Flying Dutchman Myth in Red Sunrise | World Anvil

Flying Dutchman


The Flying Dutchman (Dutch: Vliegende Hollander) is supposed to be a 17th century Dutch spiegelretourschip from the VOC. Usually portrayed as a three masted fully rigged ship, flying all sails. In a raging storm with dark clouds behind her, her sails lite by red light. Forever rounding the Cape.

The Noord-Nieuwland in Table Bay, 1762 by Anonymous (18th century) via Wikimedia commons


The Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship that is doomed to attempt to round the Cape of Good Hope for ever but never making it.

Willem van der Decken

The Dutch Captain Willem van der Decken insisted to set sail from Cape Town on Easter morning 1676 with bad weather raging around the Cape for weeks already, it was of course a race of honour which captain would sail the fastest to Batavia from Amsterdam. The captain's wife Caterina, who sailed with the ship, and the crew opposed the plans, but the captain set sail anyway. After having a hard time trying to round the Cape, his crew once again begged the captain to return to Table bay and wait out the storms. After which the captain threw the first mate overboard, and shouted: "God or the Devil, I will round the Cape even if I have to sail to judgement day!"

The devil took the captain up on that promise and cursed the ship, the dead crew forever sailing in a storm never making it around the Cape. Sometimes they hail another ship asking them to take letters home to family members who died ages ago.

Barend Fockesz

The tyrannical captain Barend Fockesz or Bernard Fokke (alternate spelling) drove his crew to and over the edge to be the fasted ship to reach the Far East in 1678 he managed to do the trip in three months and four days. Proven by the date stamps of the letters he carried for the Governor-general of the Dutch East Indies.

In his owner a statue of him in Frisian traditional costume (captain Fockesz originated from Fryslân) was erected on a small island in front of the harbour of Batavia. This statue was destroyed by the English in 1808.

His fast trips fed the superstition that captain Fockesz had made a pact with the devil, who lived on the ship as a black dog. The pact was that the captain would have favourable winds for seven years. And when his ship was lost somewhere, this only fed the rumours. This led to his name being connected to the Flying Dutchman.

VOC records

According to the VOC records, there never was a ship named Vliegende Hollander. In 1697 the VOC lost two ships because of storms in Table Bay, the Oosterland en Waddinxveen. Due to Northerly winter storms rolling into Table bay.

In 1722 the Amie, Lakenman, Zoetigheid, Schotse Lorrendraaier, Rotterdam and Standvastigheid where wrecked on the same day, June 15.

In 1728 the Stabroek and Middenrak where lost on July 3. But it was only after 1737 with the loss of the Iepenrode, Flora, Paddenburg, Buis, Duinbeek, Goudriaan, Rodenrijs and Westerwijk, all fully loaded, with totalling over 1 million Gulden of cargo value, on the return journey from the Far East that it becomes forbidden to anchor in Table Bay during the winter month, but the False bay had to be used as an anchorage instead.


There have been a lot of sightings over the years, most of the recorded ones in the 19th and 20th century, but a fair few of 18th century sources speak of the ship too.

Common things among all the stories: Stormy seas, all sails flying, red lights or red sails, even darker clouds behind the ship, crossing the bow, signalling for messages, sudden disappearance without a trace, multiple eyewitnesses on the same ship seeing the Flying Dutchman at the same time.

One famous sighting was from Prince George of Wales the future King George V. Who sighted the Flying Dutchman 4 AM. July 11th, 1880, together with 13 other crew members of the HMS Inconstant.

"It's bad weather tonight Captain." Jan de Jongh mentioned while they where sitting on the aftdeck of the Sunset Dawn.

-"What do you mean by that?" Rose responded, sensing he was not worried about their anchor arangement. They where safely behind the hook, for a few weeks already.

"Well it'd be a perfect opportunity to impersonate the Flying Dutchman." Jan spoke softly.

-"No. The risk is to great, the Coast Guard is always watching from the RADAR station. We will be found out, and we have to get those damn stones back." Rose answerd, sounding like a smart-ass teacher. She hated when that voice came out of her.

"You're right. I just wish we where out there." Jan waved his hand to the open ocean that lured in their view.
-"You and me both Jan, you and me both."

After a few moments of silence.

-"When those stones are onboard, we'll take the first one we see." Rose said softly.

Jan nodded, while they watched the sunset.


Author's Notes

In response to: Summer Camp 2021, prompt 8: A myth about a mountain, lake, cave or other landmark.
Source for VOC data:

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Jul 13, 2021 13:57 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

Oh I love the idea of Rose and her crew impersonating the Flying Dutchman! I loved learning more about the legends, great article :D

To see what I am up to: World Ember 2023 list of articles.
Jul 13, 2021 14:03 by Bart Weergang

Thank you Amélie. Maybe when they leave Cape Town, :D