Horrors of the Deep

It is difficult for me to determine what was the real time, but I should suppose, by after calculation, that it must have been ten at night.

I lay in a stupor, a half dream, during which I saw visions of astounding character. Monsters of the deep were side by side with the mighty elephantine shepherd. Gigantic fish and animals seemed to form strange conjunctions.

The raft took a sudden turn, whirled round, entered another tunnel—this time illumined in a most singular manner. The roof was formed of porous stalactite, through which a moonlit vapor appeared to pass, casting its brilliant light upon our gaunt and haggard figures. The light increased as we advanced, while the roof ascended; until at last, we were once more in a kind of water cavern, the lofty dome of which disappeared in a luminous cloud!

A rugged cavern of small extent appeared to offer a halting place to our weary bodies.

My uncle and the guide moved as men in a dream. I was afraid to waken them, knowing the danger of such a sudden start. I seated myself beside them to watch.

As I did so, I became aware of something moving in the distance, which at once fascinated my eyes. It was floating, apparently, upon the surface of the water, advancing by means of what at first appeared paddles. I looked with glaring eyes. One glance told me that it was something monstrous.

But what?

It was the great "shark-crocodile" of the early writers on geology. About the size of an ordinary whale, with hideous jaws and two gigantic eyes, it advanced. Its eyes fixed on me with terrible sternness. Some indefinite warning told me that it had marked me for its own.

I attempted to rise—to escape, no matter where, but my knees shook under me; my limbs trembled violently; I almost lost my senses. And still the mighty monster advanced. My uncle and the guide made no effort to save themselves.

With a strange noise, like none other I had ever heard, the beast came on. His jaws were at least seven feet apart, and his distended mouth looked large enough to have swallowed a boatful of men.

We were about ten feet distant when I discovered that much as his body resembled that of a crocodile, his mouth was wholly that of a shark.

His twofold nature now became apparent. To snatch us up at a mouthful it was necessary for him to turn on his back, which motion necessarily caused his legs to kick up helplessly in the air.

I actually laughed even in the very jaws of death!

But next minute, with a wild cry, I darted away into the interior of the cave, leaving my unhappy comrades to their fate! This cavern was deep and dreary. After about a hundred yards, I paused and looked around.

The whole floor, composed of sand and malachite, was strewn with bones, freshly gnawed bones of reptiles and fish, with a mixture of mammalia. My very soul grew sick as my body shuddered with horror. I had truly, according to the old proverb, fallen out of the frying pan into the fire. Some beast larger and more ferocious even than the shark-crocodile inhabited this den.

What could I do? The mouth of the cave was guarded by one ferocious monster, the interior was inhabited by something too hideous to contemplate. Flight was impossible!

Only one resource remained, and that was to find some small hiding place to which the fearful denizens of the cavern could not penetrate. I gazed wildly around, and at last discovered a fissure in the rock, to which I rushed in the hope of recovering my scattered senses.

Crouching down, I waited shivering as in an ague fit. No man is brave in presence of an earthquake, or a bursting boiler, or an exploding torpedo. I could not be expected to feel much courage in presence of the fearful fate that appeared to await me.

An hour passed. I heard all the time a strange rumbling outside the cave.

What was the fate of my unhappy companions? It was impossible for me to pause to inquire. My own wretched existence was all I could think of.

Suddenly a groaning, as of fifty bears in a fight, fell upon my ears—hisses, spitting, moaning, hideous to hear—and then I saw—

Never, were ages to pass over my head, shall I forget the horrible apparition.

It was the Ape Gigans!

Fourteen feet high, covered with coarse hair, of a blackish brown, the hair on the arms, from the shoulder to the elbow joints, pointing downwards, while that from the wrist to the elbow pointed upwards, it advanced. Its arms were as long as its body, while its legs were prodigious. It had thick, long, and sharply pointed teeth—like a mammoth saw.

It struck its breast as it came on smelling and sniffing, reminding me of the stories we read in our early childhood of giants who ate the Flesh of men and little boys!

Suddenly it stopped. My heart beat wildly, for I was conscious that, somehow or other, the fearful monster had smelled me out and was peering about with his hideous eyes to try and discover my whereabouts.

My reading, which as a rule is a blessing, but which on this occasion, seemed momentarily to prove a curse, told me the real truth. It was the Ape Gigans, the antediluvian gorilla.

Yes! This awful monster, confined by good fortune to the interior of the earth, was the progenitor of the hideous monster of Africa.

He glared wildly about, seeking something—doubtless myself. I gave myself up for lost. No hope of safety or escape seemed to remain.

At this moment, just as my eyes appeared to close in death, there came a strange noise from the entrance of the cave; and turning, the gorilla evidently recognized some enemy more worthy his prodigious size and strength. It was the huge shark-crocodile, which perhaps having disposed of my friends, was coming in search of further prey.

The gorilla placed himself on the defensive, and clutching a bone some seven or eight feet in length, a perfect club, aimed a deadly blow at the hideous beast, which reared upwards and fell with all its weight upon its adversary.

A terrible combat, the details of which it is impossible to give, now ensued. The struggle was awful and ferocious, I, however, did not wait to witness the result. Regarding myself as the object of contention, I determined to remove from the presence of the victor. I slid down from my hiding place, reached the ground, and gliding against the wall, strove to gain the open mouth of the cavern.

But I had not taken many steps when the fearful clamor ceased, to be followed by a mumbling and groaning which appeared to be indicative of victory.

I looked back and saw the huge ape, gory with blood, coming after me with glaring eyes, with dilated nostrils that gave forth two columns of heated vapor. I could feel his hot and fetid breath on my neck; and with a horrid jump—awoke from my nightmare sleep.

Yes—it was all a dream. I was still on the raft with my uncle and the guide.

The relief was not instantaneous, for under the influence of the hideous nightmare my senses had become numbed. After a while, however, my feelings were tranquilized. The first of my perceptions which returned in full force was that of hearing. I listened with acute and attentive ears. All was still as death. All I comprehended was silence. To the roaring of the waters, which had filled the gallery with awful reverberations, succeeded perfect peace.

After some little time my uncle spoke, in a low and scarcely audible tone: "Harry, boy, where are you?"

"I am here," was my faint rejoinder.

"Well, don't you see what has happened? We are going upwards."

"My dear uncle, what can you mean?" was my half-delirious reply.

"Yes, I tell you we are ascending rapidly. Our downward journey is quite checked."

I held out my hand, and, after some little difficulty, succeeded in touching the wall. My hand was in an instant covered with blood. The skin was torn from the flesh. We were ascending with extraordinary rapidity.

"The torch—the torch!" cried the Professor, wildly; "it must be lighted."

Hans, the guide, after many vain efforts, at last succeeded in lighting it, and the flame, having now nothing to prevent its burning, shed a tolerably clear light. We were enabled to form an approximate idea of the truth.

"It is just as I thought," said my uncle, after a moment or two of silent attention. "We are in a narrow well about four fathoms square. The waters of the great inland sea, having reached the bottom of the gulf are now forcing themselves up the mighty shaft. As a natural consequence, we are being cast upon the summit of the waters."

"That I can see," was my lugubrious reply; "but where will this shaft end, and to what fall are we likely to be exposed?"

"Of that I am as ignorant as yourself. All I know is, that we should be prepared for the worst. We are going up at a fearfully rapid rate. As far as I can judge, we are ascending at the rate of two fathoms a second, of a hundred and twenty fathoms a minute, or rather more than three and a half leagues an hour. At this rate, our fate will soon be a matter of certainty."

"No doubt of it," was my reply. "The great concern I have now, however, is to know whether this shaft has any issue. It may end in a granite roof—in which case we shall be suffocated by compressed air, or dashed to atoms against the top. I fancy, already, that the air is beginning to be close and condensed. I have a difficulty in breathing."

This might be fancy, or it might be the effect of our rapid motion, but I certainly felt a great oppression of the chest.

"Harry," said the Professor, "I do believe that the situation is to a certain extent desperate. There remain, however, many chances of ultimate safety, and I have, in my own mind, been revolving them over, during your heavy but agitated sleep. I have come to this logical conclusion—whereas we may at any moment perish, so at any moment we may be saved! We need, therefore, prepare ourselves for whatever may turn up in the great chapter of accidents."

"But what would you have us do?" I cried. "Are we not utterly helpless?"

"No! While there is life there is hope. At all events, there is one thing we can do—eat, and thus obtain strength to face victory or death."

As he spoke, I looked at my uncle with a haggard glance. I had put off the fatal communication as long as possible. It was now forced upon me, and I must tell him the truth.

Still I hesitated.

"Eat," I said, in a deprecating tone as if there were no hurry.

"Yes, and at once. I feel like a starving prisoner," he said, rubbing his yellow and shivering hands together.

And, turning round to the guide, he spoke some hearty, cheering words, as I judged from his tone, in Danish. Hans shook his head in a terribly significant manner. I tried to look unconcerned.

"What!" cried the Professor, "you do not mean to say that all our provisions are lost?"

"Yes," was my lowly spoken reply, as I held out something in my hand, "this morsel of dried meat is all that remains for us three."

My uncle gazed at me as if he could not fully appreciate the meaning of my words. The blow seemed to stun him by its severity. I allowed him to reflect for some moments.

"Well," said I, after a short pause, "what do you think now? Is there any chance of our escaping from our horrible subterranean dangers? Are we not doomed to perish in the great hollows of the centre of the earth?"

But my pertinent questions brought no answer. My uncle either heard me not, or appeared not to do so.

And in this way a whole hour passed. Neither of us cared to speak. For myself, I began to feel the most fearful and devouring hunger. My companions, doubtless, felt the same horrible tortures, but neither of them would touch the wretched morsel of meat that remained. It lay there, a last remnant of all our great preparations for the mad and senseless journey!

I looked back, with wonderment, to my own folly. Fully was I aware that, despite his enthusiasm... my uncle should never have started on his perilous voyage. What memories of the happy past, what previsions of the horrible future, now filled my brain!

--A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne, chapter 40


The Discovery of the Piri Re'is Map

In 1929, in the old Imperial Palace in Constantinople, a map was found that caused great excitement. It was painted on parchment, and dated in the month of Muharram in the Moslem year 919, which is 1513 in the Christian calendar. It was signed with the name of Piri Ibn Haji Memmed, an admiral of the Turkish navy known to us as Piri Re'is.

The map aroused attention because, from the date, it appeared to be one of the earliest maps of America. In 1929 the Turks were passing through a phase of intense nationalism under leadership of Kemal, and they were delighted to find an early map of America drawn by a Turkish geographer. Furthermore, examination showed that this map differed significantly from all the other maps of America drawn in the 16th Century because it showed South America and Africa in correct relative longitudes. This was most remarkable, for the navigators of the 16th Century had no means of finding longitude except by guesswork.

Another detail of the map excited special attention. In one of the legends inscribed on the map by Piri Re'is, he stated that he had based the western part of it on a map that had been drawn by Columbus. This was indeed an exciting statement because for several centuries geographers had been trying without success to find a "lost map of Columbus" supposed to have been drawn by him in West Indies. Turkish and German scholars made studies of the map. Articles were written in the learned journals, and even in the popular press.

One of the popular articles, published in the Illustrated London News, caught the eye of the American Secretary of State Henry Stimson. Stimson thought it would be worthwhile to try to discover the actual source Piri Re'is had used, a map which had supposedly been drawn by Columbus and which might still be lying about somewhere in Turkey. Accordingly, he ordered the American Ambassador in Turkey to request that an investigation be made. The Turkish Government complied, but no source maps were found.

Piri Re'is made other interesting statements about his source maps. He used about twenty, he said, and he stated that some of them had been drawn in the time of Alexander the Great, and some of them had been based on mathematics. The scholars who studied the map in the 1930's could credit neither statement. It appears now, however, that both statements were essentially correct.

After a time, the map lost its public interest, and it was not accepted by scholars as a map by Columbus. No more was heard of it until, by a series of curious chances, it aroused attention in Washington, D.C., in 1956. A Turkish naval officer had brought a copy of the map to the U.S. Navy Hydrogarphic Office as a gift (although, unknown to him, facsimiles already existed in the Library of Congress and other leading libraries in the United States). The map had been referred to a cartographer on the staff, M. I. Walters.

Walters happened to refer to the map to a friend of his, a student of old maps, and a breaker of new ground in borderland regions of archaeology, Captain Arlington H. Mallery. Mallery, after a distinguished career as an engineer, navigator, archaeologist, and author, had devoted some years to the study of old maps, especially old Viking maps of North America and Greenland. He took the map home, and returned it with some very surprising comments. He made the statement that, in his opinion, the southernmost part of the map represented bays and islands of the Antarctic coast of Queen Maud Land now concealed under the Antarctic ice cap. That would imply, he thought, that somebody had mapped this coast before the ice had appeared.

This statement was too radical to be taken seriously by most professional geographers...

--Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Charles H. Hapgood, Chapter 1: The Treasure Hunt Begins

Early 20th Century UFOs

Officialdom began to pay attention to aerial phenomena at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. In Australia, for example, strange aircraft, accompanied by 'machinary hums' and odd lights, were reported in northern New South Wales, Australia. Such reports must be seen in context with that war, of course, involving as it did the use of military aircraft for the first time. However, more serious attention was paid in 1920, when unexplained lights were seen in the sky around the entrance to the Bass Strait, Australia, around the time a ship, SS Amelia J., had disappeared. The search aircraft sent to investigate also disappeared without trace.

The Bass Strait is one of a number of areas - such as the Bermuda Triangle and the Great Lakes area in North America — where many aircraft and ships have mysteriously disappeared. In 1930, witnesses at Warranambool, Victoria, on the north shore of the Bass Strait, reported sightings of unidentified 'aircraft', and the Royal Australian Air Force dispatched Squadron Leader (later Air Marshal) George Jones to investigate. No evidence could be found that the aircraft were either Australian or foreign. On the morning of 19 October 1935, a four-engined Qantas Empire Airways D.H.86 airliner, the Miss Hobart, disappeared inexplicably in the Bass Strait. Strange lights were seen in the sky that night and three nights later, not far from where the plane reported its last position.

In 1933, mysterious but conventionally shaped, unmarked aircraft were sighted over Scandinavia and, to a lesser extent, the UK and USA. Often seen flying in hazardous weather conditions, the 'ghost aircraft', as they were called, frequently circled low, projecting powerful searchlights on to the ground. Although engine noises accompanied the sightings, the aircraft sometimes described low-level manoeuvres in complete silence.

'...there can be no doubt about illegal air traffic over our secret military areas,' said Major-General Reuterswaerd of the 4th Swedish Fly9ing Corps. 'Who or whom are they, and why have they been invading our air territory?' (John A Keel, 'Mystery Aeroplanes of the 1930's' Part II, Flying Saucer Review, Vol 16, No. 3, 1970.)

An Italian government report — dating back to 1936 — was leaked sixty years later to researcher Roberto Pinotti. Purportedly written by 'Andrea', an Italian secret service agent, the report describes observations of unknown flying craft seen near Venice on 17 August 1936:

It was a metallic disc, polished and reflecting light, with a diameter of ten to twelve metres. Two fighters from a nearby base took off, but were unable to reach it... It didn't emit sound, which would lead one to consider an aerostat. But nobody knows of balloons that can fly faster than wind. I know for sure that it was seen by other aviators... Then, after approximately at least an hour and after passing over Mestre, it was seen as a sort of metallic tube, grey or slate.

Benito Mussolini — Il Duce — the Fascist dictator (himself a pilot) took a great interest in this and other sightings at the time, and a report on the incident was also sent to Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A sketch by a confidential informant was redrawn by Andrea, who explained that:

[The main object] was described like a kind of aerial torpedo, with very clear windows... and alternating white and red lights. [The two other objects] were to 'hats', hats like those used by priests: wide, round, with a dome in the centre, metallic and following the torpedo without changing their relative positions... the prefecture has opened an inquiry, but you can imagine that it will make little inroad... The Duce has expressed his worries, because he says that if it were a matter of real English or French aircraft, his foreign policy would have to start all over again.

Pinotti and his colleagues received this, as well as many other extraordinary documents, including handwritten notes and telegrams, on original paper bearing the seal of the Senato del Regno (Senate of the Realm), which are published in a book co-authored by Pinotti and Alfredo Lissoni. But Pinotti was not the first to receive the series of documents. Earlier, packages had been addressed to the Bologna newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, for instance, containing a dossier of thirty-four photocopied pages covering various sightings in Italy between 1933 and 1940 — including reports from what was then the Royal Italian Air Force, with the recommendation, 'Say nothing to Il Duce'. Three telegrams related to instructions for the recovery of a flying disc which supposedly had landed in an unnamed location (believed to be near Milan) on 13 June 1933, and counter-intelligence measures including press censorship.

There are frequent references in the documents to a top-secret group — Gabinetto RS/33 — reportedly dealing with the collection, investigation and even suppression of information relating to velivoli sconoscuti (unknown aircraft). Headed by Mussolini, Ciano and airman General Italo Balbo, Rs/33 is said to have included several prominent aeronautical engineers, astronomers and scientists, directed by none other than Gugliemo Marconi, the great inventor, although he never played an active role in the cabinet, preferring to delegate to the astronomer Gino Cecchini. RS/33 had links with OVRA, the Fascist secret police, and Agenzia Stefani, the regime's news agency in charge of disseminating propaganda. As Pinotti elucidated for me:

... All this re-writes the history of 'official' ufology, which started secretly in Italy under Mussolini with the RS/33 (Ricerche Speciale [Special Research] 33) Cabinet in 1933 to study the 'Velivoli Non Convenzionali' (unconventional aircraft) after a possible UFO crash near Milan, and a definite 'reverse-engineering' approach to 'copy' what Fascists considered to be purported English or French secret aerial spy devices. The Italian studies led to different concepts of round flying machines, to be used by the Germans at the end of WWII.

Pinotto told me that the documents he received - originating with the nephew of a member of the RS/33 Cabinet — were authenticated by forensic analysis involving chemical tests on the paper and ink, conducted by Antonio Garavaglia, a top Italian forensic consultant. Checks for historical accuracy by historian Andrea Bedetti, an expert on Italy's Fascist period, indicate authenticity. Alfredo Lissoni discovered additional evidence in the archives of the Prefetturra (Civil Governor's office) in Milan: about 500 telegrams sent to the Prefettura between 1933 and 1938, at least nine of which exclusively concerned velivoli non identificabili (unidentifiable aircraft).

Alfredo Lissoni has unearthed a fascinating reference from a speech by Mussolini to the Federation of Fascist Combatants on 23 February 1941: 'The United States are far more likely to be invaded, not by soldiers of the Axis, but by the not so well known but warlike inhabitants of the planet Mars, who will come down out of space in their unimaginable flying fortresses.'

This was almost certainly the first official reference to alien spaceships — and one that turned out to be prescient. A year later, an extraordinary incident led some American military leaders to wonder if they were indeed being invaded by beings from elsewhere.

- Need to Know: UFOs, the Military and Intelligence, Timothy Good, Chapter 1, Dawn of An Era