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TEACHING BRITANNIA HER JOB
THE British Admiralty have chosen for concealing their warships colors exactly opposite to their purpose. These navy men have under taken a job absolutely in the paintvr's field?to-day, when everything else is in the hands of snocialists. At the beginning of the war Profes Bor J. Graham Kerr. of the t'niversity of Glasgow, proposed to the government to give tip his profossornhip and under take the eondue. of the bureau for the applieation ot my diseoverios to war need.. Professor Poulton, of Oxford, wrote to General Ian Hamilton urging that the government take counsel of me. and Prof..s.sor Herdman, of the Liver? pool University, proposed that the Kng lish naturalists sign a paper to this effect, saving to mo "Your book has con .ineodusall." But neither the Navy nor tbi War Department eould be made to understand that successfully to color ships or men years of special study of tho science involved in concealing colora D are nccessary. Here is a porfoctly absurd (however disaitTOUS) Ca-ise. In British waters nine r.or.ths in the year they have twenty doudy hours to one sunny hour (the , ? ate I got from OM officer; fifty to one as I got from another), and not mueh bettCT the Ittt of thc time "lilthy nine months in tho year and dirty the rest" Obv_oua_y, then, the British navy a color that conceala their ships ckady -weather. There isons color, and only one that even tenda lo concord a ship ta such weather, and that - they orotd with a superstitious awe, and chooM among thc rest, where ODS of them, or any combination of . ia aa bad as another, achieving at some difficulty in idtotijicatton, making their ahips, though always rankly isible, look perhaps like some group of scows. All this will be plain to our thousands of seaside visitors this very summer after they have read this article and Btndied an hour or two the shipping out on the rim of thc ocean on a cloudy day. Here is a means to turn these thou j_;i, .,1. , aal force to aid the Allies by helping break down this fatal error. On a doudy day place a stick hori zontally upon two supporta in a situa? tion where it will be seen againft the low horizon sky. (Figure 1.) Upon this stick fix firmly Hat carda of any color you plrase, not. omitting pure white carda, and also carda of the gray, and gray-paH.rrnl-with-blaek, that the navy oae. So affix them that their sur ficei COf-a. all in one vertieal plane, and which ot Ihe carda come nearrst to matehing the sky. Vou will find that on cloudy days the white onea will come far the neare.-t to doing so and that all the othen will altoaya look mueh too dark against it. AN??. while the slightest sditieation of theae carda' verticality, _) alightest revolving ol the atick (or Jfr slight ahifting of Ihe atmospheric ^lumination), may complete the effaco ment of the white card at a hundred yards or less, no such change of angle that leaves any of the other cards any where near vertieal or any change in the iilumination. will in the Kast degree diminish the rank conspieuousness of all tho other.. On the other hand, the white eanls ean become h<?th whiter than the sky on your facing them more and more upward and dark brown on facing them more and more downward. Ninety-nine hundredths of all ol' a Bhip that you see at a distance is essen tial'y vertieal. and at the fighting dis tance ol stven or more miles ships teen even irom eaeh other's lookout, 150 feet above the sea, have the sky for a back? ground even down the main part of their hulls. Cut out of the blank margin of this newspaper the form of a cruiser. and pin it flat over A. (Figure 2.) Look at it in a diminiahing light; you will find that this white ship will fade from your sight, while the gray and blaek ones iv main visible. Thia illustration shows you what you FIGIRE ONE. 'You Will Find That on Cloudy Days the White Cards Will Come Nearest to Matching the Sky." The British Navy's Mistake in Attempting to Color Ships Without the Aid of a Specialist. Did Germany Avoid This Error? How People Now at the Seashore May Help the Allies by Their Testimony can also see when you watch, on a cloudy day, any white vessel. or the white superstructure of any dark steam? ers, ofl on the sea line; namely, that white, instead of having the supposed mysterious luminosity, is simply a (pulverized) mirror of the whole sky that lights it, and fades or waxes with the inerease or decrease of daylight. In cloudy weather (which secures uniform illumination) vertical pure white so counterfeits the sky against which you see it that only in the brightest mo ments is there any hope of your dis tinguishing it from the sky. All the rest of the time, as this watching the ships toward nightfall, or in thickening weather, or watching this illustration in a darkening room, proves all vertical white is utterly indistinguishable, while all darker i'orms stand out starkly vif*iblo. Yet every navy man would have to confess to-day that he would ex? pect a white ship, or the white super structure of a dark one, to show more as t he day darkened. For Kngland to see these facts would treble her power before the end of a week; that is all the time it would take to paint every vertical inch of the whole navy, spars, cables and all, pure white. With a view to the aviators, ships' horizontal surfaces must wear the gray of gulls' backs. Plainly a snow-white sidrd pearl-backcd tern has the eostume that has concealed billions of his ances tors in the greatest number of moments and situations. Yet even in a cloudy day, out of the hundred that at any mo? ment match their background and es Written and Illustrated by ABBOTT THAYER Abbott Thayer. the author oi this remarkable artiele, which shows how warships may be protected against the attacks ol the enemy by the appll cat Ion ol a simple coat ot paint, is one ol the toremost ot American artists, a member ol that famous group which includes Salnt-Gaudens, Whlstler, Winslow Homer, George Inness and John Sargent. His paintlngs, usually of winged female figures, like the celebrated "Caritas," are among the most treasured canvases In the private and public collections ol the United States. Some years ago Mr. Thayer's studies of natural lite, begun at Monadnock, N. //., where he has his home and studlo, brought him to the dlscovery ot an extraordinary prlnclple, which he demonstrated to the sclentltic world in a volume elahorately Illustrated by his son and himself, "Conceallng Coloratlon in the Animal Kingdom." In this book he showed how the coats ot birds and heasts were so devlsed by nat ure as in many cases to aid the wearers in their detencc against their enemles in field and iorest. Mr. Thayer's ideas have excited warm discussion and some oppo? sition?Colonel Roosevelt being among his critics?hut they have also won cordial approval. Lxtendlng the scope of his researches, he has given particular attention to the question oi supplying ships wlth a protective resource, and in the accompanylng artiele he discusses It wlth relation to one of the leading subjects ot the hour?the hearing oi sea power upon the Great War. The reader is especially commended to that portion ot the artiele which explalns how the man on his vacation at the seashore may find entertainment in proving the argument tor himself. The seashore observer will also dis cover that in sunny weather, too, white, in a hundred situations, is bcautifully ghostly. Now, to cure white's one defect as a ship concealer (its occasional blazing brightness on its sunny side) it is only necessary for ships to have dark gray awnings ready to draw over the sunlit parts. Must we actually abandon a matter that involves the very existence of know that their mathematics, gunnery, navigation, etc, have put them beyond the competition of outsiders in thrir fUtd can't take in that the like is also true of the speeialists in all adjaeetlt peld*. The moment I got ready to show all this about the powers of white to Pro fessor Grey (professor of physics at Glasgow University) he said: "You don't need to show it; I know just what I shall see." And he proved to do so, for any white pasteboard box that you set anywhere out under a cloudy sky. When you, and all the world except painters and phyxicists studying visu ality, look at such cases as these cubes you show no signs whatsoever of realiz ing that only their tops are white tn this position, and that each other plane has some other different and darker color, born of its momentary situation. This failure to understand visibility makes you utterly helpless, and?must I say? ?makes your cocksureness a dreadful obstacle to your country's safety at this particular moment. I tried for several years, both in Eu? rope and here. to reveal to naturalists the law of counter-shading, which I dis covered about 1892, twenty-four years ago. Ultimately, piqued by lack of re ceptivity and even contempt, I alighted on the thought of the application of my law to artificial models. These I showed at South Kensington Museum, Oxford and Cambridge universities, at Bergen and Florence, and personally set up in each of these places (and in Japan and elsewhere by directing other men who wrote for instructions) permanent ap paratus demonstrating the invisibility of a counter-shaded object. The thing became famous at once and went all over the world, and has ever since been called "Thayer's law." (loaded in the same way again, I have devised these ship models to show the very same great fact in another appli? cation, and they will similarly go round the world. The previously overlooked fact, which FIGURE TWO. ?Cut Out of the Blank Margin of This Page the Form of a Cruiser and Pin It Flat Over A. Look at It in a Diminishing Light; You Will Find That This White LMup Will Fade from Your Sight, While the Gray and Black Ones Remain Visible." cape your eye, the gyrations of many others keep scores of them in sight, by making them relieve, for the moment, either a little too light or too dark. It follows that the average man goes on accumulating an imaga of these ies birds COnspkuOUSly light or dark as the caae may be (in general only an artist notiees which way an object relieves) because the hordes of concealed ones Imild in his brain no image at all. scores of warships and thousands of lives to the bungling of men who share this inconceivable, though universal, lack of sight-sense, and who are as ignorant of these principles as fifty years ago were medical men about malaria or tubercle? The accompanying extract from a letter that went to a British naval ex pert is appended for the additional ex planations it contains: It would be amusing, were it not now, for the above reasons, an agony, to hear your navytalk of havingthe "best winds on this /o.)"and of having ttttitui colors "on the spot." What you have all done is just this: Being all in the (inexplicable) trammels of a notion that white is intrinsically the one conspicuous color, you pass tl by as out of the question, and call it testing colors to go out to sea and compare vari ous combinations of the other colors, all practically always equally and ludi crously conapicuous OUt on the sea, for reasons unknown to you of the navy, but as plain as A B C to the physioist and the painter. How does it happen that men who and we had a laugh at the marine and lighthouse administration. "Why," said Grey,"do they paint lighthouses white? It was by its chancing to show dark against light of sunset that I detected the Scilly Light the other day." You are all in a frightful hole, that cost the world the Titanic (because her officers supposed, like all the world, that a white berg shows, and especially at night); and the same ig*norance cost, formerly, the Arizona; and it now offers to cost Kngland half her navy, if Ger? many letuns from our book, or other in'.sv, witat that little white boat that Mr. Bayard left you can force upon you, if you test it as I provide. It must be spotlessly "fhite; and this fact alone entirely proves my case; be? cause, at the very moment when you learn that all other colors show too dark against the sky, at all hours, you will find that it is purest white that alone can stand the verticality and still match tiu >?/./. An object of any other, even only slightly darker. color is a hopelessly dark figure out on the open sea practically all the time. These cubes (Figure 3) may stand both apparatus demonstrate, is that the particular color you paint on any sur? face is only one factor in its appearancc, and actually a minor factor, the far greater one being the momentary posi? tion of this painted surface. Naturalists, hunters, war departments and most other people displa/ absolute unconsciousness of the existence of this great fact, and the navy's painting their ships gray. or, still worse, gray made a still darker ensemble (against the lighf of the sky) by patches of black, is a dis mai token of thia blindnes... Through this fatuous blindness the Titanic struck the berg, and your ship? go about making the best thing they ean out of the use of pattern (loarnH fron our book, but here most erraueoualy ap. plied) through avoiding the .,,,/., COlu cealing color, white. The case is perfeet? ly comic. On land many different com? binations of iandscape colors, if >,n\y jn contrasted patches, would serve to con ceal, but out on the open sea there u just one color, and you f*-__r t? trf ft; The whole scene is itooyt. in cloudy weather, just one series of whites in their normal Iight-and-shado relations, and a vertieal white plane out ther. shares and imitates all the li>ht-and. shade changes of the clouds. You make a well-wisher weep. Half of the ships that have been torpedoed would still be afloat had the naval experts perceive, that there is a science. of apprarances, and that science does not form a part of a naval expert's training. One would think that some naval expert eould be found with genius enough to perceive this, and get for his country the help of a scientific man whose specialty is con? cealing coloration. It is aa comical as if peopie couldn't count or calculate. Even after seeinj* their white ship invisible (most ef the time) through the thirty to one cloudy hours round Britain, the moment they see the sun make one side of her too bright for one hour they go bark atonce to the gray that keeps the ship a black, conspicuous figure practically all the time in all weathera. This moment of sun seems to pytt. rout the naval powers of thought! Let us accept this one hour of bright ariine on one side, and let any one tafl why not to pay this price for having tne ship practically inviaibU (most of *JL*_ time) through all the cloudy weathe? round Britain. The only question which is here with* in the field of naval experts is whether they prefer mere disguise. of a ship to having her inrisible nine hours out of twelve in cloudy weather. (Cloudy weather being, at least, as any one will admit, vastly prcdominant through the greater part of the year around (Jna* Britain.) The question of what color can vanish and what one can't bo.oT.g_ to that science of appearances which i* the painter's specialty. Your gray-and-black patterned rraft (except in the rare moments of being seen by a spectator at the preciae angk, during sunshine, where thtshine sun OU her paint strikes his eye) il al? ways a dark figure against the back? ground. The only advantage you gi I by this patterning is to make the v.<sel ambiguousinappearance. Now,whether the navy prefer this ambignity to nin.' hours a day of invisibilitv, with a rrtfll better and very simple device for arr.i . guity (which I coulddeocribetoyou) the other three hours, ia their aiTair, but there is only one color that wh up vertieal is light enough not t<> be a dark figure against the sky Bwyoaus,sad that color it ichite. Here I am the au? thority, but if you study those models. set up absolutely with vertieal rvedia" planes, in CLOUDY WEATHER, OB some unshadowed house-top hiph enough among its neighbors to escap*' neighboring shadows, and to enable you to see them against the bottom of tki distant sk:i itself, and not against some terrestrial object, you cannot fail to dis cover the principle in queation, greatly does itdarken avi color to I up edgewise il speak, of course, of out of-doors) that white itself, so placed. becomes the very gray you are trying to get, and all other colors thus set up become hopelessly too dark. Proud of their navies, people fre quently point to some inky dark i er, gray-painted, with her lateat fash ioned black disguisc-patterns, and "That's for invisibilitv, you know."' Thi* has happened to me many tim. and the vessel was always. as jfOU ??*? see must alirays be thc ___**, a ehir-v silhouette whose black forms menly **? Continued on Page Eight. FIGURE THREE. "These Cubes May Stand for Any White Pasteboard Box That Vou Set Out l nder? Cloudy Sky."