My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The sea is a mystery to wonder; one never knows when the placid sea will turn into a tempest of mad waves with gale force wind. The sea also brings with its spectral vessels manned by phantom crew and its uncanny creatures, all of which still exist in folktales, legends, and even some nautical documents. This book by Jack Strange consists of these tales of the sea he has gleaned from exhaustive research on such wondrous topics that are all the more entertaining and stimulating.
As someone who is very keen on the tales of haunted ships and their phantom crew, I was immediately drawn to the chapters of the haunted ghosts and the ill-fated vessels that had been cursed to sail on until the end of the world. Take the case of the American Joshua Slocum, the first man who sailed around the world by himself on Spray in the 19th century. While he was struggling to fight with all his might against the furious tempest and high waves on Spray, he was helped by a spectral crew who introduced himself as a member of Pinta, one of the ships commanded by Christopher Columbus in expedition to the New World. After Spray got back on the track, then the benevolent ghost vanished into the air with a smile.
Ghost vessels always pique people’s curiosity, such as Griffon & Edmund Fitzgerald haunting the Great Lakes between Canada and the U.S, not to mention the infamous “Flying Dutchman” and “Lady Lovibond ,” born of the death of jilted lovers. One might say that all these phantom ships are result of optical illusion, which is a reasonable speculation. However, the case of U-65, the Imperial German Navy submarine of the First World War is based on official naval documents in which a ghost of German officer on the deck of the submarine standing with his arms folded was frequently recorded both by the British and the U.S. naval forces during the war. I wonder if it was this optical illusion that made all of those soldiers, including the officers of high intellectual capacities and excellent health, spot the ghost German officer.
The book also has a whole chapter devoted to “The Crimp,” a kind of boarding house where unscrupulous masters or mistresses supplied seamen to ships without their pay. Also, there are chapters about mermaids and various sea monsters reported by seamen. Mr. Strange also lets us know that in Scotland, Thursdays were regarded as a lucky day for launching a new ship.
This book by Mr. Strange perks up the reader’s imaginations further to the realm of terra incognita on uncharted seas where mermaids are swimming merrily and the Octavious, the ghost ship with her frozen icy crew is adrift off the Western coast of Greenland. It bestows pleasure of being familiar with the peculiarities of the sea without scaring the reader with mind-boggling horrors or preposterous hyperbole of the absurdities. Hence, a heartfelt kudos to Mr. Strange’s extensive research of the maritime tales made possible by his passion for all things unique and strange -as it is by his name and nature.