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Holland submarine torpedo-boat.

John P. Holland devised a submarine boat which met with the requirements of the United States Navy Department. When submerged, the boat was propelled by electricity, and able to make 8 knots for six hours. Among the requirements were power to carry two tubes for automobile torpedoes; ability to reach a depth of 20 feet within one minute after being ordered to dive, the boat running light at full speed, and with smokepipe at full height; power to dive to a depth of 20 feet within thirty seconds, the boat before diving running at full speed with steam-power, and with 3 feet of water [406] over hull, and smoke-pipe up; with complete submergence and 3 feet of water over turret, the pilot to obtain a view with a camera-lucida in a tube projecting above the surface; a turret to rise 4 feet above the hull, with an armor cylinder of 8 inches thickness to protect the pilot's head; a complete double shell to extend

The Holland submarine torpedo-boat.

about three-quarters of the vessel's length from the stem; ability to stand the water pressure at a depth of 70 feet; automatic arrangements for preventing a too deep submergence; automatic compensation for weights consumed, and independent mechanism for correcting variations in trim due to shifting weights; mechanical means for steering a fixed course; air to be supplied for crew either chemically or by storage under pressure in tanks; apparatus to cause the vessel to rise quickly to the surface; ability to maintain an approximately fixed position and definite depth of submergence without undue expenditure of power; provision for escape of crew in emergency. Since the building of the first boat many improvements have been made, all tending to increase the practicability of submarine action.

Mr. Holland writes of his boat as follows:

When the first submarine torpedo-boat goes into action, she will bring us face to face with the most puzzling problem ever met in warfare. She will present the unique spectacle, when used in attack, of a weapon against which there is no defence. You can send torpedo-boat destroyers against torpedo-boats, but you can send nothing against the submarine boat, not even itself. The fanciful descriptions of the submarine battle of the future have one fatal defect. You cannot see under water. Hence, you cannot fight under water.

To-morrow, if we had a fleet of submarines big enough, they could protect New York Harbor completely against an attack by the combined surface fleets of the world. But our shipping and our city would still be at the mercy of our enemies, if they had even one submarine, manned by a fearless crew of experts. You could not close the harbor against her, even with a net-work of torpedoes and chains stretched across the Narrows, reaching from the surface to the bottom of the channel. From a safe distance she would simply send a torpedo against the net-work that would blow it to pieces, giving her all the passage-way she wanted to go in and out. She would never have to expose herself for more than a second at a time during all her work of destruction in the harbor. This would be when she rose to discharge her gun to shell the city. The recoil of the gun would send her down again and out of sight. Her torpedoes she should discharge without coming to the surface at all.

How the menace of the submarine is to be met nobody has at this time been able to say. The greatest minds in the armies and navies of the world are wrestling with the problem, but so far they have not succeeded in solving it. With the investment of Santiago the world undoubtedly saw the last instance of a harbor [407] of a civilized nation being closed by hostile war-ships—that is, unless the next war comes with unexpected suddenness. The six Holland boats building for the United States, though inadequate for general protection, would make a big hole in any blockading squadron that settled down in front of one of our great harbors. The squadron would have to face almost inevitable destruction, or put out to sea.

A submarine is now under construction which will start on a journey across the Atlantic, travelling entirely under her own power. She will go first to Bermuda, a distance of 676 miles, then to Fayal, 1,880 miles, and thence to Lisbon, 940 miles, or a total of 3.496 miles. If it were deemed advisable, the trip could just as easily be made direct, without making a call at any intermediate port.

This boat will go on the surface almost exclusively. Her chief motive power will be a gasoline engine of 160 horse-power, that will drive her at the rate of 9 1/2 knots an hour. This engine will also generate the electric power that may be needed for submerged runs, and such work as may be deemed expedient in the harbors where she touches. Her crew will subsist entirely on the provisions she carries. The food will be cooked by electricity. The crew will consist of seven men, who will sleep in hammocks slung from the ceiling.

During storms or dirty weather the boat will run awash, only her turret showing above the surface, and, as the water will break over instead of against her, there will be no rolling. She will be accompanied by a tender, with an extra crew, in case her own men find the confinement too much to endure for the sixteen days required in crossing the ocean.

This trip will show that it is possible to send a fleet of submarines against a foreign coast, as well as to employ them for defence at home.

Within the next ten years we shall have made more progress in submerged navigation than has been made in the 300 years that have just passed. Within that period, I expect to see submarine boats engaged in regular passenger traffic. Owing to the well-defined limitations that surround travel under water, it is no difficult matter to forecast what the nature of such travel will be.

For trans-Atlantic travel submarine boats will never be possible commercially. For short trips, however, the submarine offers commercial advantages that will render it a dangerous rival of the surface-sailing vessel, if, indeed, it does not drive the latter entirely out of the competition in particular waters. Take, for example, the trip across the English Channel. No other water journey causes an equal amount of suffering. The most hardened traveller becomes sea-sick there. On the submarine there will be no seasickness, because in a submerged boat there is absolutely no perceptible motion. There will be no smells to create nausea, for the boats will be propelled by electric power taken from storage batteries, which will be charged at either end. The offensive odor that causes so much discomfort in surface boats is due to the heated oil on the bearings, and to the escaping steam. There will be no steam on these submerged Channel boats, and the little machinery necessary to drive them will be confined within an air-tight chamber.

Almost without a jar, the boat will put off from her dock on the English side. Practically no vibration will be felt from the smoothly running machinery. Before the traveller fairly realizes that a start has been made, the boat will be fast at her dock at Calais. This is no dream. It is simply the forecast of a trip that I myself expect to make some day, and I am fifty-nine years old. It is so feasible commercially that capital in plenty will be found for its realization.

Boats of this class will be more economical than the surface Channel boats are to-day. The first cost, it is true, will be larger than that of constructing the present-day craft; but, after that, with charging stations on either shore, the operating expenses will be much less. These boats will be from 160 to 200 feet in length. Larger boats will never be feasible, unless we discover some better system of storing electricity than exists to-day —a contingency which is exceedingly doubtful.

In the domain of science, much may be expected of the submarine. With her aid, the bottom of the ocean will be safely explored at comparatively great depths. Just how far down we shall be able to go [408] in her, no one at this time knows. Singularly enough, we have never ascertained the limit of safety—that is, the point where the weight of the water is so great that it will crush the stoutest submarine that could be built. It has been estimated that 400 feet below the surface is the limit, but it may be 1,000 feet, just as well, for all the definite information we have on the subject.

In certain submarine pursuits—such as wrecking, pearl and sponge fishing, etc. —a complete revolution will be wrought. Millions of dollars now lost to the world in submerged wrecks will be recovered, and the work of raising sunken ships will be a matter of days, instead of months, with the submarine's aid.

The surveying of harbors and shoals and obstructions to navigation will be reduced to an exact science. Where now such surveys can be made only semi-occasionally, a perfect system of submarine patrol will be maintained.

Experience teaches that, wherever its application is desirable, submarine navigation is the safest method of water travel we have. For more than 300 years there have been submarine boats. In all that time only one life has been lost in a boat running beneath the water. When it is remembered that, during all these years, the craft employed has been experimental, this record is certainly marvellous.

For twenty-one years I have been experimenting with submarine boats. I have travelled in submerged boats under all sorts of conditions and with all sorts of crews. All my work has been experimental, the most dangerous stage of any mode of travel. Yet I have never had an accident. Certainly, that is a fair showing for nearly a quarter of a century of work.

Possibly some people will exclaim against my statement that only one life has been lost in a submerged boat. They will point to half a dozen cases “of record” where whole crews lost their lives. The answer to that is very simple. The majority of cases so recorded were utterly without foundation. In other cases, the men operating the submarine boats were drowned while they were using them as surface boats, and because of that fact. The boat built by McClintock and Howgate for the Confederates sank four times with her crews, the last time after she had blown up the Housatonic. These accidents are charged against submarine navigation, when the fact is that had the boat been used as intended, under water, instead of on the surface, she would not have lost a single life.

Admiral Hichborn, chief constructor of the navy, went extensively into the question of fatal accidents in submarine navigation. He found there were eighty-three cases set down at various times. On investigation he found that fifty had never occurred at all. Thirty-two were chargeable to the Howgate boat. The only case he could find where life had been lost in a submarine, when she was acting as such, was that of Day, an Englishman, who built and operated a submarine boat late in the seventeenth century. The second time she was submerged, it is reported that the hull was crushed by the weight of water. In a report on the subject, Admiral Hichborn wrote:

If Day were really crushed in his boat, he has the unique distinction of being the only victim of the dangers of submarine navigation; but this distinction depends upon the supposition that reports of submarine accidents were much more reliable 240 years ago than they have been for the last forty years, during which period there have been authentic newspaper reports of the loss of eightytwo lives in attempting submarine navigation in the United States. Fifty of these lives were not lost at all, and the other thirty-two, though lost in a boat designed to operate as a submarine, were all lost when, and apparently because, she was not so operating.

Fulton, who went into submarine navigation before he took up steamboats, ran against a solid stone wall of prejudice. He built two excellent boats in France, but all his perseverance could not overcome the fear men have of going down into an element that they invariably associate with drowning. So, though he had the active interest and good — will of the first Napoleon, Fulton had to drop the matter.

To a limited class at least, to the naval men of France and America, it has been demonstrated that the submarine is not [409] a trap in which men are drowned like rats. The extension of this knowledge may be expected to be rapid. The commercial application of submarine navigation will follow almost immediately in the wake of this extension.

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