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Sunday, 27 November 2011

The U-Boat And The Sea Monster

 The following is taken from Some More Things Strange & Sinister

    It is claimed that,in April,1918,the British patrol vessel Coreopsis,out of Belfast, came across the German UB-85 submarine,on the surface and non-mobile.  The crew apparently abandoned the submarine and were all taken prisoner.  Obviously,the first thing the Royal Navy officers wanted to know was why the crew had not fled or offered any fight.

    Captain Gunther Krech’s explanation;they had been attacked by a sea serpent.

    Krech is reported to have told how the UB-85  had surfaced to recharge its batteries and to allow the crew to have a smoke. It was while doing this that a huge sea serpent climbed aboard. To say the least,the crew was rather startled and began to discharge their firearms at the monster.   This had little effect on the creature other than to anger it and it then bit down on the forward gun –causing  the sub to list side to side. 

    Captain Krech feared that his vessel would take on water through the open hatch and sink.  So the crew continued to fire away and this eventually caused  the serpent to slink back into the depths.

    According to Krech:

                     "This beast had large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull. It
                     had a small head, but with teeth that could be seen
                     glistening in the moonlight."

    Krech’s rank was Kapitän Leutenant and,yes,there was indeed a UB-85 but there seems to be a lot of confusion so I’ll explain. The SM U-85,was a Type Mittel U submarine launched in 1916 and that served in the First World War until sunk on 12 March 1917.  That clear?  Good.  Now,there was an SM UB-85 –a   Type UB III submarine launched in 1917 and sunk on 30 April 1918.  Krech’s submarine was the latter.

    However,there was no monster.  Official German sites dealing with the First World War and submarines tell the same story as the official log of the Coreopsis:

               "(UB-85) Hit by gunfire of Coreopsis while attempting to dive.
               Resurfaced and abandoned by her crew at 5447N 0523W"

    So,the crew were taken off the submarine which was then sunk.  And let’s not get confused with  the submarine U-85 (1941) which was a Type VIIB submarine that served in the Second World War until sunk on 14 April 1942.

    No sea monster.

Above:a photograph widely used on the internet and in one magazine as being of the UB-85.  Two problems:[1] This is not a World War One type submarine.  [2] The submarine is flying the Swastika flag –making this clearly a Second World War photograph!  The source of this confusion may be a specific site that had “no photographs of the U-85 or the monster  so this photograph takes its place”.  You have to love the internet for such hilarious stupidity!

    And in 1934,Popular Mechanics [1] published a lengthy article on sea serpents and retold the incident involving  Captain [Baron] George Gunther von Forstner and his submarine the U-28.  In the article Baron von Forstner tells how on the 30th July,1915, in the North sea,he had just torpedoed a British freighter [Iberian –THS].   It was a sad and regular occurrence during the Great War.  But what von Forstner reported then happened was not.

    As the Iberian began to sink it exploded just below the surface.  This explosion caused a plume of debris to fly high up into the air –including  a creature that resembled a 60-foot-long crocodilian. According to sources,according to von Forstner the creature had  "…four limbs resembling large webbed feet, a long, pointed tail and a head which also tapered to a point." 

    As it shot up into the air the creature wriggled and twisted as if in pain before hitting the water and sinking out of sight.  No photographs were taken though von Forstner and six other crew observed the creature.  One source claims that all the men “agreed upon a drawing and entry in the log book”.  The source also wonders whether the explosion had killed a “living mososaur?”.

 File:German submarine SM U-28.jpg
Above:In the background the U-28 during World War One,commanded by von Forstner.

    I think the writer meant a member of the Mosasauridae.  It has been said that there were certain discreprancies in von Forstner’s story some 18 years later.  This is natural and you can find discreprancies after a week,a month or even days –it is a recognised problem with observers to events and one of the reasons why you contact any witness as soon as possible after an event.  Nothing untoward [2 & 3].

    In the 1980s I was told that von Forstner had drawn the image described and that he stuck to his account the rest of his life.  There are current attempts to contact the von Forstner family to see whether any first hand record survives.  So,one fake submarine attacked by monster story and one….?


1.    “Is There A Sea Serpent?”,Popular Mechanics,September,1934,pp.398-401
       and 118A

2.    Eberhart,George M.,Mysterious Creatures:A Guide ToCryptozoology,
        pp.320-321. ABC Clio,2002

3.    Magin,Ulrich,”Forstner Sea Serpent Sighting A Possible Hoax?”,Strange
       Magazine no.2,p.4,1988

My thanks to the many WW I historians and specialists in submarine history whose help was invaluable –THS

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