The Mary Celeste set sail for Genoa in Italy from New York on November 5, 1872 with a cargo of 1700 barrels of denatured alcohol. On December 4, the ship was spotted halfway between the Azores and the coast of Spain by the ship Dei Gratia.
When a boarding party was send to investigate, it was found out that the whole ship was deserted. What was strange is that there were no signs of violence discovered. In fact the ship was still carrying plenty of fresh water and food supply. The crew’s belongings lay undisturbed. Only the ship’s chronometer, sextant and the documents concerning the cargo were gone – along with the ship’s seven crewmen, Captain Benjamin Biggs, wife and two-year-old daughter.
The Flying Dutchman has often been sighted for the last 400 years, Sighting occur most frequently south of the Cape of Good Hope. The ship is said to be a messenger of bad omen at the sea. The man from whom the ship takes her name is often identified as Vanderdecken, a Dutch ship master of the 17th century. Legend says that, while rounding the Cape of Good Hope in the teeth of a gale, he swore before God he would enter Table Bay or be damned. His ship foundered and for his blasphemy he was condemned to sail those waters forever. In Wagner’s opera Der Fliegendew Hollander, Captain Vanderdecken is allowed ashore just once every seven years to seek a woman’s love that can redeem him.
Another story identifies the captain as Bernard Fokke, who has struck a bargain with the devil to reach the Indies in 90 days. For that he was condemned forever to sail the waters of the southern capes. The captain stood on the deck of the ship, counting off the centuries on his hour glass,
The legend ended when galleons stop sailing around the sea-lanes of the southern capes in the 1930’s.