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To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Gothenborg shipwreck and an Icelandic ghost story

3 min read

There is nothing darker than the depth of the sea, and probably nothing more cold than the north coast.
These shores are, according to some, the coldest and the darkest, and for sure something that so many ships and so many sailors must have experienced, as the bottom of the ocean is now littered with their remains.
And there is always the fear, still today, on these treacherous waters.

All begins with the true story of a Danish ship named Gothenborg that sank in the 1718, a short distance from the estuary of Ölfusá river in South Iceland.
The ship was on its way back to Denmark from Iceland in a convoy of merchant ships, when a great storm struck and the ship was separated from the others. After over a week battling the storm off Iceland with a broken mast, it ran aground.
Luckily all the 170 people aboard survived and was rescued by the local of Iceland in one of the biggest rescue operations in Icelandic history, while various sources set the number of fatalities at just 4-8.

However, at that time, Iceland was a colony of Denmark, and there was often bad blood between the people, and the problems of the survivors were far from done.
Their ship was sunk and all their supplies gone.
Moreover, the survivors had no possible way of getting home soon as a whole cold sea parted them from their home country.
Thus they had to rely on the kindness of the local farmers that lived there to keep them alive until they found a way to get back.
However, there was not enough food for them all as the country, weathered, not was always so kind to its people, and some of them ended with dying of starvation, among them, according to some version of the story, the cook of the ship.
A suffering that takes time.

And from here the legend mixes with the real fact.
Almost a century later, two men came over the grave to the cook, and something must have happened, because the story goes, he literally rose from the dead.
The men flied the cemetery, followed by the ghost who, apparently, he started to haunt one of the two men and did so until his death.
Even when the man moved to the place called Leirubakki the ghost wouldn’t leave him alone, further in to the country, further from his home, away from the coast.
That is why today the ghost is called The Ghost of Leirubakki.
It wasn’t clear why the ghost hurt the man or his family, but it stalked them wherever they went.
Some versions of the story tell that the ghost ripped the roof of a barn one time, It is well known that he scared the horses all the time and apparently the ghost still roam the bare hills of Iceland.

But one thing is sure: the ghost never saw his home in Denmark ever again.

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