One approach might be through Olaudah Equiano's 1789 autobiography. He recounts having seen wonders and strange sights in his first sea journey (the Middle Passage) yet ultimately they are all explained by science, navigation, and the like. John Marrant's 1785 memoir includes being tossed overboard then back on by a huge wave. There's also a giant fish. John Jea's 1816 hymnbook includes religious songs for sailors that recount monstrous waves and a feeling of being in supernatural hands while at sea.
H-Folk supports international conversation on research, teaching, policy, and historiography in the fields of folklore and ethnology.
I'm hoping that some of you might be able to point me in the right direction. I am interested in identifying some studies of reports of uncanny sightings (strange lights, ghost ships, sea serpents, etc) by sailors and seafarers throughout history. While I have been able to find the equivalent for celestial "wonders," I have been unable to track anything down about this kind of folklore among mariners. (My search terms obviously have been less than adequate).
I would appreciate any tips and suggestions for reading you might have.
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About Western Folklore
I am an Associate Professor in literature who has been doing cultural studies/ anthropology research in Southern Oman for over a decade. I teach at a small university in Salalah and am interested in working with a graduate student, academic or independent researcher on a collection of folktales and fairy tales collected in the 1970s and recently published in English. The folktales were tape-recorded and originally spoken in an unwritten language.