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The Flying Dutchman is a legendary ghost ship that can never make port, doomed to sail the oceans forever. The myth is likely to have originated from 17th-century nautical folklore. The oldest extant version dates to the late 18th century.Sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries reported the ship to be glowing with ghostly light. If hailed by another ship, the crew of the Flying Dutchman will try to send messages to land, or to people long dead. In ocean lore, the sight of this phantom ship is a portent of doom. 


The first reference in print to the ship appears in Chapter VI of A Voyage to Botany Bay (1795) (also known as A Voyage to New South Wales), attributed to George Barrington (1755–1804):[nb 1] Template:Quote The next literary reference, which introduces the motif of punishment for a crime, was in John Leyden (1775–1811): Scenes of Infancy (Edinburgh, 1803): Template:Quote 

Thomas Moore (1779–1852) in his poem Written on passing Dead-man's Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Late in the evening, September, 1804[1] places the vessel in the north Atlantic: "Fast gliding along, a gloomy bark / Her sails are full, though the wind is still, / And there blows not a breath her sails to fill." A footnote adds: "The above lines were suggested by a superstition very common among sailors, who call this ghost-ship, I think, 'the flying Dutch-man'." Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), a friend of John Leyden's, was the first to refer to the vessel as a pirate ship, writing in the notes to Rokeby; a poem (first published December 1812) that the ship was "originally a vessel loaded with great wealth, on board of which some horrid act of murder and piracy had been committed" and that the apparition of the ship "is considered by the mariners as the worst of all possible omens." According to some sources, the 17th century Dutch captain Bernard Fokke is the model for the captain of the ghost ship.[2] Fokke was renowned for the speed of his trips from the Netherlands to Java and was suspected of being in league with the Devil. The first version of the legend as a story was printed, in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine for May 1821,[3] which puts the scene as the Cape of Good Hope. This story introduces the name Captain Hendrick Vanderdecken for the captain and the motifs (elaborated by later writers) of letters addressed to people long dead being offered to other ships for delivery, but if accepted will bring misfortune; and the captain having sworn to round the Cape of Good Hope though it should take until the day of judgment. Template:Quote There have been many reported sightings in the 19th and 20th centuries. One was by Prince George of Wales, the future King George V. During his late adolescence, in 1880, with his elder brother Prince Albert Victor of Wales, he was on a three-year voyage with their tutor Dalton, temporarily shipped into Template:HMS after the damaged rudder in their original ship, the 4,000-tonne corvette Bacchante was repaired. Off the coast of Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton records: Template:Quote 

Explanations as an optical illusionEdit


Main article: MirageProbably the most credible explanation is a superior mirage or Fata Morgana seen at sea.[4] 
File:Superior mirage of the boats painting.jpg
Template:Quote Another optical effect, known as looming, occurs when rays of light are bent across different refractive indices. This could make a ship just off the horizon appear hoisted in the air.[5] 


In artworks and designEdit

The Flying Dutchman has been captured in paintings by Albert Ryder, now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., and by Howard Pyle, an artist famous for illustrations of pirates. Dutch artist Joyce Overheul also adapted the name of The Flying Dutchman onto her crochet pattern designs (The Flying Dutchman Crochet Design), resembling the similarity of her designs 'roaming' the world just like the ghost ship once did.  

In television series and mangaEdit

 The Flying Dutchman is a recurring character on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series Spongebob Squarepants, although he is drawn resembling a famous pirate, Edward Teach, best known as Blackbeard. In Eiichiro Oda's manga One Piece Vander Decken is Flying Dutchman's captain. In the 1967 Spider-man cartoon episode "Return Of The Flying Dutchman" the legend of the Flying Dutchman was used by Spider-man's enemy Mysterio to frighten villagers and plunder their wealth. In the 1976 episode of "Land of the Lost", the Marshalls discover the captain of a mysterious ship that appears in "the mist".  Later in the episode it is discovered that the ship is the Flying Dutchman. An episode of "Night Gallery," hosted by Rod Serling, features a shipwrecked survivor who claims he is a Flying Dutchman.  He appears to the crews of several famously doomed ships before they sank such as the Titanic and the Lucitania. 

In filmEdit

 The story was dramatised in the 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, starring James Mason (who plays the Dutch Captain Hendrick van der Zee) and Ava Gardner (who plays Pandora). In this version, the Flying Dutchman is a man, not a ship. The two-hour long film, scripted by its director Albert Lewin, sets the main action on the Mediterranean coast of Spain during the summer of 1930. Centuries earlier the Dutchman had killed his wife, wrongly believing her to be unfaithful. Providence condemned him to roam the seas until he found the true meaning of love. In the only plot device taken from earlier versions of the story, once every seven years the Dutchman is allowed ashore for six months to search for a woman who will love him enough to die for him, releasing him from his curse, and he finds her in Pandora. In Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films, the ship made its first appearance in Dead Man's Chest (2006) under the command of the fictional captain, Davy Jones. The story and attributes of the ship were inspired by the actual Flying Dutchman of nautical lore. 

In literatureEdit

 The 1797–98 poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, contains a similar account of a ghost ship, which may have been influenced by the tale of the Flying Dutchman.[6][7] Another adaptation was The Flying Dutchman on Tappan Sea by Washington Irving (1855), in which the captain is named Ramhout van Dam. Irving had already used the story (based on Moore's poem) in his Bracebridge Hall (1822). Hedvig Ekdal describes visions of the Flying Dutchman from the books she reads in the attic in Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck" (1884) This story was adapted in the English melodrama The Flying Dutchman; or the Phantom Ship: a Nautical Drama, in three acts (1826)[nb 2] by Edward Fitzball (1792–1873) and the novel The Phantom Ship (1839)[nb 3] by Frederick Marryat. This in turn was later adapted as Het Vliegend Schip (The Flying Ship) by the Dutch clergyman, A.H.C. Römer. In Marryat's version, Terneuzen, in the Netherlands, is described as the home of the captain, who is called Van der Decken (of the decks). 

The Edgar Allan Poe short story MS. Found in a Bottle (1833) recounts a story of a shipwreck survivor who finds himself on an ancient ship with an aged and listless crew. The descriptions of the ship mirror the Flying Dutchman legend. British author Brian Jacques wrote a trilogy of fantasy/young adult novels concerning a young boy and his dog who were cast off from the ship. The first novel was titled Castaways of the Flying Dutchman and was first published by Puffin Books in 2001. The second was titled The Angel's Command and was released by Puffin in 2003. The third and final book of the trilogy was titled Voyage of Slaves and was released by Puffin in 2006. In the novel The Flying Dutchman (2013) by the Russian novelist Anatoly Kudryavitsky, the ghost ship rebuilds itself from an old barge abandoned on the bank of a big Russian river, and offers itself as a refuge to a persecuted musicologist.  

The Flying Dutchman's Ghost Captain Joost van Straaten was summoned by Mephisto Silver Surfer Vol 1 8 and promised freedom from limbo if he destroyed the Silver Surfer. Warped by Mephisto's dark magic, the Flying Dutchman's Ghost was now stronger and had better weaponry, after pursuing the Silver Surfer through the city, they eventually met and battled, the Silver Surfer prevailed due to the Flying Dutchman's Ghost betraying Mephisto, The Silver Surfer shed a tear for the tortured and trapped soul of the Flying Dutchman's Ghost, and in turn he was released from the bondage of Limbo

The comic fantasy Flying Dutch by Tom Holt is a version of the Flying Dutchman story. In this version the Dutchman is not a ghost ship, but crewed by immortals who can only visit land once every seven years, when the unbearable smell that is a side-effect of the elixir of life wears off. 

In the Maveric Universe,The Flying Dutchman,is the Captain Heronimus Von Stratton,along himself and the crew of the doomed pirate vessel The HMSS Black Albatross,are curse to forever sail the endless skies of space,in search of Neitherweird-a floating city of Atlantis,forever moving across the void of temporal space,just out of reach of the captain and crew of the doomed ship.  

In opera and theatreEdit

 Richard Wagner's opera, The Flying Dutchman (1843) is adapted from an episode in Heinrich Heine's satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski) (1833), in which a character attends a theatrical performance of The Flying Dutchman in Amsterdam. Heine had first briefly used the legend in his Reisebilder: Die Nordsee (Pictures of Travel: the North Sea) (1826), which simply repeats from Blackwood's Magazine the features of the vessel being seen in a storm and sending letters addressed to persons long since dead. In his 1833 elaboration, it was once thought that it may have been based on Fitzball's play, which was playing at the Adelphi Theatre in London, but the run had ended on 7 April 1827 and Heine did not arrive in London until the 14th.[nb 4] Heine was the first author to introduce the chance of salvation through a woman's devotion and the opportunity to set foot on land every seven years to seek a faithful wife. This imaginary play, unlike Fitzball's play, which has the Cape of Good Hope location, in Heine's account is transferred to the North Sea off Scotland. Wagner's opera was similarly planned to take place off the coast of Scotland, although during the final rehearsals he transferred the action to another part of the North Sea, off Norway.So his now-famous opera was *not* originally The Flying Dutchman, but really a Flying Norwegian. He later changed the title to Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), making the character conform better to earlier traditions. This was no simple, easy task: Wagner had to change laboriously, by hand, every one of the innumerable Norwegian references in his libretto to Dutchman.Template:Citation needed 

In musicEdit

In 1949 RCA Victor, inventors of the single 45 RPM format, released as one of their first 45s a recording of the legend in song in bandleader Hugo Winterhalter's excellent The Flying Dutchman, sung as a sea shantyJethro Tull refer to the Flying Dutchman on their 1979 album Stormwatch.    Tori Amos refers to the Flying Dutchman in her 1992 single B side Flying Dutchman, the A side being China. Re-released in 2012 on her album Gold Dust and performed on The Gold Dust Orchestral Tour. Jimmy Buffett refers to the Flying Dutchman in his 1995 song Remittance Man on the album Barometer SoupRufus Wainwright refers to the Flying Dutchman in his song Flying Dutchman on the album PosesCarach Angren wrote a concept album about the Flying Dutchman entitled Death Came Through a Phantom ShipGod Dethroned, a Dutch death metal band, featured the song "Soul Capture 1562" about the Flying Dutchman on their album Bloody Blasphemy. In the 1969 Classic self-titled album by The Band, The Flying Dutchman was referenced in the song "Rockin' Chair 

In Computer GamesEdit

The Flying Dutchman is a cheat unit in the original Age of Empires. It is a ship that can travel on both land and sea. 


  1. Published in Epistles, Odes, and other poems (London, 1806)
  2. Eyers, Jonathan (2011). Don't Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions. A&C Black, London, UK. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2.
  3. The author has been identified as John Howison (fl. 1821–59) of the East India Company. See Alan Lang Strout: A Bibliography of Articles in Blackwood's Magazine 1817–1825 (1959, p. 78).
  4. Round-about Rambles in Lands of Fact and Fancy by Frank R. Stockton
  5. Template:Harvnb
  6. Template:Cite journal
  7. ==Further reading==

External linksEdit

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