BIGGLES – AIR COMMODORE
by Captain W. E. Johns
XI. HORRORS FROM THE DEEP (Pages 162 – 181)
(There is a map of Elephant Island on page 163). Biggles and Ginger set out on the destroyer the following evening in accordance with the plan. For Biggles “both the importance of his task and the magnitude of his responsibilities weighed heavily upon him, and filled him with an unusual nervousness concerning the issue. The reason may have been that, whereas most of his adventures hitherto had been of a personal or private nature, the present one involved considerations so momentous that they appalled him. A single indiscretion might, he knew, embarrass the leaders of the Empire at a singularly inopportune time, and failure at the crucial moment would almost certainly precipitate a world war”. Algy is left as planned with the Nemesis at Hastings Island. Before the moon rises, a boat is lowered for Biggles and Ginger to row to rocky islets off Elephant Island. From here Biggles rows to the beach and Ginger then drops him off and rows back to the islet. Ginger gets out of the boat and watches the crabs as he waits. Untied, the boat slowly floats away. When Ginger spots this he notices “a dark, indistinct mass, hanging on the side of it”. A snake-like object is thrown at him. “He knew what it was, of course; either an octopus or a decapod, perhaps the most loathsome living thing in all creation”. The creature drops off the boat and comes onto the rocks; then further down Ginger sees another one come ashore. Ginger flees and makes his way over rocks and through water to the island itself. Ginger needs to get the boat back but “nothing would have induced him to go back into that monster-haunted water in the hope of retrieving it”. Rather than just stand on the beach, Ginger sets off the way Biggles went in the hope of seeing him return. Ginger comes across “a queer formation of small trees”. There is rectangular rough trellis-work containing what appear to be giant bird’s nests. There was also an unpleasant musty odour. For a long time, Ginger waits and then he hears the steady throb of a powerful engine. It seems to be beneath him; suddenly it is ten times louder. From the base of the low cliff on which he stands comes a submarine heading out to sea. Two men protruded from the super-structure and “a few words of a strange foreign language floated up to him”. Once clear the sound becomes a purr and dies away and the island is all quiet again.