Log of the Flying FishTHE LOG OF THE FLYING FISH: A STORY OF AERIAL AND SUBMARINE PERIL AND ADVENTURE (1887) – Written by Harry Collingwood (William J.C. Lancaster).

Professor Heinrich von Schalckenburg, a brilliant German scientist, is speaking at the Migrants’ Club, an organization of explorers and scientific pioneers. Von Schalckenburg dismisses lighter than air vessels and claims he will prove the success of heavier than air vessels with two of his most recent inventions.

One of those inventions is a crystal powder which can be used as an explosive and as a source of electricity and gas. The other is a new metal alloy that the professor has dubbed “aethereum”, a light but strong substance.

Von Schalckenburg says he is 100,000 British pounds short of being able to construct a craft capable of flying AND serving as a submarine. Mighty Jack, eat your heart out! Sir Reginald Elphinstone, a member of the Migrants’ Club, finances the professor’s project.

After British laborers prove too lazy and strike-prone, Heinrich imports Germans to complete construction of the vessel, which von Schalckenburg christens The Flying Fish (No relation to the Prometheus, also called “the flying fish Prometheus” from an 1870 story.)

The Flying Fish is 600 feet long and 60 feet wide. It can fly at 120 miles per hour and can move beneath the sea at 150 miles per hour. The vessel also boasts small launches or “shuttle craft.”

Von Schalckenburg has packed the Flying Fish with weaponry, too, like torpedoes, cannons and Maxim guns. There are armored diving suits made of the same aethereum as the craft itself. Those suits come complete with daggers that deliver electrical shocks thanks to battery packs built into the armor.

Heinrich and Sir Reginald are joined on the vessel’s maiden voyage by engineer (and fortune-hunter) Cyril Lethbridge and Royal Navy Lieutenant Edward Mildmay plus George the cook and another manservant. Our adventurers fly to a height of 6 miles and then go nearly a hundred fathoms underwater as they probe the Hurd Deep.

While salvaging assorted sunken ships the Flying Fish crew battle dozens of conger eels and other subaquatic beasts. After surfacing, the vessel is mistaken for a sea monster but Heinrich and company prove their altruistic intentions by rescuing the crew of a barque trapped in ice.

From there our heroes discover the remains of an ancient Viking ship and go on to discover the North Pole, which is surrounded by a warm-water sea. In that sea is an island with plenty of plant and animal life, some thought extinct, like woolly mammoths.

In the “crazed hunter” mode typical of the time period von Schalckenburg and friends hunt and kill several of the woolly mammoths. They also take time to round up a fortune in diamonds, then return to London and become toasts of the town.

The professor is all business, of course, and donates a woolly mammoth hide to science and submits to the Royal Society a paper on the Polar Sea.

Next it’s off to Africa in search of unicorns AND King Solomon’s long-lost Opir. The explorers do find and catalogue multiple specimens of wildlife – usually after shooting them – but do not bag any of the sought-after unicorns, they just glimpse them.

Opir is discovered, leading to an adventure in which the Flying Fish crew must rescue several European women from being added to the harem of an African ruler. The ladies are dropped off in Bombay while the lads fly on to the top of Mount Everest (“because it’s there” we can assume).

Ultimately our heroes return to England, submerge the Flying Fish in the English Channel and celebrate their escapades at the Migrants’ Club. 

Obviously, The Log of the Flying Fish is very, shall we say, “derivative” of Jules Verne but I feel most critics are too rough on it, given the sheer number of submarine stories from the 19th Century. And even though some of the science on display is nonsense there’s certainly enough that was ahead of its time to let readers take it all seriously.

The author is a bit less monotonous than Verne with the travelogue portions of the narrative but piles on the technical explanations to the Nth degree. And the professor’s comic-opera German accent gets annoying by the middle of the book.

This novel is definitely worth at least one read for any science fiction fan or for anyone looking for their next Steam-Punk fix. +++    


FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here:

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Filed under Ancient Science Fiction


  1. Cara

    That was quite impressive. It wasn’t just a flying fish, but one that rescues trapped ships and women. Only, dropping off women on their own, in Bombay didn’t sound like a good idea. But in 1887 maybe it was alright.

    That was interesting – the warm sea around the North Pole. I read something about that in another book, or maybe it was a youtube video or something. About a Scandinavian fisherman and his son who went up north and found themselves in a warm sea.

    The general good intentions of the author for one and all, and the cheerfulness of it all, can be felt right through your post. That’s a sweet thing from so long ago.

    • Thanks for the nice comment! I’m glad you enjoyed this! Ironically, warm water and islands filled with long-lost people and creatures was a pretty well-worn trope in really old sci fi. I’ll be covering more of those in the future.

  2. Cara

    P.S. Not maybe a comment for publishing – but that’s up to you.

    I was meaning to ask you about the warm sea around the North Pole and the story of some Admiral of the US Navy who wrote about how if you go up north and keep going, you come into an ‘inner earth’. Maybe you don’t want to blog about such topics, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

    I could do my own research on the topic, but as you already seem to have seen and watched and read everything ever published , and you have brains enough for many people, I thought I’d save my time and ask you about it.

    Also, I keep receiving emails from my bank ‘warning’ me not to ‘fall into the virtual currencies scam’ and saying they will terminate without notice any account that has anything to do with virtual currencies. What do you think of those ‘virtual currencies’? Are those for real? Do people actually use them? Have you ever? Are the banks just being threatened or is there a real ‘danger’ as they say?

    • The old inner earth/ hollow earth theories are featured in plenty of stories, some of which I’ve covered already in my Ancient Science Fiction reviews. As for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and others, some of them are considered shaky because of how untraceable they are and others because they may or may not be ripoff sites which will just disappear with the funds some day with no accountability. That may be why your bank was warning you about them.

  3. Janet

    Very odd ending.

  4. Nikola Zekić

    Let me just point out that the book has a sequel, written by the same author, and entitled “With Airship and Submarine, A Tale of Adventure”.
    While reading this book (not the sequel, but the subject of this post), I was wholly unprepared to find a passing mention of my own countrymen, the Montenegrins. Here is the passage in question.:

    “These natives appeared to possess the same power or gift attributed to the Montenegrins, namely, that of projecting the voice for incredible distances through the air; and it was speedily apparent that the arrival of the monster aerial visitant to the country was being orally telegraphed forward in the direction of her course. Mounted men were seen dashing madly along until they reached some eminence favourably situated for the exercise of their powers, when, dismounting, the messenger would raise his hands to his lips, and, in a peculiar high- pitched tone of voice which seemed to have the power of penetrating the air for an immense distance, send his message echoing forward over hill and dale, to be instantly caught up and repeated by another. So smartly was this novel system of telegraphy performed, that the message actually outsped the ship, and the travellers found the inhabitants of every village along their route awaiting en masse_ their appearance, which was instantly greeted with loud shouts of astonishment.”

  5. pepe

    Awesome vintage story!

  6. The Mank

    Lousy story.

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