There are plenty of phrases we have integrated into our daily use of language so that we no longer even know where they actually come from and what meaning they originally had. We would like to introduce to you seven sayings of maritime origin and explain their meaning.
Sailing under a false flag
This refers to deceptive maneuvers or covert operations conducted by another third party to conceal identity. The action is thus actively attributed to an uninvolved third party for appearances. The actual actor is thereby acting “under a false flag.” In English, the much-publicized deceptive maneuver is also called “sailing under false colors,” while a courageous flagger is sailing with true colors.
The French philosopher Voltaire gave this as a reference to the famed shipwrecks in the Bay of Biscay, a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea, off the coast of Spain.
The history of human navigation extensively documented shipwrecks off the infamous Spanish Bay, known to many as “The Valley of Death,” “The Vomiting Venus,” and “The Trunk of the Atlantic U-Boat Menace.”
Albeit with the advent of modern technology, improved vessel route prediction, as well as improvements in vessel designing, the number of fatalities in the Bay has considerably reduced. But this shouldn’t stop us from delving into the past! But before we do that, let’s explore the historical context so you know just why the Bay became so infamous among the sailing community back in the days.