Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Tale of the Submarine at Nahuel Huapi in 1960


Myth busting - Demystifying

"Googled" keywords "1960" and "Nahuelito".
Copyright © 2009 by Austin Whittall

I "googled" the words "1960" and "Nahuelito" and found 4,240 sites that contribute to perpetuate an incredible and apocryphal story that is roughly the following:

In 1960, the Argentine navy chased during 18 days a mysterious submerged object in the lake; they never caught it, it faded from their radar screens.

The story is a typical example of the Internet culture of "copy and paste" and the lack of a critical mentality. References and stories should be traced to their original sources.

The story is based on a true event:

• The Argentine navy did chase a submerged object
• It happened in Patagonia
• It happened in 1960

But, on the other hand:

• It did not involve Lake Nahuel Huapi
• Nahuelito did not even exist as a name in 1960.

Here are the facts: I quote the article in full, because it is very interesting.

Source: Newsweek Magazine, February 22, 1960, pp. 57 [1] and [2]


The Wily Whatzit?

Was it a whale? Or an amphibious flying saucer? Or the Loch Ness monster gone astray? All last week, Buenos Aires was in a tizzy. Porteños buttonholed each other in the bustling streets, exchanged rumors, then rushed home to listen to the latest radio reports. The press had a field day; whole front pages were given over to the fantastic story.

Newsweek's article (snippet)

Image of Newsweek's article.
From [2]

Seven hundred miles to the south, the Argentine Navy, with supporting planes, was beating the waters of the Golfo Nuevo to a white froth as it attacked what was officially only an "unidentified undersea object," but which most Argentines were convinced was a foreign submarine.

Map included in the article, showing where it all happened..
From [1]

Gaping crowds of the curious on the shores of the 800-mile-square bay watched the navy ships, in fan-shaped formation, patrolling ceaselessly back and forth across the 8-mile-wide entrance. At intervals they could see columns of water rising toward the blue sky as depth bombs and artillery thundered. Air Force planes zoomed overhead, loosing bombs.

What was it all about? Was there really a submarine there? The tight-lipped navy obviously thought so. Ships had picked up the "object" with sonar gear three weeks ago, had tracked it into the Golfo Nuevo. Now they were determined to bring it to the surface and get a good look at it.

Hitler? The most fantastic speculation, in a case where nothing was too fantastic, was that it was a German submarine which had been cruising, like the Flying Dutchman, since the 1945 surrender, looking for a safe haven. Eager Argentine newsmen figured they'd have the story of the century if the vessel docked and Hitler strolled down the gangplank with Eva Braun on his arm.

The navy didn't think the rumors were particularly funny. Officers took the hunt seriously. "The Argentine public can be sure that the intruding submarine exists," a congressman declared. At the end of the week, the navy decided there were two submarines in the bay; later, a third was reported lurking outside.

Patagonia would be a happy hunting ground for a hostile sub. Puerto Madryn, on Golfo Nuevo, is Argentina's main South Atlantic base. Its sheltered, deep-water anchorage could harbor the mightiest ships in all the world's navies. It commands South Atlantic shipping routes around the Horn which might become a desperate necessity in wartime if anything happened to the Panama Canal. It would be very much worthwhile for any future belligerent to have its own charts of these waters, perhaps even its own maps of the surrounding territory.

Rumors covered this, too. There were reports that a landing party had come ashore from the submarine before it was spotted. A young German skin diver told of finding strange steel rings, "possibly mooring devices." A food cache for 5,000 men was said to have been found in the care of a man and woman of Slavic origin. Naval intelligence added to the confusion by reporting that it had seized a clandestine radio transmitter "operated by a man with a British accent."

If it was a foreign sub, whose was it? The U.S. and Great Britain formally denied that any of their ships were in the neighborhood. Washington underscored the denial by rushing a stock of high-powered depth charges to Argentina. Russia echoed the denials but found fewer takers. Many Argentines fully expected that, if the "object" was a sub and not a whale (or a flying saucer, or the Loch Ness monster), and if it was finally forced to surface, there would be a red star on the conning tower.

This reference: Newsweek magazine, February 22, 1960, p. 57

As the following map shows, Lake Nahuel Huapi and Golfo Nuevo are quite far apart (560 km - 348 mi.). One is at the foot of the Andes, by the Chilean-Argentine border, the other is on the Atlantic coast. There is no way that the 1960 submarine chase could have happened in the lake.

location Patagonia map
Northern Patagonia. Location of Golfo Nuevo and Nahuel Huapi.
Copyright © 2009 by Austin Whittall

More information. For those who can read in Spanish, there is a very interesting online resource about this same incident.

It mentions that mysterious submarines began appearing in 1957 and continued doing so in '58 and '59. Though the golfo Nuevo Gulf was sealed off and many ships tracked the "sub" for several days, it was never caught.[3]

Depth charges killed fish and penguins and the incident irritated the Soviet Vice Premier Anastas Mikoyan who stated that "(...) They are only going to kill a lot of fish".[4]

The navy pilots who saw the submarine believed that it a "class 21" vessel, "the most modern developed by Germany towards the end of World War II".[3]

I hope that this settles the issue for once and for all: no submarine ever chased any monster in Lake Nahuel Huapi back in 1960. Lets hope that the "copy & pasters" check their sources before going ahead.


[1] Newsweek magazine. The Wily Whatzit?. 22.02.1960. pp. 57. Online here
[2] Google Books with Newsweek magazine 22.02.1960 issue.
[3] La batalla del Golfo Nuevo (Arg. 1960). Online.
[4] ABC Periódico Electónico, 16.02.1960. Se teme que el "Submarino Fantasma" haya escapado. Online.

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Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©

Patagonian Monsters

1 comment:

  1. Something you will find very interesting. Brazilian coast guard films possible metalised.


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