On October 3 1955 the yacht Joyita left Samoa to take medical supplies to an island 300 km south. It was her last voyage.
A number of Samoans claimed they saw a fast moving ship, yet without lights or sound from any engine, following the Joyita. On previous occasions passengers and captain had also allegedly seen a 15th century galleon.
On November 10 1955 the Joyita was found north of Fiji, listing to port, her 16 crew and 9 passengers missing.
Perhaps the most persistent and famous ghostship story is that of the "Flying Dutchman". According to legend anyone who saw this ship would suffer bad luck, even death.
On July 11 1881 the future King
at that time a 16-year-old midshipman on a British warship,
claimed observing the Flying Dutchman:
The name "Flying Dutchman" may be derived from a 16th century incident. A Dutch East-Indiaman captained by Hendrik van der Decken left Amsterdam for the East Indies but disappeared near the Cape of Good Hope.
French author Augustin Jal in Scenes
la Vie Maritime (1832) described a Dutch captain getting drunk
a gale near the Cape of Good Hope and laughing at the terror of his
God approached the captain and said:
Other accounts, similar, but with variations of detail were:
- Vanderdecken's Message Home in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine May 1821;
- The Flying Dutchman (1828) Edward Fitzball;
- Flying Dutchman by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832);
- The Phantom Ship (1839) Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848);
- Der Fliedende Hollander 1843 an opera by composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883);
- The Death Ship (1888) William Clark Russell.
Perhaps Part III of the poem The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Colleridge (1773-1834) is based on the Flying Dutchman legend. In most sightings of the Dutchman we're told there "was not a breath of wind" and yet the ship moved with "incredible speed".
Similarly in Colleridge's poem
Some Dutchman variations include themes of gold and/or murder. In some the captain repents his evil ways. In some stories the Dutchman changes appearance from a four-masted galleon into a schooner or brig and even turns invisible. Some stories have the captain playing dice with the devil. In some stories the Dutchman's captain deliberately lures other ships onto rocks.
Ships which went to their doom supposedly after encountering the Flying Dutchman include:
- The General Grant, May 1866, at Disappointment Bay.
- The Hannah Regan off Okinawa in the late 1890s.
Admiral Doenitz, Commander of
To prove that something does not exist is often very difficult. The onus in every such case is on the believer to present decisive evidence.
The Flying Dutchman legend has so much variation and so much hearsay and so little hard fact that it is simply unbelievable. Doubtless, ships often do pass each other on foggy nights or in conditions when mirages form. Perhaps sailors on deck at night sometimes dream or even make stories up.