Imagine lying in your bed all snug and cosy. It’s the depths of the night and you open your eye to see a claw slowly rising up over the edge of the bed. All you see is razor nails ready to rip your flesh and you freeze. There’s nothing you can do. Now imagine you are on a raft looking down at yourself from above. Your little craft floats on a royal blue clear blue ocean while you wait for rescue All you can see is you on the raft, a tiny speck in the water. Then imagine a vast dark shape rises up from beneath you unseen from the depths. Because miles below you a monster from the unknown has come to take you to a watery death. And there’s nothing you can do about it. The silence is broken by a soft splash as a huge tentacle reaches up from beneath you, covered with huge suckers filled with hundreds of tiny teeth. It pauses, probing the rat before it drags you screaming to your death. It’s the last thing you’ll ever see and no one will ever know what happened to you.
Tales of sea monsters have been around for centuries. Dismissed as the deluded illusions of ancient sailors, no-one could ever prove otherwise and the tales persisted. Huge corpses would wash up on shores all across the world leaving people glancing fearfully at what may be lurking below the waves. There are stories of sharks, the Megalodon, whose fins rise from the water like the sail of a yacht. These once roamed the oceans so who’s to say they still don’t exist? Thousands have disappeared at sea, never to be seen again and the human imagination can’t help but picture something huge and dark rising from the depths to feed on innocents. And with the advent of video and sonar technology, it has now been proved that there really are monsters living in the ocean depths.
But many of these stories are not from ancient sailing ships but from military vessels and war veterans. And they are tales that could be taken from any horror movie. During the Second World War, U-boats would often torpedo ships leaving hundreds stranded in the ocean clinging to life. Many were rescued but equally many were not. One of the most famous war horror stories involving giant sea monsters occurred in 1942. A troop ship was sunk by a German raider in the South Atlantic. The men found themselves clinging to makeshift rafts and wreckage as sharks closed in all around. For five days they drifted beneath a blazing sun and hope was fading fast. there were twleve of them and only three survived after five days. But they soon were attacked by something that made the sharks look like tuna fish. They told how huge tentacles suddenly reached from the water and began plucking men from the raft with lightning speed.
A huge shape appeared beneath the raft and a battle began. One man, Cox, survived to tell the tale but he survived only by the actions of his quick thinking comrades as they battered the tentacles that had wrapped round his body particularly his right leg. Before his death in 1971 he told the story and shows the circular suction scars he still bore. At that point the legend of the giant squid was simply that a legend. There was no proof it really existed beyond tall tales and eye witness accounts.
However more evidence came in the form of navy frigate vessel the Stein had a weird encounter on its maiden voyage. It suddenly was turned back to port as inexplicably unservicable. Once in dry dock the reasons became very clear. Its anti-submarine sonar gear had failed impossibly and was situated in a huge dome that was under the ship. Petty officer Ira carpenter went down to examine it. The rubber cover had been shredded to the extent that they found tiny teeth in the rips. Now this material could withstand virtually anything but it had been shredded like tissue paper. They brought the pieces back for examination and marine experts identified the claws as being from a squid. But to do this damage, the squid had to be huge.
Now evidence of the existence of these creatures had been seen for a long time on the bodies of the blue whales and one crew witnessed a battle between a whale and a giant squid. It was truly a battle of giants but there would be no way to capture one. In the cold waters of the Labrador current, bodies wash up of giant squids and octopi. Squids are attracted to red which may explain why they attacked so many survivors of bombed ships. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the first definitive video and photos of a giant squid proved their existence to the world. The show MonsterQuest went in search of them and recorded the first video for the world to see. It is majestic and frightening at the same time because it strikes from the dark like lightning then disappears again. From the footage they were able to estimate the size as eighty feet in length. And as technology cannot penetrate the depths these things live at we can only wait until they grace us with a visit to our world.
But the giant squids are not the only monster that has been reported. Bodies are pulled up in fishermen’s nets all the time but are usually badly decomposed which makes them the subject of speculation rather than scientific factual identification.
A captain of a ship always makes log entries and in many there are reports of monster encounters and it is well known a captain’s ethics prevent him from making entries for no good reason. An ancient Norwegian sailing ship reported how a sea serpent rose up and began attacking the men, managing to grab and eat some. The encounter was recorded in a witness’ drawings and shows a dragon-like creature with a man in its mouth. The HMS Daedalus also reported a sea serpent like a huge snake while the crew of the City of Baltimore saw a long necked serpent in the waters of Aiden. And the bough of the ship was chewed off by a creature in 1860.
Now the ocean yields many new animals every year, including the megamouth shark and coelacanth, a prehistoric fish said to have died out millions of years ago, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that there are other creatures living down there. I recall a video from a fishing fleet that clearly shows a huge turtle like animal rising up out of the water amid the boats, looks around before disappearing back into the depths. It is the only known video of this unidentified animal known to exist and the footage is as clear as day. Other famous cases include the 1977 Japanese fishing ship that caught a decomposing body in its nets (left). It stunk to high heaven an had to be thrown back but not before it was extensively photographed. Leading experts have concluded that this is a species unknown to science and it looks remarkably like a plesiosaur. It certainly wouldn’t be the first dinosaur to be pulled from the ocean. In 1942 along the banks of the river Clyde, a creature washed ashore complete and fully formed. it was 28 feet in length but because it was wartime photographs were not permitted so the creature was chopped up and buried. Charles Rankin who examined the animal has a drawing of the creature which shows a long head and neck and in its stomach he found a knitted garment and part of an old tablecloth. And again this thing looked like a plesiosaur (drawing below).
So many stories and so many witnesses, the secrets of the deep still elude us even though governments all around the world are developing new sonar to let us look down into those depths. Space is no longer the final frontier; that lies in the Earth’s oceans, the greatest undiscovered country of them all.