‘November 28, 1753: At ten of the clock of this day, while riding out bad weather off Goodwins, awaiting better conditions to continue our passage, an armed frigate came driving down on my ship, her masts gone, her decks and hull in fearful shape. It seemed to us all there could be no avoiding her coming athwart our anchor-chains with dire results, and I was about to order my first officer to slip our anchors when we made out the frigate for what she was.
‘Her name became clear for all to read; it was “Northumberland”, and as she came on, sweeping down on my ship, we saw men running in panic about her main deck. She appeared to be unmanageable. We watched in horror, for the wind was not strong enough to place any ship in such condition, and then it pleased Almighty God the phantom, for such it surely was, steered contrary to our mounting anxieties to windward and so drove on clear of us, but no more than two ships’ lengths to our leeward, and so disappeared in what seemed a dark haze.
‘It was a spectacle far too terrible to dwell upon, to see this ghost of what was once a fine warship going to her doom a second time. We saw a little steady trickle of men leaping into the sea, one after another, but their bodies made no splash as they struck the waters. The cries of her spectral crew, the firing of her guns every half minute for assistance, filled us all with dread and terror that my men, as I were nigh dead with the horror of it all.’
So reads a log from the capitan of a Dutch East India Company clipper as it passed near the Goodwin Sands, a sand bank in the English Channel near the seaside town of Deal, UK.
The Northumberland sank 50 years prior in a storm that sent 3 other ships to their doom on November 26, 1703.
The only survivors of that combined tragedy were from the Mary. Interestingly enough, these two men told how prior to the sinking, "a great warship of Drake’s day, her sails tattered, burning from fore to aft and her guns firing, served by demented seamen, bore down on us, sailed right through our ship and finally disappeared before our eyes into the depth of the Sands."