Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Ghost Ships of Legend...

A noble (and did I mention handsome?) 17th century sea captain, Wolfaert Dircksen Van Ness, featured in my latest novel, Heart of the Storm, inspired me to write about "Ghost Ships..."  

Painting of the Flying Dutchman by Charles Temple Dix (1838-1873)

The Flying Dutchman...almost everyone recognizes the name. But did you know the moniker refers to the Captain of the ship, and not the ship itself?

According to legend, Captain Hendrick Van Der Decken set his course for Amsterdam. During the voyage he encountered a fierce, tumultuous storm while rounding the Cape of Good Hope. The tempest threatened to dash the ship to pieces and end the lives of all aboard. Despite calls from the crewman to turn the ship about, he swore an oath to round the Cape “even if it took him ‘til Doomsday.” 

While giant waves hammered the ship, Van Der Decken smoked his pipe, quaffed his ale, and sang obscene songs. In a last ditch effort to save their lives, the crew mutinied. Enraged, the captain took hold of his pistol, killed the chief mutineer and tossed his body into the sea. In that same instant, the clouds parted, and from the heavens, a roaring voice accused him of obstinance.

In reply, the good captain said, “I never asked for a peaceful voyage. Indeed, I never asked for anything. So away with you before I shoot you as well.” Hendrick aimed his weapon toward the heavens. Yet, before he had the chance to use it, the pistol exploded in his hand. In that same instant, he was cursed to eternally sail the oceans with naught but dead men for his crew. They’d eat nothing but red hot iron and instead of ale, they’d only have gall to quench their thirst. Worst of all? The ship would never make port or know a single moment of peace.

Since that fateful day, many reputable and experienced sailors have spotted The Flying Dutchman, including Prince Albert Victor of Wales and Prince George of Wales, to name a few. Several U Boat crews reported sighting The Flying Dutchman off the Cape Peninsula as well. Then, on the 26th of January, 1923, four seamen sighted the Dutchman—or at least they believe they saw the Dutchman. At precisely 12:15 A.M. they saw a strange light out in the distance. With the aid of binoculars they made out what they believed to be the hull of a luminous ship with two masts. An eerie mist, created the sails. As the ghostly ship neared their position, the vessel suddenly disappeared...

The Ghost Ship by John Conroy Hutcheson

And then we have the Lady Lovibond. As the story goes, Simon Reed took his lovely bride aboard this ship on the 13th of February in the year 1748. He and Annette were bound for a honeymoon in Portugal. But as fate would have it, Reed's first mate, a man by the name of John Rivers was deeply in love with Annette as well. During the voyage his jealousy turned to rage. His fury led him to murder the helmsman. He took the wheel and steered the ship toward the unforgiving, Goodwin Sands. These deadly shoals have claimed over two thousand ships, the Lady Lovibond among them. Everyone aboard perished that day. 

Exactly fifty years to the day, two different ships saw the Lovibond's phantom, sailing toward the Goodwin Sands. Then, fifty years after that, on February 13, 1848, two local fisherman reported seeing a ship crash upon the sounds. Lifeboats were immediately dispatched, yet upon arrival, not a single piece of debris could be found. The sightings didn't end there. Once again, this time in 1948, Captain Bull Prestwick saw the Lovibond...or at least her ghost...He said she looked real, but for the eerie green glow...

There are several other ghost ships sailing the waters... We have the Carrol A. Deering, The Young Teazer, The Octavius and of course, the infamous Mary Celeste. Lest I bore you to tears with too lengthy a post,  I'll save those for a later day.

So tell me, if you were planning a cruise, which ship would you book passage on? (Do remember, the cuisine on the Dutchman really sucks...)


  1. I love stories of ghost ships! I've been eyeing up a few for a Mythical Monday post, but had no clue the Flying Dutchman referred to name of the captain and not the ship (Ugh! I would not want that guy as a tour guide).

    I've also heard any ghost ship in general referred to as "a Flying Dutchman" where the name has become a generic term for spectral vessels.

    If I was going on a ghostly cruise, it had better be with a dashing heroic captain :)

    Another great post, Debbie! Shadow of the Witte Wieven is going on my TBR list. I'm off to grab a copy from Amazon now!

  2. Mae, you are just the cutest thing! Should you board a ghost sip, here's hoping the dashing, heroic captain is at her helm! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I would want to be on the Witte Wieven with that captain any day.....That would be my first choice....

  4. Well, who wouldn't! Thanks're the best!