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Attacked by a sea monster?

Dagmar Breitenbach
October 19, 2016

Power cable engineers have found the wreck of a German WWI submarine off the Scottish coast. Is it the UB-85, which an old sea tale claims was attacked by a huge sea monster before the crew was captured?

Deutsches U-Boot-Wrack gefunden
Image: Scottish Power

Remarkable sonar images show a roughly 45 meter long submarine - almost 100 years old and surprisingly intact.

Experts believe the wreck might very well be the legendary UB-85, which was supposedly attacked by a sea monster while prowling Scotland's coastline towards the end of WWI, ScottishPower said in a press release on Wednesday.

Marine engineers involved in a major ScottishPower undersea power project aimed at linking Scotland and England detected the wreck.

UB-85 was one of 375 German submarines that set sail during the First World War. And at least 12 British and German submarines are known to have sunk in the area, according to Innes McCartney, a nautical archaeologist at Bournemouth University. "This wreck is either the famous UB-85 or its sister submarine, the UB-82."

Enduring naval mystery

The UB-85, cruising the surface on April 30, 1918, was sunk by the British patrol boat HMS Coreopsis. To the surprise of the British captors, no shots were fired, the German crew simply surrendered. But why was the submarine on the surface in broad daylight?

HMS Coreopsis (IWM (SP))
HMS Coreopsis sank the damaged German submarine and captured the crew Image: IWM (SP)

A mysterious creature had damaged the vessel so badly that it couldn't submerge, Captain Günther Krech told his captors - making it easy prey. He recounted the story of how the sub was recharging its batteries at night when a "strange beast" rose from the sea, with "large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull, with small head and teeth glistening in the moonlight."

Krech claimed the crew fought the sea monster, which was so big that it caused the submarine to list to starboard, until it vanished. But the damage was done.

Sea monster sightings

"We're certainly closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 and the reason behind it's sinking - whether common mechanical failure or something that is less easily explained," Innes McCartney said.

Perhaps a large sea creature actually did disable the submarine. Gary Campbell, keeper of the Official Sightings Register of the Loch Ness Monster, believes that what the German captain said could well be true. "The area where the attack took place has a history of sea monster sightings."

Extraordinary discovery

Sea monster attack or no - "The images we get back from the subsea scans are incredibly detailed," marvels Peter Roper of ScottishPower.

And then there's the fascinating story behind the submarine. "I am probably on the side of the historians who believe that the capture of the vessel was more straightforward than a sea monster attack," Roper concludes. "That 'a sea monster attacked my submarine' may be one of the most fanciful excuses of all time."