Saturday, 10 October 2015

castaway cay

The Mapuche people of Patagonia have a very extensive and ancient system of myth and legend that includes the inspiration for the Flying Dutchman and ghost-ships in general. Fathomed up during a time of chaos and confusion and culture-shock as a way of reconciling their new and novel experiences with European exploration and conquest—transmitted decades later to that man-of-war from Holland that could never make port and was destined to sail the oceans forever, the Mapuche had a tale of a triple-masted sailing ship, which—however, owing to its sentience—was not seemingly in need of a captain, called the Caleuche.
I learnt of this strange bit of folklore via When On Earth’s rather morbid bucket-list of twenty places one must see after one dies. Check out some of the other destinations, for research-ideas, but certainly not as that undiscovered coountry. The crew consists of drowned sailors rescued by Chilean versions of mermaids and mermen, who can continue their existence as though still living when the ship appears, which is always a bright and racous affair but then disappearing again as suddenly, descending beneath the waves and plying the seas underwater. The festivities of the drowned are occasionally darkened by the party-crasher, the Sorcerer of Chiloé (the name of the island around which the Caleuche is most often sighted) who breaches the hull on a stampede of kelpies (caballo marino—water-horses, locally) with a retinue of enchanted supplemental, relief-crew, fisherman and deck-staff not honourably drowned but rather cursed to do their eternal tasks as part of the ship itself—perhaps part of its collective consciousness.