The Flying Dutchman
Since Feb 1, 2004

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The Legend of the Flying Dutchman

Several hundred years ago, there lived a Dutch sea captain of fearsome temperament, by the name of Willem van der Decken. He was a staunch seaman, and would have his own way in spite of the weather. His ship sailed through the stormiest seas, and fared the hardest routes. For all that, never a sailor under him had reason to complain; though how it was on board with them nobody knows.

It is told that Van der Decken was on his way to the Dutch East Indies when a terrible storm struck the Cape of Good Hope. The first mate gave the captain the advice to wait for the storm to pass. But the captain went mad and in his rage he threw the mate overboard together with his Bible. He took the helm himself and shouted "Even if God would let me sail to Judgement Day, I will pass the Cape!" After he spoke the storm disappeared and the sea became calm. Then there was a voice from above: "Willem van der Decken, thou shall sail untill Judgement Day!"

So, the Flying Dutchman became the curse of the seas. Any ship that met him became a ship of ill fortune. No sailor would sail on her, any trader would refuse to deal in it's wares. And if any ship came within hailing distance, the Dutchman's crew would shout and call to them, begging them to deliver messages to loved ones long dead. Whenever there are heavy storms, mortal sailors will see black ship, sailing on until the Day of Judgement.

One true eye-witness to the Dutchman was Prince George of Wales (later King George V). In 1880, he was on a three-year voyage as a midshipman aboard the 4,000-tonne corvette HMS Bacchante. Off Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, the Prince recorded:
"At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars, and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her, including others from the other ships in the squadron, the Cleopatra and the Tourmaline... At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms."
But even in the midst of despair, The Dutchman was left with just one small hope. The captain could he be released from his avowed curse and eternal cruise through the love of a woman, one who would love him beyond death; and he might come ashore once each seven years, for one day, to find her.

So now, condemned to travel the seas forever, making landfall once every seven years in a hopeless search for salvation, the Flying Dutchman can only find eternal peace in the arms of a loving woman.