The Flying Dutchman | South China Morning Post
  • Tue
  • Jan 27, 2015
  • Updated: 9:11pm

The Flying Dutchman

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am

Just in time for Halloween, a spooky legend from Holland shows that being arrogant and selfish, and not listening to the advice of others, can have dreadful consequences.

The storm blew in from nowhere, as storms do in the dangerous waters off Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Captain Van der Decken stood on the bridge of his vessel watching the sea all around begin to churn into hundreds of black whirlpools.

He shouted to the crew to remain in their positions, but the sailors on the deck below ignored his command and ran for cover as the full force of the tempest broke.

The waves rose up like mountains then crashed down onto the ship's deck. Van der Decken clung onto the wooden wheel in front of him with all the strength he could gather.

'Pick up that rope,' he screamed to a sailor who was clinging desperately onto the bridge. 'Fasten me to the wheel! Tie the rope around me! Quickly, fool! Quickly!'

Staggering forward, the man managed to wrap the rope around the ship's wheel then around the bent body of Van der Decken. Then, a massive wave crashed onto the deck, carrying the sailor into the boiling ocean.

Van der Decken lifted up his head and screamed something into the storm. The wind roared like thunder, and blew with such fury that the ship's mainsail was torn into tatters and disappeared into the night.

The glare of lightning now came thick and fast, followed by peals of thunder as the storm reached its peak.

Van der Decken howled curses and threats into the night as the sea, rising high, picked up his ship like a storm-tossed bird. The ocean was a battle zone, and Van der Decken was determined the storm would not win.

He had been warned. The previous night, in port, the ship's mate told him he had heard locals talking about a big storm coming within the next couple of days.

Van der Decken had studied the waters off the treacherous tip of Africa at maritime college and he knew how to deal with anything they threw at him. This was the first time that he was commanding a vessel from Holland to the eastern Spice Islands and nothing was going to stop him.

The shipping company was expecting great returns from Van der Decken as a captain, and he was determined to deliver.

Suddenly, the storm became fiercer.

'Captain! We have to turn around and head back to port. It is foolhardy to sail further into the storm. We are sailing to our deaths if we go on,' the ship's mate said. 'Everyone on board thinks we should go back to port. The sailors have sailed these waters before. They know what can happen. You should take notice of them.'

Van der Decken raised his pistol and shot the man dead. As the gun exploded, the sea grew red, the clouds parted and a shadowy figure appeared out of the fog on the quarterdeck.

'You are an arrogant man, Van der Decken. You think you know everything, but you know nothing. You should listen to what others more expert than you have to say.'

Van der Decken raised his pistol and fired again, but the bullet passed straight through the apparition standing in front of him.

'From today onwards, you will sail the seas until the end of time. You will have no crew. Your ship will never reach port and you will never again know happiness. Your arrogance has condemned you to haunt the oceans forever more,' spoke the ghostly figure.

The Dutchman's ship suddenly shattered into a million pieces, and the sea was still.

Out of the night, a ghostly vessel appeared with a pale figure at the wheel. It was Van der Decken! The ship sailed into the fog, and is now only seen by sailors about to meet their doom.

No ship's captain sailing around the Cape of Good Hope ever wants to see The Flying Dutchman loom out of the mist. To encounter this ship means only one thing. Certain death!

Comprehension

1 Where is the Dutchman's ship when the storm breaks?

2 The night before, what had the ship's mate advised Van der Decken to do?

3 How did he respond to the warning?

4 As the storm gets worse, what further advice is Van der Decken given?

5 Van der Decken ignores all advice offered to him. What consequences does this have?

6 Why do ships sailing around the Cape of Good Hope fear seeing the Flying Dutchman?

Answers:

1 The ship is sailing round the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa.

2 He had advised the captain not to set sail the next day because a terrible storm was expected.

3 Captain Van der Decken ignored this advice.

4 During the storm, Van der Decken is repeatedly advised to turn his vessel around.

5 The ship is smashed to pieces, and Van der Decken is condemned to command a ghost ship until the end of time.

6 If sailors encounter The Flying Dutchman, they know their ship will sink and they will die.

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