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Notes on ''The Temple''

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I would be deeply grateful for those who have access to more information than I do to tell me of the chemical reactions employed in the ''chemical air regenerators''. 


''Lieutenant-Commander'' – not a literal translation, but an American equivalent of the German rank Käpitanleutnant (lit. Lieutenant-Captain).


''Graf von Altenberg-Ehrenstein'' -- a title, equivalent to our ''Count'', in this case ''Count of Altenberg-Ehrenstein'', the latter being the place of origin of the noble family. 


''U-29'' – two German submarines bore this name in the Great War (in full ''SM U-29'', ''Seiner Majestät Unterseeboot 29'') His Majesty's Submarine No. 29), one sunk by HMS Dreadnought in the Pentland Firth on the 18th March 1915, another (technically UC-29), sunk by a fortified merchant vessel or Q-ship on the 7th June 1917. Neither can correspond to Count von Altenberg-Ehrenstein's vessel, which is an invention of HPL.


''U-61'' – the SM U-61 was a notorious commerce-raider, responsible for 32 Allied victims, sunk on 26th March 1918. There is no reason that the vessel mentioned by Lovecraft could not be identical to the historical vessel, though I prefer to make observations only.


''N. Latitude 20°, W. Longitude 35°'' – almost equidistant between Africa and S. America.


''British freighter Victory'' – I cannot accurately be sure there was no freighter of this name, nor can I find it.


''permitting the crew to leave in boats'' – Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare on April 6th 1917. This apparent act of ''mercy'' is a sham, see below.


''to obtain a good camera view for the Admiralty records'' – as shown by his subsequent destruction of the life-boats, Count von Altenberg-Ehrenstein had no intention of sparing lives, he merely wished to record a ''picturesque'' sinking, free from attempts by the crew to save themselves, perhaps for propaganda purposes. 


N.B. The German High Seas Fleet was confined to Wilhelmshaven after the Battle of Jutland (31st May-1st June 1916) the German Navy's sole strategy was submarine-raiding, which it resumed unrestricted in the February of 1917.


''unjust war of aggression'' – a decidedly hypocritical and inaccurate term, given the attitude of the German High Command. Cf the phrase ''der Tag'', which prior to the War had acquired the sense of ''the day on which Germany will embark on a predetermined war of conquest.


''pig-dogs'' – a literal translation of the German term of abuse Schweinhund, plural die Schweinhunde, roughly approximate to English ''swine'', tho' an unreferenced source gives the more vitriolic ''bastards''


''the Fatherland'' – a translation of the German ''Vaterland'', an object of almost idolatrous devotion (cf ''Die Wacht am Rhein'').


''a superstitious Alsatian swine'' – Alsace-Lorraine (Elsaß-Lothringen) was a district only recently captured by the German Empire, in 1871. Despite his German name, Müller was almost certainly a Romanist (in 1904, there were over one and a quarter million Romanists to a little fewer than four hundred thousand Protestants) and hence superstitious to the more rational, Protestant (Evangelical-Lutheran) and military-minded Prussian captain.


''peasant ignorance'' – Von Altenberg-Ehrenstein is a Junker, a member of the Prussian landowning and military class. His men are commoners and hence peasants.


''drastic steps'' – execution.


''a soft, womanish Rhinelander'' – also a Romanist, and lacking the ingrained military ethos of Prussia (cf the remark, apocryphally attributed to Voltaire (I cannot find a source), that ''while most states have an army, the Prussian army has a state.''


''sodium bromide'' – the bromine salt of sodium, KBr, used in solution as a sedative prior to, and for a long time parallel with, the discovery of phenobarbital in 1912. Compare with the idiomatic use of ''bromide'' to denote a trite, placating hackneyed phrase.


''Kultur'' – specifically Prussian culture, held to be superior to others, authoritarian, militaristic, unimaginative.


Hellenic – Greek, from the Greek Ἑλλάς, Hellas, Greece.


''fane'' – temple, shrine, from the Latin fanum.


APPENDIX I: On Dolphins


The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) occurs again and again in Helladic and Greek myth.


A. They occur in beautiful frescoes at Knossos, in the latter Minoan period (long pre-Aryan and so pre-Greek, c. 1750-1450 B.C.).


B. It was associated with the god Poseidon (the original Delphinus of Greek myth, according to the Astronomica of Pseudo-Hyginus, sought out Amphitrite, a Nereid who had fled from Poseidon to preserve her virginity, and persuaded her to marry him, and for the service was made into a constellation. According to the Halieutica of Oppian it was the ''Delphines'', or dolphins in general, who found her in the halls of Oceanus and so allowed Poseidon to carry her off.


Taras, the son of Poseidon, was shown as a youth riding a dolphin.


It was connected to Apollo – the founding myth of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, as reported in Homer's ''Hymn to Apollo''. states that the oracle was established by the god, who leapt onto the deck of a ship in the guise of a dolphin, commanded the crew to sail to Delphi and there to serve him as priests. The laurel-crown of the ivory statue suggests the historical Apollo.


C. This is our most fruitful line of inquiry. Also worshipped at Delphi was the dying-and-reviving god Dionysus. An immediate connexion is that the ivory figure bore to fertility might be the leaf-garland, and certainly Lovecraft, who was familiar with James George Frazer, would know that the dying-and-rising cult is perhaps the oldest in the world and Dionysus is far older than his Greek form, fitting ''the remotest rather than the immediate ancestor of Greek art''. Further strength is given by the allusion to ''Bacchanals'' (Bacchus is a Latin form of Dionysus).


It is exceptionally difficult to unravel the dolphin-links, but they may have carried Dionysus to and fro the Underworld, especially as the constellation ''Delphis'' cannot be seen in the winter or death-period of the fertility god.


There is extant a story of Dionysus (the seventh Homeric Hymn) in which Dionysus is seized by pirates on a ''well-decked ship''. The helmsman alone warns the pirates of their divine captive, who decide to ransom him, but in his wrath the god slays the master of the ship and turns the other pirates into dolphins.


The version in the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus is even closer, Dionysus falling in with Tyrrhenian (Etruscan) pirates who plan to sell him. He fills the boat with music, and the men, driven mad, cast themselves into the sea and become dolphins.


The German sea-raiders are akin to the Tyrrhenians, and the youth and ivory head are rather akin to Dionysus, the music, madness and the ever-increasing swarm of dolphins, who are, perhaps, the bloated dead (incidentally, the Greeks would not kill a dolphin as it was regarded as once human, so we can interpret the dolphins both as the Germans' victims and crew). These are all parallels that would repay study in H.P.L.'s letters, which I presently cannot access. 


APPENDIX II: Some Notes on the Dates


June 18th 1917 – U-29 sinks the freighter Victory. Crew recover body of the Grecian youth and loot it, obtaining the  divine head. U-29  proceeds to attempt to sink Dacia. Crew perceive the corpse's eyes to open and stare at Schmidt and Zimmer. Mueller claims to see corpse swin away. General reprimand of crew.


June 19th 1917 – ''indisposition of some of the crew'' – ''dazed'', ''bad dreams''. Detection of anomalous southward current, Captain decides to continue to wait for Dacia.


In evening and night, Boatswain Mueller reduced to ''detestably childish'' state, seeing bloated corpses lead by the Grecian youth. Mueller whipped and chained. Delegation of seamen, led by Zimmer, request the return of the divine head to the ocean; they are refused.


June 20th 1917 – Seamen Bohm and Schmidt, who had been ill the previous day, ''violently insane'', raving of a curse. Both executed.


June 20th-27th 1917 – U-29 waits for Dacia. During the week Mueller and Zimmer apparently commit suicide. Dolphins gather about the U-29.


June 28th 1917 – it becomes apparent that the U-29 has missed the Dacia. U-29 turns northeast at noon, encumbered by dolphins,  now bound for Wilhelmshaven.


At 2 P.M the engine inexplicably explodes, killing Engineers Raaben and Schneider.


From June 28th – July 2nd U-29 drifts southwards, followed by dolphins.


July 2nd 1917 –U-29 sights an American warship. Unrest on board, Seaman Taube executed.


July 3rd 1917 – U-29 submerges during a storm, heralded by birds from the south. Failure of mechanisms for raising and lowering the U-29. More unrest among men.


July 4th 1917 – c. 5 A.M. Mutiny of surviving six sailors, ''pigs of seamen'', who destroy furniture and instruments, screaming about the Grecian youth and the curse of the ivory image. Six mutineers shot and expelled from the U-29. Lieutenant Klenze nervous, drinking heavily. The two surviving officers decide to last out as best they can.


Delphinus delphis sighted by Altenberg-Ehrenstein for two hours without resurfacing.


July 4th – August 9th 1917 – U-29 continues to drinft southward and to sink. Lieutenant Klenze struck with remorse, then appears to be insane, constantly gazing at the ivory image, telling wild stories of forgotten sea-things.


August 9th 1917 – U-29 sights the ocean floor. Lieutenant Klenze sights strange obelisk and is afraid. Altenberg-Ehrenstein notices how well it is dealing with the pressure, and the continuing swarm of dolphins despite the fact that pressure ought to preclude their presence.


August 12th 1917 – at 3:15 Lieutenant Klenze finally goes insane in the conning-tower, insisting that ''He'' is calling and they must go to ''Him'' to repent, and to be mad is a mercy. Altenberg-Ehrenstein attempts to calm Lieutenant Klenze, then, having persuaded him to depart alone, ejects him from the submarine. He cannot observe the effects of pressure upon the corpse on account of the pressing dolphins.


In the evening, Altenberg-Ehrenstein regrets he did not take the ivory image from Lieutenant Klenze as it has begun to fascinate him. 


August 13th 1917 – the U-29 comes to rest in the sunken city. The dolphins disappear.


From the 13th to the 16th Altenberg-Ehrenstein observes the sunken city from the conning-tower.


August 16th 1917 – Altenberg-Ehrenstein first explores the sunken city, returning to the submarine as his portable batteries fail.


August 17th 1917 –  Altenberg-Ehrenstein's desire to explore the temple grows. To his disgust, he finds that he cannot replenish the batteries of the portable light and must rely on the main light of the submarine to study the temple, which begins to fill him with terror.


August 18th 1917 – Alternberg-Ehrenstein spends this day tormented in the dark.


August 19th 1917– Not having slept, Altenberg-Ehrenstein attempts to light matches and realises that ''The head of the radiant god in the sculptures on the rock temple is the same as that carven bit of ivory which the dead sailor brought from the sea and which poor  Klenze carried back into the sea.''  He begins to hear the cries of drowning men, and to see their grinning corpses, in his dreams.


August 20th 1917 – In the morning, Altenberg-Ehrenstein notices the light of the temple and hears the strange calling-song. Despite a dose of sodium bromide, which quiets the voices, the light continues and he, in the conning tower, notices the light to be from the temple, sees ''extravagant visions'' and hears the strange chant again. He thinks of Klenze, of his warning, and that he did not heed it.


Finally, he surrenders to the impulse to visit the temple, preparing his diving-gear, writing his last message, which he dispatches, and ''like a German'' goes up into the ''primal shrine'', still regarding his visions and hallucinations of ''daemoniac laughter'' as sheer  delusion.




Lieutenant-Commander Graf von Altenberg-Ehrenstein – sets out to the temple, August 20th 

Lieutenant Klenze – commits suicide, August 12th


Boatswain Mueller –  commits suicide between June 21st-27th


Engineer Raabe – killed in the engine-room explosion on the 28th June

Engineer Schneider – Ditto


Seaman Bohm – Executed June 20th.

Seaman Schmidt – Executed June 20th 

Seaman Zimmer – commits suicide between June 21st-27th

Seaman Traube – Executed July 2nd

Six unnamed seamen – Executed July 4th, mutineers.


This is decidedly less than the complement of four officers and thirty-one men given by the historical U-29.

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It seems that the air "regenerating" technology involved potash cartridges installed in the hull of the submarine, and in personal recycling kits worn by the sailors.


I cannot find definite confirmation, but after digging around a bit, I believe it works using Potassium Hydroxide as follows to simply remove the Carbon Dioxide exhaled by the sailors from the air:




This simply "thins" the air of unbreathable Carbon Dioxide, it doesn't replace the oxygen, so it would be necessary to add compressed oxygen into the air periodically to replace the oxygen as respiration uses it up.


A German navy veteran of WWII describes the technology:


"It is correct that on board the submarines, besides the compressed air-bottles, there were also bottles with pure oxygen. Both bottle-types had a pressure of 20 atmospheres = Bar. The compressed air-bottles were used for blowing when surfacing. The bottles with pure oxygen were required if the boat spent an extended time under water and the oxygen in the boat came to an end....  The air exhaled by the crewmembers is [circulated by fans] through potash-cartridges that were positioned on the inner hull. The potash-cartridges absorb the carbon-dioxide and the oxygen-poor air comes back into the inside of the boat. As the oxygen in the air became progressively less, through over-long underwater-patrol, the crewmembers started to gasp after air, oxygen was released from the oxygen-bottles and the sailors could breathe normally again." 


- Quote from an interview by "Stiebler" at SubSim.com


- (see also further details by "SnakeDoc" at Uboat.net)



Apparently, personal air "regenerators" were available to the crew as well, for rescue purposes and to allow them to breathe outside of the ship should the sailors leave through the airlock; these seem to have worked essentially the same way that the ship's regenerators did:  by filtering exhaled air through potash cartridges in the apparatus to remove the Carbon Dioxide, and then adding oxygen from a tank to replenish breathable air:


"The last resort were personal rescue gears (Tauchretters) manufactured by Drager company. They contained the individual small flask with oxygen and potash cartridges." 

- "SnakeDoc" at Uboat.net



Some photographs of the inside of a German U-Boat from c. 1918 might help suggest some of the creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere of the sort of boat "The Temple" is set in:  (link)


A crude cut-away diagram of a WWI-era U-Boat might help provide some context for those photos:  (link)


U-Boats were apparently places of constant horror for their sailors - here's a grim description of the cramped, dark, and filthy life on a U-boat:  (link)


A manual describing the operation of WWII U-Boats can be found here, with more detailed technical information regarding Sodium-Hydroxide based scrubbers (a very similar technology to the Potassium Hydroxide scrubbers) on page 84; according to the manual, this system could allow a crew of 37 to stay submerged for up to 72 hours:  (link)



Note that Lovecraft describes a "chemical oxygen" supply; I believe this to be referring to simple tanks of oxygen.  Some early submarines did apparently produce oxygen through chemical reactions involved in burning saltpetre, but If there were such an alternative technology used in German U-Boats for producing Oxygen before WWII, I couldn't find any description of it; the saltpetre "rebreather" technology, used since the 1600s, generated oxygen by heating saltpetre (potassium nitrate) in a metal pan to emit oxygen; heating turns the saltpetre into potassium oxide or hydroxide, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air.  Germany apparently had limited access to saltpetre (a chemical also used in manufacturing gunpowder and explosives) during the war, however, and so this form of oxygen "regenerator" seems to have not been commonly used for the purpose of producing air on U-Boats....

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