HMS Hilary was a combined passenger/cargo vessel and originally named SS Hilary. During the First World War, it was commissioned into the Royal Navy and in 1917 was sunk by a German submarine. The ship was constructed in 1908 for the Booth Steamship Company to operate on the Europe/South America route, and carrying 200 first-class and 300 third-class passengers. On the outbreak of the First World War, the ship was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser and assigned to the 10th Cruiser Squadron. She formed part of the Northern Patrol blockading trade to Germany. It was torpedoed and sunk 40 nmi (74 km) west of Lerwick, Shetland Islands by the German submarine U-88 whilst Hilary was leaving her patrol area to refuel at the naval base at Scapa Flow. A sighting of a sea serpent by Hilary was published in Nature in 1930. The Captain and several officers and men witnessed the event: ""About 9 a.m., on approx. 22/5/17, H.M.S. ‘Hilary’ was some 70 miles S.E. of the S.E. part of Iceland, the day very fine and clear, the Iceland mountains in sight, flat, calm, and smooth sea. An object was observed on the starboard quarter. The ship was turned round and steered straight for the object. When we were about a cable (200 yards) from it the creature quietly moved out of our way, and we passed it on our starboard side at a distance of about 30 yards, getting a very good view of it… As we passed close to the creature it lifted its head once or twice, as if looking at us. The head was in appearance black and glossy, with no protrusions such as ears, etc.; in shape, about that of a cow…the top edge of the neck was just awash, and it curved to almost a semicircle as the creature moved its head as if to follow us with its eyes. The dorsal fin was a black equilateral triangle, which rose at times till the peak was estimated to be four feet above the water."" ""three independent estimates made on board the ‘Hilary’ gave a length of the neck of the ‘sea serpent’ (head to dorsal fin) as 15 feet or more, 20 feet and 28 feet. The head appeared to have a patch of whitish flesh in front, like that around a cow’s nostrils. The dorsal fin was thin and flexible, occasionally curving over at the top."" ""The ‘Hilary’ being on patrol at the time, the unfortunate creature was used as a target for anti-submarine practice with the 6-pounders, at about 1200 yards range. A direct hit having apparently scored, it disappeared, no trace remaining. A few days later (25 May 1917) the ship was torpedoed and sunk, taking with her all logs, journals, etc. recording the ‘sea serpent’ incident."" ""This also exhibited a dorsal fin rising some four feet out of the water, and a long, snake-like neck, terminating in a head described as resembling that of a turtle. In this case the head and part of the neck were lifted well clear of the water, and not merely floating awash.""
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