Amsterdam Hotels Articles

July 12, 2010

The legend of the Flying Dutchman

Of all the sea myths, it seems that the Flying Dutchman is one of the most popular. While the name “Flying Dutchman” is actually in reference to the captain of the ship, many people have come to know the ship and crew by that name. In the legend of the Flying Dutchman, the ship was actually called by a different name.

Unfortunately, as legends do, the story was repeated and transitioned to fit the teller and the name of the ship was lost to history. Even the captain of the ship seems to be in doubt as there are three names used for him.

The first name is Captain Faulkenburg who was believed to have made a bet against the devil. He is doomed to sail the seven seas in his ghost ship and play dice with the devil. The next possible Captain is the Dutch captain Bernard Fokke. Bernard was renown for his timely journeys, his speed greater than anyone else of the time. He was believed to have made a pact with the devil to achieve his speed. The final captain, one Hendrick Van der Decken, is the first name that appeared in print. The Magazine that published the article on the ghost ship, and the captain, was Blackwood’s Magazine, in 1821. The article also alludes to one of the few locations where the ship could have been built: Amsterdam.

The legend tells that the captain of his ship, whomever he was, knew that a storm was brewing while he was trying to make his voyage to Cape Good Hope. He then challenged the storm and even the gods. He swore that he would make the coast or he would be damned to sail the seven seas for eternity. He lost the ill-made wager and he and his crew were condemned to sail the oceans.

That story was not that common until the play “The Flying Dutchman” (Der fliegende Hollnder) was compiled by Richard Wagner in 1843. It is assumed that he heard the story. He based the captain off the name Hendrick Van der Decken. Wagner first said that a sea crossing that he had made to London had inspired him. Later, he admitted to having heard the legends of the Flying Dutchman and retold it.

After the opera, however, the legend of the Flying Dutchman spread throughout Europe, France, and even to America. Because of this story, more tales concerning ships started to appear. Some of them supposedly taking place before the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

Then came the famous sightings of the ghost ship. The Princes George and Albert Victor of Wales and their tutor reported one of the most famous sightings. They were aboard a ship called the Bacchante, which was traveling a route that made them pass the Australian Coast. It was during the pass that Dalton, the tutor, reported that the Flying Dutchman crossed the path of the Bacchante.

The explanations of the ship’s sightings were thought of as hallucinations or a delusion created by the heat. That theory never really was believed and was viewed as weak for centuries. Another was said that the crew was dreaming, which doesn’t explain for the aware and awake members who kept watch. A third theory claimed that the crews were diving too much into liquors like rum. The newest theory concerns the reflections of a ship in the sky. This is caused by moisture in the air. The moisture is believed to be able to expand and reflect the image of a ship that is some distance away and make it appear closer.

In the end, there is no real way to know what the Flying Dutchman really is. At least, not until you experience it for yourself. There is too much about our planet that is not known or understood fully. The Flying Dutchman is just another thing to add to that list.

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