Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sea Beasts and Submarines

While the U. S. Atlantic coast seems to be a true hotspot for serpent-like, oceangoing animals, modern observations of these creatures are just as far-flung around the globe as ancient sea serpent myths. Some of the strangest-and least known-sightings were made during World War I (1914-1918) by crewmembers of German U-boats, or early submarines. In fact, one U-boat (or undersea boat) may actually have impaled a giant, prehistoric-looking sea monster on its prow!

According to author and oceanographer James B. Sweeney, Germany had dispatched hundreds of U-boats of all different sizes around the world. Because so many were sunk by Allied forces, few of their ship's logs survived, which makes it all the more amazing that so many still recorded seeing large, unidentifiable marine monsters.

A German commander named Schultze made one such report. Schultze wrote that his U-boat and two others were about 30 feet beneath the surface when his vessel suddenly ran into some kind of large object and started to sink, the bow forced downward. With some effort, the crew managed to surface. They immediately rushed to the conning tower to have a look at what they had impacted. To their great shock, they discovered the object that had almost sent them to the ocean's bottom was a giant creature like none they had ever seen.

"It was not a whale," Sweeney quoted from the commander's report. "It had a long neck, body like an elephant and a head resembling a very large turtle. The beast was all of 50 feet in length." The creature was so thoroughly impaled on the submarine's prow that the commander had to send men outside to chop it away piece by piece before they could get underway again.

Another event involving a similar beast proved even more amazing. Another submarine crew surfaced to recharge its batteries, only to discover that a massive marine animal was attempting to clamber onto the U-boat's deck! It was so heavy that it threatened to sink the vessel, forcing the German crew to open fire upon it. The beast finally decided the ocean was a friendlier environment than the submarine deck and slid back into the water. It had damaged the boat so badly, however, that the sub had to remain on the surface where it was easily picked off by a British patrol two days later.

After being captured, the German boat's captain told the British what had happened and described the creature as having "a small head, but with teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight."

Sweeney recounts several other sightings, and also mentions a communication proving that the German military suspected the Allies were floating monster-shaped decoys in order to lure them into traps. This shows that large marine beasts must have been appearing with some regularity in the North Atlantic during those war years.

Of course, the Atlantic is not the only ocean on the planet. The Pacific, too, has had its share of seafaring monsters and, like the east coast of the United States, claims its own sea serpent hot spots.

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