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Phantoms Of The Sea - 1. Introduction
Text: James T. Quain
Scanned By: Ursula Ansell
Phantom or ghost vessels, be they boats or ships, relate to tragic events at sea. They may appear beforehand as a warning or afterwards as a commemoration of the loss. Stories of phantom vessels abound on both sides of the Atlantic and indeed worldwide. The best known phantom ship is the Flying Dutchman, whose captain was condemned to sail the seas for eternity, and the legend of which was used by Richard Wagner in his famous opera. Of the many ships lost on the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast, some did not rest and a number of ghost ships have been sighted. "The Phantom Ship" of New Haven, Connecticut is celebrated in verse by H.W. Longfellow. When a ship sailed from the port in 1647 and disappeared without trace, the people prayed to the lord for a sign. In due course a phantom ship sailed up the harbour. As the people watched, the masts and rigging seemed to be blown off and the ship vanished. Thus did the people learn of the tragic end of their ship. Stories of phantom ships on fire are usually American. The Long Island Sound in 1738 the palatine struck Block Island enticed, by wreckers who set fire to the ship after looting it. Every year, according to tradition, the spectacle of a ship on fire is visible to the Island's inhabitants. The story was told by John G. Whittier, the Quaker poet of Massachusetts, in his poem "The Palatine". Phantom boats and ships are also known in Ireland and are mentioned by Seán Ó Suilleabháin in his handbook of Irish Folklore. The chief of the Ó Byrnes occasionally returns to Bray Head in a phantom bark.
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