Storm-stricken sailors haunted by fear of the Flying Dutchman


Tale of the 19th-century ghost ship that roamed Cape of Good Hope was accepted as fact by seafarers

As if storms at sea were not sufficiently dangerous 200 years ago, bad weather off the Cape of Good Hope held an additional terror: the Flying Dutchman. Blackwood’s Magazine gave the first detailed description of an encounter with this dangerous phantom in 1821.

The legend was that Vanderdecken, the captain of the Flying Dutchman, swore to reach Table Bay despite the storm winds, tacking and tacking again, if he had to sail until judgment day. The devil promptly cursed the ship to do just that. It was often reported in bad weather off the Cape, an obviously supernatural vessel in full sail when the wind was so strong other ships did not dare raise canvas.

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