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Perlmutter nodded.Yes, the feat didn't happen again until fifty years later, in August of 1914, when the U-21 sank the HMS Pathfinder in the North Sea. The Hunley sat on the bottom buried in silt for a hundred and thirty-six years before she was discovered, raised and placed in a conservation laboratory tank to preserve her for public display. When she was inspected at first hand and the silt and remains of her crew removed from inside, she was found to be far more modern in concept than was supposed. She was quite streamlined, and she had a rudimentary snorkel system with bellows to pump air, ballast tanks with pumps, diving planes and flush rivets to reduce water drag. That last thing, by the way, was a concept that nobody thought had been used before Howard Hughes flushed the rivets on an aircraft he designed in the mid-nineteen-thirties. The Hunley even experimented with electromagnetic engines, but that technology was not ready, so eight men sat inside the submarine and turned a crank that spun the propeller for propulsion. After that, submarine science lagged until John Holland and Simon Lake began experimenting with and building submarines that were accepted by several countries, including us and the Germans. Those early efforts would have looked crude beside Captain Nemo's Nautilus.

Did they comment on the monster's size?

Probably somewhere in between, Pitt said thoughtfully.Somewhere slightly more than two hundred feet in length with a twenty-five-foot beam. Not exactly an underwater craft to be taken lightly in 1894.

Twenty-eight years earlier.

Did they comment on the monster's size?

Sounds like the good captain was heavily into the rum locker, Pitt said, jokingly.

The same, Perlmutter answered Pitt.I'd forgotten the strange circumstances behind her grounding on Roncador Reef off Venezuela in 1894.

The ship that sank the famous Confederate raider Alabama?

What about Verne? Pitt inquired.There must be a museum, a home or relatives that collected all his papers, research records and letters.

The whaling ship Essex, out of Nantucket, was rammed and sunk by a whale, offered Pitt.

Yes, according to her commander, Captain Leigh Hunt, he was attacked by a man-made underwater vessel that resembled a whale. The vessel was chased, then sank into the water before surfacing again and ramming the Kearsarge, putting a large hole in her hull. She barely made it to Roncador Reef before she grounded. The crew then made camp on the reef until they were rescued.

Did they comment on the monster's size?

The crew agreed that it was cigar shaped, cylindrical with conical ends. As would be expected, they estimated the size anywhere from one to three hundred feet, with a beam of twenty to forty feet.

No, he was dead serious, replied Perlmutter,and what's important is that his entire crew backed him up. Not one of them who witnessed the spectacle varied his story. Their testimony described a large steel monster that was impenetrable to a series of cannon shots the Kearsarge poured into it-they simply bounced off. They also mentioned some sort of pyramid-shaped tower on its back that appeared to have viewing ports. Captain Hunt swore that he saw a face staring back at him through one of the ports, a man with a beard.

That, said Perlmutter sternly,was a real whale. I'm talking about another U.S. Navy ship, the Abraham Lincoln, which reported an encounter with an undersea craft that rammed and shattered her rudder.

That, said Perlmutter sternly,was a real whale. I'm talking about another U.S. Navy ship, the Abraham Lincoln, which reported an encounter with an undersea craft that rammed and shattered her rudder.

The ship that sank the famous Confederate raider Alabama?

The ship that sank the famous Confederate raider Alabama?

Come to think of it, the Kearsarge was not the only vessel reported sunk by an undersea monster.

The Hunley was built by private individuals who funded the project, lectured Perlmutter.Actually, she was the third boat built by Horace Hunley and his engineers. Each more advanced than the previous.

Pitt set his glass on the table but refused another when offered.I can't believe a supernatural vessel decades ahead of its time 'was built by private individuals.

I can't say, said Perlmutter slowly.I only know what I find in recorded sea history. Which isn't to say there are not more reports, untapped by researchers, in archives scattered around the world.

Who's to say? said Perlmutter, with an indifferent shrug.Perhaps Jules Verne heard of such a vessel and created Captain Nemo and his Nautilus around it.

Sounds like the good captain was heavily into the rum locker, Pitt said, jokingly.

The Hunley was built by private individuals who funded the project, lectured Perlmutter.Actually, she was the third boat built by Horace Hunley and his engineers. Each more advanced than the previous.

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