Mythical Monday: Ghost Ship, the HMS Eurydice by Mae Clair

October is a time when our thoughts easily turn to restless ghosts and apparitions. But phantoms aren’t restricted to dwellings only on land. Case in point—the tragedy of the HMS Eurydice.

Illustration of the HMS Eurydice caught in the squall that caused the ship to sink

By Illustrated London News [Public domain] courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 A wooden frigate in a time when steam-propelled and iron clad vessels gradually commandeered the waterways, the Eurydice was converted to a training ship in 1876. The British Navy felt there was still benefit for their ratings to learn the old ways of sail.

On March 22, 1878, the Eurydice was returning from the West Indies. She passed the southeastern side of the Isle of Wight in the British Channel and was spied under full sail by coastguards. Forty minutes later, off Sandown Bay, two smaller vessels sighted her as she continued her journey toward Portsmouth harbor.

Within moments an icy squall arose, bringing a frigid blizzard of snow. One of the smaller ships took shelter in a lee, while the other “reefed” his sails, prepared to ride out the storm. The Eurydice, however, continued under full sail, her gunports wide open. It’s believed she intended to fire a salute when she reached Portsmouth, just eight miles away.

Sadly, for the 366 men on the ship, she never arrived at her destination. Survivors say the captain ordered the sails lowered, but the squall engulfed the vessel so quickly, there wasn’t time. Spun about in the storm, the Eurydice tipped onto her port side and the sea rushed through the open gunports. She sank rapidly, most of the crew trapped below deck. Those who were tossed into the ocean froze to death in the icy waters as they struggled to swim to shore. Of the entire crew, only two survived, rescued by the vessel who had reefed her sails.

Since that fateful day in 1878, the Eurydice has been seen multiple times. Several people also reported experiencing premonitions of the ship’s demise at the exact moment the vessel was engulfed. Later, in 1880, local fishermen reported spying a fully-rigged sailing ship off Sandown Bay. The vessel mysteriously vanished when they drew closer. But not everyone believed the tales. Some whispered that the reports of a phantom vessel were nothing more than the result of lingering mist and imaginative thinking.

Then in 1934, the commander of the submarine HMS Proteus reported nearly colliding with a sailing man-of-war in the same area. Captain Lipscombe was on the conning tower of his boat, the sub returning from an exercise in the English Channel, when a phantom ship abruptly appeared from nowhere. He was forced to take evasive action, narrowly avoiding ramming her. Just that quickly, the phantom vessel disappeared. Lipscombe was reported to be a highly reputable witness who had no previous knowledge of the Eurydice’s sinking.

Finally, in 1998, while filming a TV documentary, Prince Edward spotted a three-masted ship off the Isle of Wight. It’s rumored the crew caught the spectral ship on film, and although their tape jammed during playback, they were able to show a portion of the footage on the program “Crown and Country.”

The tragedy of the Eurydice is considered one of Britain’s worse peace-time naval disasters. Perhaps that is why the phantom ship still haunts Sandown Bay, her gunports fully open as she slides in and out of the mist—one moment there, the next gone. Much like her own fate on March 22, 1878.

Do you think the stories could be true?

Mythical Monday: St. Elmo’s Fire by Mae Clair

A weather phenomenon known to sailors, St. Elmo’s fire has older roots in folklore. Often seen dancing among the riggings of a ship, these “spirit fires” or playful lights were seen as signs of heavenly intervention and a portent of the future. Occurring before storms when the air was super-charged with electricity, the lights appeared blue, violet, or bluish-white in color.

sailing-ship on moonlit ocean during storm with lightningAccording to legend if one light danced in the rigging, the ship was headed to a stormy death, but if two shone brightly, the winds would fade and the sea quiet. Another belief said descending flames meant disaster while ascending meant fair weather. Some sailors believed the lights to be the souls of departed comrades come to forewarn of danger. If a light danced upon a man’s head, he was most certainly doomed.

The ancient Greeks named a single jet of fire, Helena, and a double jet, Castor and Pollux. In the Philippines, the phenomenon is known as Santelmo, and has been rumored to chase people.

Because of the electrical charge present during instances of St. Elmo’s fire, compass readings often went awry which may be one reason why the flames were sometimes viewed as an ill omen among sailors. It’s interesting to note that the name is also derived from St. Erasmus of Formia, the Italian patron saint of sailors. For this reason, the manifestation could also be derived as an omen of good will, a sign the saint was watching over the seamen on their journey.

A plasma charge in the air, St. Elmo’s fire can also be seen on land, flickering about elevated objects such as lightning rods, streetlamps, spires and even chimneys. It’s occasionally mistaken for ball lightning, and like many elements of superstition and awe, can be viewed as favorable or ominous.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever witnessed this phenomenon.

Meandering, a Review, and a Bit of the Mythical by Mae Clair

Twelfth Sun Tour BannerFor my Mythical Monday fans, my usual brand of folklore, odd creatures and spookiness will return next week with a new post. Today, I’m celebrating the one week anniversary of the official release of my romantic mystery, TWELFTH SUN.

The reviews have been great so far, which have me completely jazzed. I particularly love this 5-Five Star review on the Tome Tender Blog. The reviewer, Dii, made my day with quotes like these:

“Twelfth Sun by Mae Clair is just one of those books that is pure escape pleasure!”

“Mae Clair has written a delightful romance complete with mystery, intrigue and danger. Did I mention humor?”

You can find the entire review here if you’d like to take a gander 😀

Also today, my new friend, Kourtney Heintz, is hosting me with a short series of Q&A. Want to hear my elevator pitch for TWELFTH SUN, or learn what advice I have for new authors? (Sure you do!). All that and more can be discovered by hopping over to Kourtney Heintz’s Journal and saying hello.

background in "adventure stories" styleAnd finally, because it’s Mythical Monday and I’m in a nautical frame of mind, here are two interesting snippets to tide you over until next week :

Did you know in days past, if a sailor was pulled overboard it was a sign that “the sea will have its own?” Even more disturbing, a man who learned to swim was viewed as tempting fate.

For someone to “watch a ship out of sight” was a sure sign “you will never see her again.”  I find this one interesting because the interpretation it isn’t exactly clear.  Does the ship meet with an untimely end, or the watcher? I guess the obvious certainty is that either way you shouldn’t watch a ship out of sight!

Happy Monday, friends! I hope your week is off to a good start!