The Tragedy of the 2den April
There are some places in this world that mankind was never meant to be. Our hands are not made for tunneling underground, nor are our arms meant for keeping us aloft in flight above the land. Most of all, our lungs are not designed to breath water or withstand its crushing pressure. Yet mankind’s simultaneously indominable and foolish spirit tasks us to not except our limitations. We must push through every boundary given to us, to prove we are the superior species on this world. It is never questioned if we are restricted from certain endeavors for a reason.
Such thoughts of why we can not breath water and survive deep ocean pressure never crossed Aleksander Vestargaard’s mind. If they had, he would never have joined the Danish navy and never would have accepted a position in the submarine called 2den April. The year was 1926 however, and mankind had already broken so many barriers that were previously unconquerable; he rode in carriages that required no horses, he flew in the sky along side the birds and he dove deep into the sea to depths unfathomable only 50 years ago.
As a proud young man with an even prouder sailor family, Aleksander had always known his life would revolve around the sea. With the war to end all wars done and over with for eight years, joining the Royal Danish Navy wasn’t as risky as it was only a decade ago. New technologies, like what the American’s called Sonar, had been implemented into the RDN’s Subs by then, making it much easier to ignore his father’s protests of, “Our family has sailed on top of the water for many generations: the only thing we’ve ever met underneath the water is death.”
Aleksander had been slightly disappointed at the fact the 2den April rarely went out on patrols and most of the time sat at the docks. The few times the crew and he were assigned patrol made up for it however, and nothing exhilarated his soul more than when 2den April dived below the surface to test its stability and air-tightness. The thought that he was actually under the water, gliding through the ocean like one of the whales he’s seen on his many fishing trips with his father filled his heart with glee, and doing the many chores on the cramped, smelly and noisy submarine were a small price to pay for the completion of self he felt.
It was on a fateful day in October of 1926 that the crew of 2den April found themselves on patrol in the North Sea, just outside of the Skagerrak strait. It was a cold day, even for October, and the waters, while not exactly rough, seemed to hold an air of menace about them. Aleksander had spent almost half his life on the water, and yet he had never seen the seas quite like this. There was a sickening feeling in his gut that told him that he should stay out of the ocean that day, but orders were orders and his pride would not let him sit this patrol out while his fellow crew faced whatever fate had in store for them.
The 2den April was making its way north in the North Sea. Cruising along at 13 knots, the final destination was the city of Lindesnes in Norway. There, arrangements had been made between the Danish and Swedish governments that it would rest and refuel for a few days before making its way back to Denmark. Aleksander had only been to Norway a few times in his life, so despite the warning he felt in his stomach, he was in relatively high spirits about being able to see Norway and its people for a few days.
Aleksander was listening to the implemented sonar equipment. Without enemy ships and torpedoes to watch for, it was a relatively boring job, though he preferred it to having to clean and load the torpedo tubes. The 2den April was outfitted with the typical Type SE-4214 sound receiver. In simple terms, it was a stethoscope in the water. During war times, Aleksander would have been listening for the engine hums of ships and other submarines, but since it was a time of peace, he really only needed to keep an ear out for left over mines from either the British or German navy. There were a number of sea battles in these waters, and you had to be sure you wouldn’t run into a depth charge that was forgotten and waiting for an oblivious ship to run into it.
Aleksander had had his headphones on for about an hour, only half listening while chatting with the rest of his crew in the control room about the usual things. The lieutenant currently in command encouraged the talking and bonding of his men, usually speaking and citing his opinion of world affairs as much as any other of the crewmen. Today was different, and Aleksander could tell that more than half of the 14-man crew of the sub had the same bad feeling he did, but it had not silenced them completely. As one of the engineers started to boast loudly about his boat back home that he’d built with his own two hands, Aleksander barely noticed a reticent sound being picked up by his equipment. Notice it he did however, and he turned his full attention to new sound he was picking up.
In the direction they were headed, a faint rumbling was heard. It was very deep, but still too far to be distinguishable as to what it was. Aleksander interrupted his fellow crewman’s talking and called for the Lieutenant to come over. The control room went as silent as it could, and his Lieutenant asked him for a status report. Aleksander told him that there was something ahead of them, but they were too far away from it to give a definite explanation of what it was. From the rumbling he heard though, it wouldn’t be too far out to guess that it was another submarine.
The Lieutenant nodded and told the radio operator to contact HQ and ask if there were any other submarines they were aware of heading towards Lindesnes. With High Frequency only just being implemented, the 2den April was not equipped with an HF radio and communications this far out were spotty at best. After his initial order, the Lieutenant ordered that the course not be altered but the speed reduced from 13 to 6 knots. It would be bad if they had to change plans for nothing, but the Lieutenant was a cautious man, and he was not planning to get himself or his men killed unnecessarily to try and meet a schedule.
With the submarine slowed, it took a little while for the sound to become a little clearer to Aleksander. He was listening intensely, more and more sure the sound was originating from some distance north of them, right in their path. As the sound was getting less distorted, the radio operator finally managed to reach command and relay their question. They managed to keep in contact to learn that no other submarines the RDN was aware of should be in those waters. Any other orders for the sub was lost in static as the radio operator desperately tried to raise command. It was shortly after this Aleksander discovered something weird about the sound and called over the Lieutenant to speak with him privately.
“Sir, I don’t believe this is an engine of any kind.” He explained. “While the pitch could easily match that of any diesel engine, it sounds too…smooth, to be that of a machine. As we’ve gotten closer, I’ve also noticed there are small breaks in between the sounds. I’m not sure why or what these breaks of sound are, but they are clean breaks. No engine I’ve ever heard of can stop and start up again that quickly and seamlessly.”
The Lieutenant stroked his finely groomed beard as he thought about what Aleksander told him. “You say you don’t think this sound is a machine? Then this sound must be from some kind of animal?”
“If it is sir, it’s not from any animal I’ve ever heard.” The Lieutenant nodded slowly, then straightened up with a decision made. Turning, he addressed the rest of the crew in the control room. “Alright men, we’re going to investigate a strange noise that’s coming from somewhere in ahead of us. HQ says there shouldn’t be any other submarines in these waters, but if there is one, it is our duty to find it and report it.”
“Should we prepare for combat sir?” One of the crew asked. “We shall load the two torpedo tubes,” the Lieutenant replied, “but we are to approach slowly and friendly. We shall not be responsible for a diplomatic mess if we can avoid it. For all we know at the moment, it could be a submarine in desperate need of help, and god knows I will not condemn men to a watery grave if I can help it.”
The crew looked at one another, with the same question on their mind. “What if they are German?” One men asked slowly and unassured. The Lieutenant sighed and rubbed his temples. “The war is over. I know some of you have bad blood for the Germans due to their…conscription practices, but is has been eight years, and we have no enemies right now. Besides, the Germans are not allowed submarines, so I highly doubt we shall run into them.”
This seemed to relax the crew, and they went about their jobs with ease. The Lieutenant turned back to Aleksander and spoke softly to him. “Let me know when the sound becomes more discernable. We are in a delicate situation right now, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not be on the wrong side of history if something unexpected happens.” Aleksander nodded, knowing and feeling almost exactly as the Lieutenant felt. The only thing he felt off about was the noise itself. He knew it had to be something man-made, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t.”
It took about ten minutes, but the sound became clear enough so that Aleksander knew they would have to dive to hear it better. The breaks in between the deep resounding sounds were becoming clearer to Aleksander and were also somehow familiar. He didn’t know how, but a memory was being stirred inside of him that he could not put his finger on. He told the Lieutenant they would have to start diving if he was going to ascertain what was making the noise. Immediately the order was given and 2den April began to dive. For a moment, Aleksander forgot about what was going on, with the ecstasy of diving overtaking him and making him smile.
The situation rushed back to him quickly however, and he pressed his headphones his ears, trying his best to make out the noises that were reaching his ears. He could vaguely hear one of the engineers shout out the depth as the continued their descent. They had reached the depth of 210 meters when the Lieutenant called for the 2den April to level out. The reverberations came much more clearly and he called out that this was the correct depth.
On they went, getting closer to whatever was making the noise. Whatever it was, it was getting very loud, so much so that soon it was getting hard for Aleksander to wear his headphones to listen. When this began, the Lieutenant called for the speed to slow to 3 knots, and the 2den April began creeping slowly through the water. With every meter closer to the originating point, the familiarity of the sounds grew more present in Aleksander’s mind. The sounds were a type of pattern, he just couldn’t figure out what type they were.
All of a sudden, the 2den April was rocked by a huge underwater current. The crew struggled to remain where they were and not get tossed about like a ragdoll. It was then Aleksander could clearly make out the sounds. In fact, the whole submarine vibrated with force of noise coming through the water. The memory clicked into his brain, and he felt his blood freeze as terror coursed through his veins. “Iak munu nidher-slā inn sonr Thor, iak sverja.”
Horror crept into the faces of every man aboard the vessel. Some ran to their bunks for their bibles and crosses, others fell to the floor in the fetal position and wept. No one knew what the sounds meant, but they could tell it was no machine making them and it wasn’t the call of any whale that existed on earth. The Lieutenant crossed over to Aleksander and with panic ripe in his voice asked, “What is that?”
“Old Norse” replied Aleksander. “Old Norse?” “Yes sir. My Grandmother taught it to me when I was very young. She was always proud of our heritage. She said the Vestargaard’s blood was the blood of kings, and every king needs to know the language of old. So, she taught me, drilled me hard enough in the summers with it so that even to this very day, I know it. “
“So whatever is outside, making all this noise, it is speaking?” “Yes sir, it is.” A look of abject horror crossed the Lieutenant’s face. The only reason Aleksander looked so calm was his grandmother again. She had been a driving force in his life and taught him many of the ways of his Viking heritage. One of those beliefs is that your death is already foretold, and nothing you can do will stop it. Until your time to die, fight as hard as you can, live as bountifully as you can, and you shall be welcomed to Valhalla. Aleksander didn’t believe all of it, but the idea of your death being already planned had mad him brave throughout his life. Now he was believing that his time was up, though his mind and soul protested it. They couldn’t believe that his grandmother had been right, that his ancestors and their stories had all been right.
The lieutenant snapped him out of his stupor with a soft-spoken question: “What is it saying?” Aleksander gulped, not wanting to say the words and confirm certain truths, but knowing he’d have to. “It says, ‘I will strike down the son Thor, I swear.’” The Lieutenant’s eyes bulged at the translation for though he was not familiar with Old Norse, he and every Scandinavian knew the tales of the ancestors, from the gods to the monsters, and he whispered to Aleksander, “Jömungandr?” Aleksander could only nod in response.
The phrase began again, shaking the whole 38.9 meters of submarine. The sub’s movements barely registered with either of the men however. Jömungandr, the Midgard Serpent, the child of a god and a giant, was here. Sailors from all over the world told of giant beasts of the deep oceans, but none were ever verified. Now here in the North Sea, where ships and subs sailed countless times before, it was suddenly found by 14 men on a routine mission to Norway. It should not be possible, but what else could it be?
Suddenly, in the middle of itself, the deep booming voice stopped, and all was quiet outside of the sub. Men looked around in apprehension, as if they were trying to see outside the steel walls that kept them safe and breathing, scanning for whatever the thing out in the black abyss was. With the sound of the engines being the only things making any noise in the sub, every crewman looked from one another to see if their fellow man had some answer, some plan, anything to get them out of this situation.
After about a minute of every soul on board cowering, the Lieutenant made a determined face, as though he was swallowing his fear and embracing his Viking heritage. He stood straight and firm, gazing around the control room at each man. Very softly, but loud enough for the crew to hear, he spoke. “We shall rise to the surface now. As soon as we break, I want the engines at full throttle, do you understand? We make for land, any land, as fast as we can.” Though despair gripped the men, their trust in the Lieutenant gave their limbs the will to move and slowly the 2den April made its way to the surface. Each man inside the sub worked quickly and quietly, flinching at every sound that came from inside the vessel.
After 25 meters, they heard nothing. After 45 meters, all was quiet. As the submarine rose 50 meters, to the misery of all aboard, the booming voice shook the craft again, closer and louder than it had ever been. “Hverr ir sjά mάlmr hvalnum.” The 2den April shook violently with every word, and the crew lost all their calm. Over the screams and prayers, the Lieutenant shouted to Aleksander, “What did it say?” With as much anguish as the howls of the other men, Aleksander replied, “What is this metal whale?”
It was three days later that a small Norwegian fishing ship came across the many parts of the 2den April beached on a desolate coastline of Southern Norway. Upon investigating, they discovered that it belonged to the Royal Danish Navy, and contacted the Norwegian government about their find. Soon the beach was swarmed with navy men from both Denmark and Norway. When investigating the wreckage, the soldier team found the entire crew dead, all exploded from the same pressure change the sub experienced that tore it into the pieces found on the beach. Normally, the governments would declare a freak accident and be done with it. Yet something changed their minds.
That something caused the Royal Denmark Navy to fake records of the 2den April so that it still existed. That something caused the 2den April to be “transferred” to the Naval Reserves in 1926 and “decommissioned and sold for scrap” in January 1929. That something caused top government officials, from both countries, to forge documents to make the crew of the 2den April appear to still be alive and living somewhere in the isolated mountains of Norway.
It was first noticed by a private partially on a longer piece of the underbelly of the sub. A crane was needed to lift the part of the hull to get a good look at it. Perfectly ingrained into the steel was an imprint of a giant scale, crushed into the sub as if whatever the scale had been part of lifted the ship from its depths quickly and forcefully. The men were told by commanders on site to ignore it and continue with the clean-up. After all, a creature that size with scale that large didn’t exist in the oceans. Or more accurately, as any one could see from the fearful glances the two countries’ admirals gave one another, they hoped there wasn’t a creature that big.
Submitted July 11, 2018 at 11:07AM by Mr_Charms_505