the ship was not destroyed and that they did not perish on that fateful night. Instead, Captain Hendrik struck a contract with the devil to rescue himself and his crew, and God cursed him as a result: he would be saved, but he would be unable to set foot on land, and his entire life would be spent at sea, roaming restlessly.
Others claim that it was Bernard Fokke, a sailor from the same century who was the fastest sailor of his day and was said to have struck a bargain with Lucifer himself. When he was no longer visible, it was supposed that he had been abducted by the devil. In any event, whether it’s Van der Decken or Fokke, unlike in Wagner’s opera, the Flying Dutchman has not achieved his redemption, therefore it’s presumed he’ll continue to cruise the seas, and any sailor may come across him one day.
And the ship will always be lost in the night, smack dab in the middle of the most ferocious storms. And everyone who crosses this dreadful ship will witness his own death coming, for the Dutch will only feast on red-hot iron and bile. There’s no mistake about it: it’s terrifying.
What science has to say
Science, ever eager to explain the unexplainable, has attempted to explain this myth via its advancements. Alternatively, while science has not expressly committed itself to the legend of the Flying Dutchman, it has attempted to explain sightings of ghost ships that sailors have recorded for centuries: ships that are seen as soon as they disappear.
Everything, according to science, is caused by light refraction phenomena known as Fata Morgana. This is similar to driving along a long road on a hot day and seeing the figures move or unfold on the horizon. Only in the case of ships does the light unfurl in the sea, giving the appearance that a boat is moving in the distance before quickly disappearing.
However, there is a problem with this idea that science does not address: most of the meetings that sailors have had with the legendary ship have occurred at night and during storms, which would invalidate this argument.
Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman
The mythology of the Flying Dutchman stretches back to the 18th century as a popular story, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that it was immortalized, in a Wagner opera. In fact, it is reported that Wagner nearly ran across the Flying Dutchman on a stormy trip to Paris that nearly ended in shipwreck, and that it was during the storm that he first heard about this ship.
This motivated Wagner to compose the great opera that would immortalize this narrative, not only because it was a magnificent composition, but also because it brought a myth that had previously belonged to sailors to all corners of European civilization. This opera, as well as many of Richard Wagner’s phrases, would be remembered for a long time.
Did you know there was a great legend? Would you desire to meet the Flying Dutchman someday? What would you do if you came across it? Leave your thoughts in the comments section; we look forward to reading them!