During WWI, the Commander of the German U-Boat reported an “explosive” encounter off the coast of Ireland with a colossal crocodile-like creature, which can be described as nothing short of prehistoric.
One of the most fascinating reports of an unusual, maritime encounter comes to us from the father cryptozoology himself, BERNARD HEUVELMANS, in his inestimable tome on the monstrous mysteries of the deep “In the Wake of the Sea Serpents.”
In the book Heuvelmans chronicles an account, which allegedly hailed from a German Baron — and former U-boat skipper — who, in 1933, told of his terrifying encounter with a SEA MONSTER during the early portion of WWI. Much like the incident reported by the UB-85 on April 30, 1918, the crew of the U-28 was given a rare glimpse into what one must assume to be a primeval world hidden beneath the ocean’s vast depths.
According to the report, following a military engagement with the British steamer Iberian off the southwest coast of Ireland — an encounter which tragically resulted in the steamer’s destruction via German torpedo and the deaths of all but 61 crew members — the captain and officers of the U-28 Schmidt bore witness to a spectacle which none of them could have anticipated. The Captain of the submarine, Commander Freiherr Georg-Günther von Forstner, described the encounter thusly:
“On July 30, 1915, our U-28 torpedoed the British steamer Iberian, which was carrying a rich cargo (trucks and jeeps primarily) across the North Atlantic. The steamer sank so swiftly that its bow stuck up almost vertically into the air. Moments later the hull of the Iberian disappeared.”
“The wreckage remained beneath the water for approximately twenty-five seconds, at a depth that was clearly impossible to assess, when suddenly there was a violent explosion, which shot pieces of debris — among them a gigantic aquatic animal — out of the water to a height of approximately 80-feet.”
“At that moment I had with me in the conning tower six of my officers of the watch, including the chief engineer, the navigator, and the helmsman. Simultaneously we all drew one another’s attention to this wonder of the seas, which was writhing and struggling among the debris.”
“We were unable to identify the creature, but all of us agreed that it resembled an aquatic crocodile, which was about 60-feet long, with four limbs resembling large webbed feet, a long, pointed tail and a head which also tapered to a point. Unfortunately we were not able to take a photograph, for the animal sank out of sight after ten or fifteen seconds.”
Submarine captains are a hardy breed who are not usually prone to exaggeration and one of the most intriguing aspects of this account is the apparently dry, matter-of-fact manner in which it was reported. It goes without saying that German and other European newspapers wasted no time in reporting this astounding encounter with what the eyewitnesses dubbed a “deep-Sea crocodile.”
While it’s been suggested by skeptics that this account was born of the popularity of LAKE MONSTERS such as the NESSIE, as well as the bravado that accompanied Germany voting Hitler in as Chancellor, one must wonder why a career naval officer, much less a Baron, would endeavor to concoct a story as patently bizarre as this, for — as we have seen too many times in the past — encounters with the unexplained tend to lead to ridicule at best and, at worst, to becoming a societal pariah.
Tragically, of the six men — including officer of the watch Dieckmann, Chief Engineer Ziemer, engineer officer Romeiss, Cox’n Parisch, ship’s cook Robert Maas and Able Seaman Bartels — who were purported to gave witnessed this event with von Forstner, all but Maas perished during the war.
In 1935, the book “The Case for the Sea Serpent” was published in Germany. This offered even more details about the strange event and the actual cause of the Iberian’s explosive finale:
“…the description of an animal estimated at 20 metres in length, seen by me and some of the crew of the submarine U28 on 30 July 1915 in the Atlantic Ocean; [it] was sighted on the starboard side, about 60 nautical miles south of Fastnet Rock, off the southwest corner of Ireland, after the sinking of the British steamer Iberian.”
“This animal was hurled some 20 or 30m into the air by an underwater explosion about 25 seconds after the sinking of that vessel, thrown full length from the water. It is possible that this was caused by the detonation of an explosive device on board, the existence of which we assumed was concealed in the ship’s papers, or from a small boiler explosion… This explosion certainly could have been the result of a detonation, but in my opinion only the bursting of the spaces deep inside the ship could have produced such air pressure.”
It has been suggested by some — including us in the original version of this article — that this creature is mostly likely a living specimen of the flipper bearing, croc-featured, long presumed to be extinct mosasaur species, but the fact that Commander von Forstner specifically described the creature as having “webbed” feet would seem to suggest that the culprit is more akin to also allegedly extinct family of gargantuan sea crocodiles known as thalattosuchia.
Skeptics dismiss this theory due to the fact that von Forstner described the beast as having a pointed tail rather than the bilobal, or fishlike, tail of a thalattosuchia. While this is a valid point it should be noted thatan explosion as massive as the one that struck the Iberian was bound to have caused some collateral damage to the AQUATIC ENIGMA that was said to have been hurtled skyward by the blast. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that a small portion of its tail was removed during the detonation.
On September 2, of that same year, the U-28 was damaged beyond repair in the North Cape after being hit by debris from the munitions ship, Olive Branch, which exploded after being torpedoed by U-28. Sadly — as in so many of these cases — the truth of this tale, along with the remains of the Iberian, may forever be lost on the ocean floor.
© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011