The Ghost Ship Flying Dutchman

The Mystery:

The legend of the Flying Dutchman dates back to the 17th century. It’s about a ghost ship that sails the deep ocean, full of lost souls who can never make port. According to the story, the Flying Dutchman sank in a terrible storm, and since that day it has drifted aimlessly (because apparently when ships are killed they also become ghosts). If you see the Flying Dutchman, it’s a sign that a terrible storm is coming to make ghosts of you and your ship, too.

As implied by the name, it actually flies. That’s how you know it’s a ghost ship and not just some regular ship you’ve mistaken for one — it’s the one that’s hovering above the water. No non-ghost boat can do that.

“Phew! It’s just a regular rotting ship haunted by the anguished souls of the dead.”

The Solution:

Sailors who report seeing the Flying Dutchman have kept this legend alive for centuries because, come on, it’s a flying boat that predicts storms. How many of them can possibly be out there?

Turns out this all makes perfect sense. No, seriously. They’re just falling victim to an optical illusion called fata morgana. It’s a form of mirage that plays with light and moisture in a way that can and often will cause faraway ships to appear as all sorts of terrifying apparitions that float well above sea level. The Flying Dutchman is heavily associated with the areas that have conditions ideal for fata morgana mirages, such as the North Sea (the phenomenon is most likely to occur in colder water temperatures).

Apparently, 17th century sailors aren’t the best way to objectively assess nautical phenomena.

But what about the storms? How many optical illusions do you know that can control the weather? Actually, it’s the other way around. Guess what kind of atmospheric conditions are perfect for creating the fata morgana mirage? If you guessed “the ones right before a storm hits,” you win 12 Cracked points.

Cracked points are redeemable only for shotgun shells and expired peanut butter.


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usman hashmi

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4 thoughts on “The Ghost Ship Flying Dutchman”

  1. There is an excellent old movie with Ava Gardener and James Mason (I think I’m right) about the Flying Dutchman. I remember watching it when I was a kid many years ago. It might still be around on DVD. After reading this I’m going to look for it. Thanks!

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