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June 4, 1973

The rough waves crashed and pounded against the rugged cliffs of Látrabjarg. A storm was brewing, a fierce tempest that brought a heavy cloud cover, one that turned everything around into a beautiful, yet eerie sight. Soaring above the waves, Arctic skuas, the avian masters of such wind-battered waves, hunted for the small, wounded, and exhausted seabirds that flew out of their element. Látrabjarg was a popular nesting site for seabirds of all shapes and sizes, and was, by necessity, a site of scientific interest.

At the top of the cliffs stood the small lighthouse Bjargtangar, built by the island’s fishermen in 1913. The site had recently been renovated, a new structure built to replace the old one. In such exposed, windswept places, Bjargtangar — the only permanent structure for miles — was an obvious place for travelling scientists to stop off while they conducted their observations of the seabirds beneath. But on some occasions, the birds were not the main attraction. Sometimes, the men and women who paid the isolated coastline a visit had other intentions, utterly unknowable to the occupants of Bjargtangar.

Slowly moving along the coast, bobbing on the waves, an enormous vessel appeared. It was a ship from Denmark. The ship was the Danish research vessel Svend Foyn, equipped for coastline geological research. It had not been intended for such explorations, but the Danes had had no choice. The winds had brought the Svend Foyn to the Látrabjarg cliffs, and in those stormy waters it was impossible to move the vessel any other way. They'd tried to abort, to turn back.

This was no weather for such an expedition.

At the bow stood a young woman in a thick jacket. The woman was a Norwegian, Eva Svavarsdóttir, new to Iceland’s National Land Survey and mapping. She was working with her assistant and colleague, Kjartan Einarsson, from the University of Iceland’s Geosciences Faculty. It was a beautiful day, almost a record-breaking warmth for that time of year. They were at work, mapping the coastline, the shoreline, the cliffs.

“Kjartan, let’s have a go,” Eva shouted over the waves.

“The waves are too rough,” Kjartan replied, and started counting. "1012.53 millibars," he said at last. "It's going up. Leave it another hour or so."

With a hint of impatience, Eva sat down. "If it's good enough for the birds to fly, why can't we set off yet?" she asked, gesturing to the birds circling overhead like vultures.

Kjartan sighed. "Because," he said, "the bonxies—skuas, or 'jaegers', you always call them — they hunt in the storms. Other birds panic and make mistakes, but the bonxies? They take it all in their stride. They exploit the bad weather to the fullest. Bonxies are thieves, but they're also hunters. Most predators are cowards, but those birds?" He chuckled. "I remember one time, I was on a fishing boat. Let me tell you, if any bird can siege a vessel, it's a bonxie."

Lying on the cold metal floor, Eva sighed. "Fair play," she said. "So how long did you say? An hour?"

Kjartan nodded, and made his way to the wheelhouse. An old man, his hair was thin and his features weatherbeaten, stood on the helm deck, guiding the ship with a practiced and careful grip on the wheel. Around him, the skeleton crew of the Svend Foyn worked, trying to steer the vessel away from the cliff walls and break into calmer waters.

The day progressed, and at first the storm showed no signs of letting up. But as the hours drew on, the storm cloud had moved inland, and the sky cleared. The waves were no longer breaking against the cliffs. Instead they were small rolling waves of whitecaps, white peaks over which the Svend Foyn rolled and bobbed, riding the swell as it carried her forward. And as visibility increased, as more and more seabirds plucked up the courage to take flight, the results of the storm's destructive wrath became clear.

"There's something on the beach!" yelled one of the local lads.

He was pointing out to the northeast, ahead of the ship. Staggering to her feet, Eva's curiosity got the better of her, and she ran over to the bow of the ship. There was Breidavik Beach, stained yellow by the shells of long-dead scallops. Atop the discoloured sand, a great form lay, black and white with streaks of crimson. Skuas circled over the body, some landing to tear off pieces of flesh.


"Hey, Kjartan!" Eva yelled. "Come see this!"

But Kjartan was already on his way. The old man gazed across the beach at the prone body of the orca. "I don't understand," he said. "Orcas aren't usually seen here, but that's not the half of it."

"What's wrong?"

Kjartan shook his head. "What's big enough to rip open a young killer whale like that?"

"Not an animal, then? People? A ship? I don't know, forced perspective might be at play. It might be a—"

With a scoff, Kjartan waved a dismissive hand. "I've been on that beach many a time," he said. "I know how big those rocks are."

The sun fell on the cliffs of Látrabjarg, and the wind fell on the waves. A sudden, eerie silence descended on the shore as the clouds slowly, but surely, began to dissipate. It was the middle of the afternoon, and at last the tide was starting to ebb.

"Let's have a look, eh?" said Eva, turning to Kjartan. "Let's check it out."

As well as skuas, the corpse of the orca was infested with flies and gulls of all shapes and sizes. The stench of decay rose into the cold air, attracting a small flock of gannets and a pair of great skuas, the very biggest species. So overpowering was the smell that Eva and the young lad with her, Baldur, fell back, away from the corpse. Kjartan, on the other hand, approached the body, studying it with a mixture of disgust and fascination.

"What the hell?" he muttered. "The bite marks, they're deep. Too deep."

The blood streaking across the orca's belly and throat suggested the attack had been ferocious. The orca had been torn to shreds, the skin ripped from its body and the flesh sloughed away. But the great, bloody wounds of the orca had been deliberately, and grotesquely, accentuated by two or three deep cuts — the work of a formidable set of teeth indeed. One flipper was badly torn up and the other flipper was almost completely detached. A chunk of bloody bone protruded through the skin on the side of the orca's neck, an open wound from which even Kjartan and Eva were repelled. But now Baldur, the lad who had originally seen the corpse, stepped forward.

"I have seen this orca before," he said. "Look at the dorsal fin. The bend a third of the way up, the scar. I saw this animal three years ago, in Snæfellsnes. If memory serves, Faxaflói Cetacean Research attached a tag with a number to..." He lifted its damaged flipper and nodded. "... the area under its right flipper. We can report the death. Get the proper authorities involved."

"Good on you, lad!" said Kjartan. "We'll tell the authorities when we get back to the Svend Foyn."

They stood in silence, looking at the body. "Poor sod," said Eva.

"Yes," Kjartan said. "Poor sod. Only a youngster." He sighed. "Right, let's get going. We have mapping to do."

Giving a final glance towards the carcass, Eva sighed and started to walk back towards the small lifeboats on the crashing waves, those that would take them back to the ship.

June 6, 1973

Once on the ship, Eva had immediately set about contacting the authorities. Not only was the corpse of the orca a matter of public interest, so was the question of what could have done such damage.

When the Icelandic police came to investigate, they found that a large whale carcass had washed up just beyond the cliffs of Látrabjarg. It was a sperm whale, the biggest predatory animal in the ocean. And it had been torn to pieces. Its abdominal cavity had been torn open, internal organs were strewn across the sands, and there was every indication that its demise had been slow, brutal, and above all else, excruciatingly painful. For the police and zoologists that attended the scene, there was little doubt that something out of the ordinary had happened to the sperm whale, and so their investigation began.

That was two days ago.

Eva sat atop the Svend Foyn, wrapped in a thin coat. Behind her, the darkening cliffs of Látrabjarg soared up against the deep blue waters of the Atlantic, a wall of black, jagged rock against the shimmering light of the Northern Sun. Ahead of her stretched an endless wall of blue, an expanse that ended only when the horizon was swallowed by the gathering clouds. A gentle, rolling swell spread out from the ship, and a stiff wind blew across the deck, ruffling Eva's short, blonde hair and making her blue coat billow out. It was oddly tranquil, yet somehow, she felt a constant sense of apprehension, of nervousness, of anticipation.

It was an implacable feeling, one that, Eva imagined, was borne of the anxiety of what had occurred. First an orca, and then a sperm whale. To do that required power and ferocity beyond any animal she knew of. Staring vacantly into the abyss, she wondered if the mighty beast that killed it was somewhere down there, beneath the research vessel, stalking the Svend Foyn like an almighty leviathan.

And then she saw the shape in the water.

It was but a fleeting glimpse, but the sheer enormity of the creature was obvious even from such a short distance. Easily the size of a bus, with a skull bigger than her head. Its dark blue-and-white back blended in with the blue of the ocean, and as its head broke the surface, Eva saw two nostrils, like a baleen whale. But this was no baleen whale. With an eerie wail, like a cetacean, but somehow more guttural, the creature called out to the waters. Eva stood in rapt silence, spellbound. Her heart was pounding. And at that moment, she realised why.

From up there, she looked straight into its eyes.

That was when the creature swam past the Svend Foyn and towards the shore, the water parting around its thick, powerful form as it left. It continued to call out, a haunting, almost melodic sound, and then it was back in the gloom, a dark grey shadow, heading back to the depths of the sea. When Kjartan ran up to the railings and stared into the darkness, a look of abject awe spread across his features, he arrived but a moment before this colossus of the deep retreated back to its home.

"What..." he stammered. "What was that?"

For Eva, she could only shake her head. "I don't know, Kjartan."

But in truth, she was sure of what she had seen. She had seen pictures, artist's impressions of long-dead beasts that once patrolled the murky depths of the world's seas. And Eva was sure that this was one of those creatures. She was certain. She just didn't want to sound crazy.

"How did you know?" she muttered breathlessly.

Kjartan tried to calm himself. "I... I had a reading on the SONAR," he said. "It gave a rough size of between eight and ten metres."

The creature's call echoed through the water and shook the boat, sending an ethereal, ghostly wail across the darkening seascape. And then it was gone, vanished into the nothingness beneath. There was silence. The only sound was the rasp of the wind and the gentle lapping of the waves.

And then came an almighty crash.

Eva stumbled and almost fell over, while Kjartan tightly grasped the railings. The Svend Foyn shook from the impact, a dull, metallic thud echoing. There was another bang, even worse now, and the thud echoed from every corner of the ship. From below, the vessel lurched drunkenly, and then with a sharp cry, Kjartan cried out. As did Eva, her knees giving way. The whole ship seemed to tremble, the hull shuddering, the masts shuddering, the water rushing into the gut of the boat. The sound was a combination of pain and fear and, above all else, a sound of utter loss.

Then it was quiet. Still and black and dark.

"Gods!" Eva whispered.

They stood in silence. Eva felt her own heart pounding. Her body shook as fear and adrenaline coursed through her veins. It was difficult to breathe. All around, the world had fallen away and all she could hear was her own heart. The ocean sounded so loud, so deep and so powerful. She couldn't hear anything beyond its crashing and crashing. Nothing.

"...what... the fuck... was that?" she gasped.

She looked over at Kjartan. He was staring down to the deck below them, his hands pressed into the railing, as if to grip it even tighter. A look of abject terror was etched across his face. His jaw quivering, he looked up at her.

"Pliosaur," he blurted out. "It was a fucking pliosaur."

Eva didn't think she had ever seen a human look so petrified. Her own legs were shaking and the only thing that she could think of was trying to get off the ship as fast as she could. Her body swayed with the rolling of the waves.

"We need to get back to land," she said. "Fast."

"There is no way, Eva," Kjartan said between rasping breaths. "Not without risking another attack. We... we need to turn off the power."

Eva's eyes widened. "What?" she blurted out.

"If... if we turn the lights off," Kjartan said, "it might think we're not a threat."

She stared at him for a good while, trying to understand what he was saying. There was a certain logic to it, she couldn't deny that, but her mind refused to comprehend it. There was a moment of terrible uncertainty, and then something like clarity descended.

"How do we do that?" she asked.

"With the emergency switch," Kjartan replied. "On the right of the wheel, just next to the helm."

"Show me," Eva said.

With Kjartan running a hand across the wheel, he found the switch. He reached in and flicked it. Then he pointed at the lights themselves.

"Turn them off," he said. "All of them."

She reached in and flicked the switch, and then all of the lights blinked out. The cabin was plunged into total darkness.

With the ship now completely dark, Eva's eyes struggled to adjust. It was like coming home after being away for a very long time, every corner was familiar, every corner was a friend, every corner was an enemy. There was only the sea and the boat and the sky above.

"What now?"

Kjartan sighed as he stepped onto the deck. "We wait," he said. "And we pray."

The night was an endless expanse of darkness. No moonlight could filter through the clouds, and beyond, the sea was a silent, brooding thing that seemed a part of the black and brooding world itself. And all the while, the ship creaked in the roll of the waves, and it pitched up and down, up and down, and Eva could feel the cold, the wet, the salty spray that ran from her face. In the darkness of the water, she saw movement. She screamed at Kjartan to back away from the railings, to get to safety, to do anything, but it was worthless.

It was too late.

With another almighty crash, Kjartan fell forwards. Slamming into the railing, the wind was knocked from his lungs, and as the Svend Foyn pitched, he fell forward, careening into the water. The vessel tipped, Eva screamed, and then Kjartan's body disappeared below the waterline. Then, he re-emerged within seconds, hauled skyward by the enormous maw of the pliosaur. It rose up out of the water, a black shape of enormous proportions. And in that moment, it struck the hull of the Svend Foyn with such ferocity that the whole of the ship shook, its masts vibrating as if struck by some invisible force. As its jaws were forced shut, blood sprayed out like a stream of crimson water, and what pulped, mangled flesh remained of Kjartan fell into the inky depths like beef mince or chum. Eva's mind was totally blank with terror. She was going to die.

They all were.

Eva was suddenly blinded by an intense light from overhead. The pliosaur let out a low and irritated rumble, pushing itself from the wreckage — apparently it had just fucking breached — and with an enormous splash, it was gone, vanished into the the darkness. But the light remained, illuminating every crevice and corner, flooding the sea and the sky. As it slowly dimmed just a little, the source of the light became visible. It was a helicopter.

An Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter.

The enormous craft, a vivid red-orange, slowly descended onto the deck, a spray of dust and debris cascading into the air. Men in the rescue vehicle leapt from the chopper's cabin, sprinting up the deck towards her, asking if she was okay, if there was anyone else on-board. And then she could see the chopper's name etched into the tail, emblazoned in black lettering: TF-GNA. Everything was a blur after that.

June 7, 1973

Eva had been taken to a hospital and given medical assistance. All the while, her entire body was racked with pain. The shock was bad. The injuries were severe, as was the irreparable trauma. She lay in a hospital bed in Reykjavik, recovering from the injuries that she had sustained. The trauma from witnessing the death of such a close friend left her shaken and physically and emotionally drained. Every negative emotion, all at once, coursed through her brain. A part of her, the strong part that had won her so many fights in the playground and the schoolyard, a part that no one could see, the part that had made her the toughest kid in the gang, that part had died.

There were voices outside her room.

Someone rapped on the door. She heard a female voice ask if she was awake, and if 'they' could come in. "Farðu til Helvítis," she muttered under her breath. "Leave me alone."

The door opened and in walked the female. She was about five foot six, clad in a white t-shirt, a short overcoat and grey jeans. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, dark eyes piercing. She looked young, no more than twenty-five. Eva immediately despised everything about her, and wanted her to go away.

"Hello," she said with an American accent, in what Eva knew was a deceptively sweet voice. "You're Eva Svavarsdóttir, correct?"

Eva looked up at her blankly, a slight frown flitted across her lips. "Who are you?"

The woman hesitated, then she sat down in a chair intended for friends and family. "My name is Rose," she said. "Rose Keeler. I'm a... well, that's a long story, and I'm afraid there's no time for that."

Eva turned her head away from her and closed her eyes. Rose remained silent for a long while, the only noise was the light beeping of the machine connected to her bed. Eva glanced at the woman. Her eyes were kind, even sympathetic. It hurt; she didn't want that sympathy. "Why are you here?"

Then Rose spoke, her voice firm and reassuring, though low. "Those who rescued you say the Svend Foyn was destroyed by a large animal," she said. "They say it was dark, had four flippers, and has an enormous skull. Correct?"

Eva nodded.

"Tip of the goddamn iceberg," she said. "I saw photographs. What you saw was Kronosaurus queenslandicus, one of the biggest pliosaurs. Named after Cronus, not to be confused with Chronos, the Greek god of time, who was also called that by some. Now," she said. "I'd like to show you a picture to verify what you saw. Would that be all right?"

Eva turned her head slowly back to Rose, a weak frown on her lips. "Sure," she said.

Rose reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a plastic folder. Then she opened it up, pulling out a small photograph and handing it to Eva.

The animal in the photo was long dead, and nowhere near as big as the one she'd seen. It was still huge, a bloated, misshapen carcass, with enormous teeth protruding from swollen gums. Rows of bite marks covered its flippers and its body, but whatever did those hadn't killed it.

"The individual you're looking at was a young female, less than twenty months of age," Rose said. "Twenty feet long even at that age. Ironically, it was killed by a pod of killer whales."

Eva raised an eyebrow. "So," she said, "how do you actually know all of this? Why did you sound so casual when you told me I'd almost been killed by a marine reptile from millions of years ago?"

Rose sighed. "I'm afraid anything beyond a name is confidential," she said. "I'm part of the Icelandic division of Project Temporalis. The rest is classified." Glancing down at her wristwatch, she got up. "Well, I'm getting behind schedule as it is, so I suppose I should be off. Thanks for your cooperation, Ms. Svavarsdóttir."

Eva opened her mouth to say something, but Rose turned around, and with a brisk smile, and without waiting for a response, she was gone, muttering something indistinct. Eva glanced at the picture in her hand. She hadn't noticed the tag on the back of the photograph. It was the symbol of Project Temporalis: an eight-point star. But there was also something else. Writing.

"Thanks for giving our organisation a name."

Written by Palaeontologica
Content is available under CC BY-SA

A collaboration with Acrocanthosaurus Atokensis, whom retains the right to make edits

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