Fan of Full Fathom Five? Be sure to check it out at its new home!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The lighter side of phantom ships

Would you rather pick up Jokeby than Rokeby? How many of us first discovered legends of phantom ships through watching Pirates of the Caribbean? Or Popeye? I'll 'fess up: my love of the sea was kindled by Popeye cartoons (the black & white ones were my favorite) as much as by growing up in sight of salt water, and I became aware of the legend of the Flying Dutchman by reading Tom Holt's Flying Dutch. This book is a real hoot--it made me laugh out loud on pre-dawn bus rides to work (not an easy task!).

How many people discover maritime culture through these forms of popular culture? And how much of it is in our maritime library collections? My library doesn't have Flying Dutch--neither does Mariners, Mystic, or the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. UC Riverside's Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror does, however.

When it comes to future researchers of our maritime culture, will they find what they need in collections that ignore popular novels, films, and even (gasp!) comic books? Sailors today still encounter phantom ships and it's not difficult to discover accounts of contemporary ship hauntings. Are our libraries and museums preserving these legends and stories? Where will the maritime culture of the 20th century be found?

No comments: