During it’s patrol of the Belfast Lough in Ireland on April 30, 1918, the HMS Coreopsis encountered a strange sight: a German U-Boat, surfaced in broad daylight, manned by a crew that seemed all too willing to surrender to the British sloop. Stranger still was the tale told by UB-85’s Kapitänleutnant, Günther Krech, when questioned by the Coreopsis’ crew as to why he and his ship were caught so easily, while their respective nations were still at war.
The tale told by Krech was a tall one, as if pulled from the pages of a Jules Verne yarn: the previous night, while surfaced to recharge the submarine’s batteries, the ship was attacked by a large creature, that latched itself onto the ship, causing it to list heavily to starboard:
"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. Every man on watch began firing a sidearm at the beast, but the animal had hold of the forward gun mount and refused to let go."
According to Krech, the battle continued until the creature finally let go of the ship, and disappeared beneath the waves. Unfortunately, in grappling the ship, the creature had managed to damage some of the forward deck plating, to the point that the U-boat would flood if it were to attempt to submerge. Without the ability to dive, UB-85 was a sitting duck for any enemy ship that spotted it, hence Krech’s decision to surrender to the British crew.
After its crew was rescued, UB-85 was scuttled by the Coreopsis, taking with it any clues as to the nature, and possible validity, of the creature described by Krech. But a recent survey of the seafloor in the region to run a power cable between England and Scotland turned up a sunken U-boat of the same configuration as that of UB-85.
In examining the wreck, historian and nautical archaeologist Dr. Innes McCartney, of Bournemouth University, says that there were two U-boats of the same class sunk in the area, UB-82 and UB-85, meaning that there was a good chance that this newfound wreck is that of the one fabled to have fought off the sea monster. Unfortunately, telling which one it is may prove difficult:
“The features of this particular wreck, which is largely intact, confirm it as a UBIII-Class submarine, of which we know of two which were lost in the area – the more famous UB-85 and its sister boat UB-82.
“While I can conclude that this wreck is likely to be one or the other, they would be practically impossible to tell apart, aside from the numbers painted on them in service, now obviously long gone.
“Unless a diver can find a shipyard stamp, we cannot definitively say but yes, we are certainly closer to solving the so-called mystery of UB-85 and the reason behind its sinking – whether common mechanical failure or something that is less easily explained.”