Challengers of the Unknown

Immediately following the end of WWI, German U-boat captain Hans Farrow took his submarine and set sail for adventure. Where his journey would take him he could not say.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Traveling the world, visiting exotic seaports like Casablanca and Bequia. What a life. Nothing to think about except the sky of blue and the sea of green.

But there was one nagging problem for Capt. Farrow. Because of the Treaty of Versailles, he and his jolly team of submariners (including son Jörn and strongman Hein Gruber) were political dissidents. They flagrantly ignored the prevailing Entente following WWI, deciding instead to recast themselves as seafaring romantics.

I wouldn’t call Farrow a flag-waving German Nationalist. He simply didn’t want to give up his “wonderful submarine” and submit to postwar restrictions. To him, the sea was a neutral zone filled with mystery and adventure.

In this particular adventure (circa 1930-something), Farrow visits the island of Celebes. While picking up supplies and doing a little sightseeing, he hears about a giant stingray terrorizing the Spermonde Archipelago. Immediately his curiosity is piqued. “It’s true that some skates have been caught that were nine feet wide and seven feet long,” he muses. He wants to see the sea monster for himself.

The locals, however, warn him to stay clear of the nearby archipelago. The stingray has already destroyed many ships that foolishly ignored the danger. “I want to try it anyway,” says Farrow. “We may be able to spot the monster ray. And if there’s rich booty around, then maybe we could be in luck.”

The stingray isn’t the only danger afoot. There’s a village bully and two Chinese scoundrels who all share a nasty agenda. Farrow could tell they were up to no good. The war and being chased by Interpol awoke in him a sixth sense, which rarely let him down.

As it turns out, the three criminals and the giant skate are connected to each other. Are you surprised? If so, you haven’t read enough pulp fiction, German or otherwise.

Soon enough, the submarine’s crew encounters the sea creature. The giant ray’s tail rose from the water and crushed the ship’s tender to bits. “The monster must be so large that it could easily swallow a man whole,” opines the captain’s son Jörn.

But was it really a colossal stingray—maybe even a newly discovered species? Or perhaps it was some kind of animatronic trick concocted by the Chinese hooligans? The onboard scientist didn’t know what to think. “Was it really a ray?” he wonders. “The tail glittered silver all over, but rays usually have dark tails.”

Anybody who’s familiar with fake monster stories (or seen an episode of Scooby-Doo) will easily figure out if the skate was real or simply a mechanical prank. Captain Farrow, on the other hand, didn’t catch on very quickly. It took him an entire novel to solve the riddle.  

[Jörn Farrow’s U-Boat Adventures: The Sea Monster / By Reinhard Wilhelm / Translated by Joseph Lovece / Dime Novel Cover First Printing: August 2015 / ISBN: 9781515229063]