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The Topeka state journal. [volume] (Topeka, Kansas) 1892-1980, July 04, 1904, Last Edition, Image 7

Image and text provided by Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1904-07-04/ed-1/seq-7/

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(O writer of sea stories
has had occasion thus
far to make his hero a
stoker. In spite of the
fact that steam navi
gation has provided
less picturesque ma
terial for fiction than
was furnished by the sailing craft of
long ago, the dearth is not yet so com
plete that any novelist has been driven
to the stokehole for a proper setting.
Xevertheless the stokehole and its
presiding genius are as essential to the
success of steam navigation as was the
humble blower to the old fashioned
pipe organ. The human beings who
delve at the very bottom of the great
transatlantic carryalls, which have
been not inaptly characterized as
"heaven above and hades below," may
not be subjects fit for idealization, but
they are prime necessities In steam
It is on the warship, however, that a
stoker becomes a person of acknowl
edged consequence. It depends upon
him to a great extent whether his ves
sel is to cut through the waves at the
speed that was intended by her de
signers or whether she shall crawl
along at three or four knots under that
speed. Bad work or neglect in the
stokehole means disappointment and
invites disaster of many kinds. It
means primarily that the fires are
not going to burn properly and that
as a consequence the amount of steam
generated will be less than is required.
It means also that all the plans so
carefully formulated by the experts
above decks are likely to miscarry
through the inefficiency or carelessness
of the men who feed the fires.
Battleships, cruisers or torpedo
boats carrying badly trained or reck
less stokers become what are termed
"wasters." In other words, they eat
too much, drink too much and as a
consequence sleep too much. The food
which they consume too voraciously is
i' I I Mil 1,1,1 Ml J
Tine Development of the Submarine In
T the present time
there is much activ
ity among naval ex
perts over the matter
of submarine naviga
tion. This Is due in
part, but not wholly,
to the almost frantic
efforts both of the Japanese and their
opponents to secure any x submarine
craft which is likely to prove effective.
For upward of a quarter of a century
the Interest in this branch of naval
equipment has been subject to period
ical stimulation. Until recently, how
ever, the interest aroused by the her
alding of some coming submarine won
der has not survived a test; failure in
some essential has relegated the proj
ect to the realm of the improbable.
The performance of the submarine tor
pedo boat Fulton, constructed by the
Holland company and exploited oft
Newport for the benefit of the navy
board of inspection and ' survey, goes
far to re-establish public faith in this
species of war agent. The recent tests,
which were made by a board composed
of six of the leading submarine experts
of the navy, were for the purpose of
establishing the fact as to whether or
not any existing type of submarine
boat showed sufficient merit to war
rant the department in expending the
$850,000 appropriated by congress for
that purpose. It was expected that
Captain Simon E. lake's Protector
would enter the competition, but a few
weeks ago the Lake boat was taken
away from Newport, and it is now
thought that the Japanese government
has purchased her. ,
There is no doubt that the Kulton is
the most perfect specimen of the Hol
land type of submarine craft in exist
ence. The most untiring pains were
taken during its construction to avoid
structural" complications, and fcr a
year after completion the stanch little
vessel was subjected to a variety of
tests designed to prove her trustwor
thiness. According to the examining
board, the Fulton possesses all of the
Stokeriole of the
Stoie?or To J ' Tteachf rvj a "Green Hand
"PlaLceTuel y . ..-AA l f tr To Tend Turnace
coal, the drink which they imbibe too
freely is water, and the consequent
somnolence Is decreased speed. Such
a ship could not be depended upon in a
critical moment. If the admiral of the
fleet should ask for a burst of speed
she would not be ready to respond. It
must be remembered also that the
speed of the squadron is the speed of
the slowest ship. The vessels of a
squadron must not be widely separated
for any great length of time, for it
would not do to leave a straggler to
the mercy of the enemy. So it is upon
merits of her predecessors, the Adder,
the Shark, the Porpoise and others of
the Holland type which the govern
ment already owns. The board is also
of the opinion that she is superior to
those boats in several important par
ticulars. The difficulties in the way of subma
rine navigation have been so numerous
that it was felt by naval engineers that
much had been accomplished when
within recent years they had been re
duced to five difficulty of securing
safety, of obtaining fair speed, of
steering, of insuring stability and of
directing and discharging the torpedo.
The Fulton has eliminated the problem
of safety. As to speed, it has been
found that an excess of ten knots when
submerged is not to be accomplished
as yet. The motor most available for
under water service has probably been
the subject of more conjecture and ex
periment than any other point connect
ed with this species of navigation.
Storage batteries as at present con
structed are too heavy, steam Is out of
the question for obvious reasons, and
the other usual means of propulsion
are equally inefficient in subsurface
navigation. The most feasible motor
has been found in a gas engine which
develops high pressure by means of
explosions. Until recently it was im
possible to keep the exhaust gases from
escaping into the boat. There was also
the danger of detection from the escap
ing bubbles and the smell of gas. As
to steering, there remain obstacles yet
to be overcome. When under water it
is not possible to see more than'lOO feet
in advance even when at rest; when
the boat Is In motion the difficulty is
greatly increased. The Kulton is pro
vided with a sensitive compass which
will give warning of the approach of a
hull of copper, bronze, aluminium or
some other nonmagnetizable metal.
The most important device, however,
is the periscope. It is In reality a sort
of circular camera. When those below
wish to find out what Is going on above
the water they thrust It upward
through a circular opening in the top of
the capability of a single stoker that
the movements of an entire squadron
sometimes depend.
From this will be seen the necessity
for discrimination in the selection of
I the men who manage the furnaces of a
warship. This Is so well understood
by naval officials that provision has
been made by all countries possessed
of navies worthy of the name to in
struct men in the duties of this im
portant calling. Russia built a spe
cial vessel, the Okean, for the purpose
of training her stokers. England has
the boat. There Is formed on the re
flecting table a picture of the surface,
with any object that mar be upon it In
plain view. The periscope is so slender
and so long that the motion of the boat
interferes with its steadiness. It may
prove also to be a means of detection,
and a well directed shot from a war
ship would be likely to render it inef
fective. All submarine boats are fitted
with small conning towers projecting a
short distance above the hull and hav
ing glass covered peepholes. .These
lzr-J;;i;r;;; 3m JL
CTV" - A7-7ver I It Vs Jj -
followed her example and fitted up the
old Nelson as a training ship for this
class of seamen. In Germany, France
and Italy special instruction is given
at the various navy yards.
In the United States the matter has
received proper attention. Naval fire
men, as they are known in America,
are recognized members of one of the
five branches which constitute the en
listed naval force. A fireman Is classed
as seaman and Is rated with seamen,
gunners and musicians. He is paid
more for his services than any other
towers can be used when cruising near
the surface, and the top may be opened
if the weather is fine. In most boats
the opening in the conning tower
forms the principal way of ingress and
To secure a reasonable habitability
in a submarine boat f was a problem
that baffled constructors for a long
time. The recent test of that feature
on the Fulton demonstrated the fact
that the little cabin of that craft is
quite as safe aa .quarters on a battle
man of his rating, receiving, if of the
first class, $35 per month, while the
gunner has $26 and the musician $32.
Any ablebodied man of good character
between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-eight may enlist as fireman in
the United States navy. He will not
be assigned to active duty, however,
until he has been instructed in his new
business. Before he has finished his
course of training he is quite likely to
realize that he might easily have cho
sen a less exacting occupation. It is
not an easy task to train young fire
ship. Until now there has been little
effort made- either to warm or cool
these boats. Hitherto it has been pos
sible to remain in a submarine craft
only a short time without experiencing
discomfort from the change of temper
ature. Eesides this, there has been no
adequate provision for eating and
sleeping, and the light has not been
good enough to admit of accurate ob
servation. All this has been overcome.
The Fulton went down in one of the
slips at the torpedo station at a lew
men. Many have attempted the feat,
but few have been notably successful.
It is reputed to be one of the most
thankless offices in naval life to be
detailed to teach young firemen how to
shovel coal. Every man, of course,
can shovel coal, but exceedingly few
can shovel it to the satisfaction of a
naval Instructor.
A young fellow brought suddenly un
der naval discipline after having lived
a free life ashore will find most things
not at all to his liking and will also
find It remarkably easy to get Into diffi
culty. He Is quite likely to forget that
the critical individual who is finding
fault with his method of grasping a
shovel handle and is no purist in his
use of the mother tongue is an officer
petty, no doubt, but an officer in the
navy notwithstanding. In such an en
vironment and in such a temperature
it does not require an act of violence
on the part of the novice to consti
tute actual offense. An impatient ex
clamation or a rash movement may
precipitate disaster.
The coal must be spread over the
fire in a manner calculated to get from
It all the heat it is capable of giving In
the shortest possible time. Not a shov
elful must be wasted. The novice is
inclined to rail at Uncle Sam's par
simony. Before he has learned how to
do the trick properly long before he
wins a grunt of approval from his in
structor he discovers that it is not
stinginess, but prudence. Knowing
how to obtain a maximum of steam
pressure from a minimum expenditure
of fuel has bridged many -a yawning
chasm and turned more than one im
pending disaster into victory.
If this scientific manipulation of coal
were all, the would be fireman might
look forward cheerfully to the near
prospect of relief from his taskmaster,
but this is only a beginning. He must
now learn to keep his fire clean and
free from everything that will inter
fere with the heat making process.
This seems to be a simple matter, but
one who has tried it and failed would
say otherwise. Like so much else that
must be learned, there is but one right
minutes before 11 o'clock one evening
and reappeared next morning at a few
minutes past 11, the test having cov
ered a little over twelve hours. The
nine men who spent the night at the
bottom of the slip not only ate, drank,
talked, read and played cards, but
cooked, lighted their apartment bril
liantly with electricity and might have
warmed it with the same agent. The
subaqueous revelers declared that they
could have" Temained submerged for
ten days.
way to do It. By the time the novice
has become accustomed to that way he
has probably moderated his disposition
to resent his teacher's criticism. Be
sides that, he is very weary and hot.
In time, of course, he will become bet
ter able to work In a temperature of
110 degrees, but before he arrives at
that stage of Immunity he will often
think of the superior quality of the air
of the upper deck, and if he is a trifle
sentimental he may even dream of
green fields and brooks.
There is little theory about his
training. He actually handles the tools
of his trade as he will have to do when
he goes to sea. A well prepared fire
man is a man of vast knowledge con
cerning fires, boilers and engines, and
nowadays he Is expected to have a
bowing acquaintance with electricity.
Most firemen in the course of time pick
up much knowledge about boilers, and
some of them become expert engi
neers. In the early days of steam nav
igation a fireman's opportunity for ad
vancement was practically wanting.
Now It Is entirely different. Not only
may a fireman's ability obtain for him
any one of a number of petty offices in
his own branch, but he actually enjoys
all the chances of promotion that are
open to any other enlisted man in the
navy. There are cases on record in
the British navy of men who have risen
from the stokehole to be commanders
of vessels.
Besides his pay of $35 a month, the
fireman of a United States ship of war
is entitled to all the outfit and ra
tions of the seaman gunner of the
same grade. He is provided with an
ample supply of clothing and is al
lowed a ration of 30 cents a day dur
ing his enlistment. If he serves thirty
years he is pensioned and Is given
three-fourths of the highest pay he has
ever received. In spite of the hardship
attendant upon the calling, there is no
lack of candidates. It is possible that
this is due in a measure to the fact
that the physical requirements are not
so rigidly insisted upon as in the case
of the naval seaman.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty of ail
is to be encountered in the discharge of
the torpedo. In addition to the con
fined space In which torpedoes are op
erated and the difficulty of giving them
the correct direction at the time of fir
ing, it is necessary that the boat should
be nearly horizontal at the momer.t,
else the torpedo will take too deep a
dive or rise to the surface at the be
ginning of its run. The she:k of firing
also causes great longitudinal disturb
ance in the boat. The tests made with
the Fulton show that much of the
trouble formerly experienced from this
cause has been overcome.
It is, of course, unfortunate that
Lake's latest improvements in sub
marine navigation were not mad pub
lic by the recent tests. The design of
the department was to show the ut
most fairness in the matter of a choice,
and for that reason the competition
was arranged. Since the eastern com
plication came to a focus, and for a
long time before that period, both Lake
and the Holland company have had
abundant opportunities to put their in
ventions into actice service. It would
be an interesting coincidence if the
two little destructive agents should
now see active service on opposing
When or by whom the first subma
rine boat was built will probably never
be known. Alexander the Great wai
interested in subaqueous navigation,
and it was suggested iii the thirteenth
century. In 1372 some English ships
were destroyed by a machine carrying
fire under water. In the early part of
the seventeenth century submarine
boats were numerous, and by 1727 no
less than fourteen types of submarines
had been patented in England alone.
In 1775 David Bushnell built his first
boat, with which Sergeant Lee attack
ed the British ship Eagle in New York
harbor. Lee actually got under the
ship, and his attack failed only be
cause the screw with which the tor
pedo was to be attached to the bottom
of the Eagle was not sharp-enough.

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