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

It seems a stretch to think that the mysterious monster wasn't designed and constructed by an industrial nation, said Pitt, still skeptical.

It's odd that such a vessel, if it truly existed, could cruise the world for almost thirty years without its being seen more often, or one of its crew deserting ashore and telling the story. And if it sailed around ramming and sinking ships, how come there were not more survivors to report the incidents?

Twenty-eight years earlier.

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

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

Perlmutter contemplated his bottle of port, which was now two-thirds empty.Over that time, many ships disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Most of them were British warships.

Twenty-eight years earlier.

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.

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.

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.

Did they comment on the monster's size?

Perlmutter contemplated his bottle of port, which was now two-thirds empty.Over that time, many ships disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Most of them were British warships.

Perlmutter contemplated his bottle of port, which was now two-thirds empty.Over that time, many ships disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Most of them were British warships.

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

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.

Did they comment on the monster's size?

Did they comment on the monster's size?

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

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.

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?

The ship that sank the famous Confederate raider Alabama?

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.

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