Ships Sail on Tuvaluan Silver Coins|
Tuvalu launched the first two Ships That Never Sailed in mid-May, the initial offering of what could well be an intriguing series.
The first dollar down the slipway recalls Nantucket whaler Pequod skippered by the despotic Captain Ahab, obsessed in his quest to find and kill the legendary white whale, Moby Dick. The sole survivor and narrator, Ishmael, describes the ship as one …
… of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old fashioned claw-footed look about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all four oceans, her old hull’s complexion was darkened like a French grenadier’s, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts ... stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Beckett bled. But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and marvelous features, pertaining to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed ... She was appareled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All round, her unpaneled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the Sperm Whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe ... A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.
Moby-Dick, Chapter 16
The Pequod was named for the Pequot Native American tribe, exterminated during the conquest of New England. The name links the tribe’s fate with that of the ship and her crew.
The second dollar is for a ship with a strong Australian connection, the legendary ghost of the sea, The Flying Dutchman doomed to sail the oceans forever.
The first reference to this craft is credited to George Barrington in his 1795 account of A Voyage to Botany Bay:
I had often heard of the superstition of sailors respecting apparitions, but had never given much credit to the report; it seems that some years since a Dutch man-of-war was lost off the Cape of Good Hope, and every soul on board perished; her consort weathered the gale, and arrived soon after at the Cape. Having refitted, and returning to Europe, they were assailed by a violent tempest nearly in the same latitude. In the night watch some of the people saw, or imagined they saw, a vessel standing for them under a press of sail, as though she would run them down: one in particular affirmed it was the ship that had foundered in the former gale, and that it must certainly be her, or the apparition of her; but on its clearing up, the object, a dark thick cloud, disappeared. Nothing could do away the idea of this phenomenon on the minds of the sailors; and, on their relating the circumstances when they arrived in port, the story spread like wild-fire, and the supposed phantom was called the Flying Dutchman.
One candidate for ship’s captain is Bernard Fokke, claimed to be in league with the devil as the sole way of explaining the speed of his trips between The Netherlands and Batavia.
Among reported sightings is that of Prince George of Wales, later King George V in 1880. During a voyage in the HMS Inconstant off the coast of Australia, between Melbourne and Sydney, the Duke’s tutor recorded:
At 4 am the Flying Dutchman crossed our bows. A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the midst of which light the masts, spars and sails of a brig 200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her ... At 10.45 am the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.
Both coins have been struck from 1 ounce (31.135 grams) of .999 fine silver on 40.60 mm diameter flans. Both have a mintage of 3,000. Both are available from Downies. Snail mail: 4533 MacArthur Blvd., #888, Newport Beach, CA, 92660, USA; e-mail downiesUSA@downies.com; phone: +1877-897-7696; website: www.downies.com.
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