World War I, the first war that saw widespread use of modern weaponry such as machine guns and biological agents on the battlefield, also saw the usage of “unrestricted submarine warfare,” when the German Empire attempted to disrupt Allied shipping with submarines. One of these submarines, the SM U-28, was a Type U 27 class (of which only four were developed) that had a fairly successful career, beginning in August 30th, 1913 when it was launched to September 2nd, 1917 when it was finally sank. During the time it operated though, the U-28 sank forty ships, damaged two more and captured another two as prizes. However, one situation in particular stands out and is remembered not so much by naval historians, but rather cryptozoologists because of the possible sighting of an unidentified creature.
On July 31st, 1915 the SS Iberian, a British merchant steamer was headed from Manchester to Boston, Massachusetts when it was torpedoed and sank by the U-28, roughly nine miles south-west of Fastnet, Ireland and resulting in the deaths of seven people. The Iberian sank stern first, with the bow aiming directly upwards, and after about twenty-five seconds underwater there was another, very large explosion which was most likely the Iberian‘s boilers exploding. However, during the explosion U-28‘s commander, or “captain-lieutenant,” Kapitänleutnant Freiherr Georg-Günther von Forstner, reported seeing something very unusual. In his own words, Forstner stated:
“The wreckage remained beneath the water for approximately twenty-five seconds, at a depth that remains 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 eighty 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 sixty 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.”
Apparently, the crew of the U-28 saw an unidentified sea creature resembling a crocodile get blasted out of the water, land, and then submerge again after a period of roughly fifteen seconds. To date, the sighting reported by the U-28 is considered one of the most legitimate and least-likely to be a hoax due to the personnel involved and the clarity of the description provided by Von Forstner. However, there are also many who take issue with the sighting.
One issue that skeptics of Von Forstner’s account have is how only seven people were killed when the Iberian sank, meaning that there were about sixty one survivors who would go on to discuss the incident with English and Irish newspapers, as well as a few American passengers who would speak about it with newspapers in the U.S.; none of their stories would include seeing a sixty-foot long crocodile-like sea creature. Another issue is how Von Forstner is the only member of the crew that saw the creature to have written any accounts of it, as well as not even recording the creature in his log when describing the sinking of the Iberian.
There are many reasons though as to why Von Forstner’s account is taken seriously. One reason would be as to why Von Forstner was the only member of the crew of U-28 to report seeing the sea creature. By the end of the war, the five other witnesses whom Forstner had reported were dead, which is not surprising since during both World War I and II U-boat crews suffered from very high mortality rates. A second reason would be how Von Forstner was an accomplished submarine commander with twenty-four of the ships sank, one ship damaged and two ships captured when he was the commander of U-28 from August 1st, 1914 to June 14th, 1916. That could be as to why Von Forstner did not report the creature in his log, as he may have considered such a detail to be unimportant during the war. There is also how Von Forstner and the five witnesses with him were all experienced seamen, and there’s no reason why they should not have been able to identify the creature.
Today, the U-28 Creature (as it is now called) is ironically enough compared to other sightings of “sea serpents” despite being described like a crocodile, and some theorize that the creature was actually a dinosaur such as pliosaurus or mosasaurus. There is no concrete way to determine what the facts are, as the witnesses have all since died and there were no photographs taken of the creature. It is important to note however that other similar cryptids, such as the Loch Ness Monster and Champ, are also considered to be prehistoric creatures and that it is very possible that there are many undiscovered creatures roaming the deep, as even NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) states that less than five percent of the Earth’s oceans have been explored.