Newspaper Page Text
"- --. r - -rx -" . -
THE WASHINGTON HERALD, SUNDAY, APRIL 18, 1915.
W"V"WVV Aa"" ""
DOINGTHEIMPOSSIBLE 1! SS
The Electrical Ear and Water Wireless
ELECTRICAL CEDE7EC7DJZ SHOWHATLEFT.
ABOUT the middle of December,
1014, there returned from
abroad an American inventor.
Prof. R. A. Fcssenden, who reported
to his associates in the Submarine
Signal Company of Boston, Mass.,
that one of the great European pow
ers (I am not at liberty to say which
one), after thorough tests, had de
cided to equip several of its battle
ships with the Fcssenden electric os
cillator, an instrument that promises
to change tltc conditions of naval
warfare, especially the relations of
battleships and submarines.
He announced, furthermore, that
another great power was in actie ne
gotiation for this American inven
tion, the practical aluc of which will
probably be demonstrated with start
ling effect in one of the not-distant
Xot only will this electric oscilla
tor be of nniiicn.-c importance in time
l war, but it bids fair to render still
greater service in time of peace by
insuring ships against collisions at
t.i, cither with one another or with
u r bergs. Recent tests by the United
Mates revenue (.utter Miami demon
Mated litis latter point in a memor
able cruise through tlic iceberg re
gion of the banks of Newfoundland,
during the month of April, 1914.
A Water Wireless.
To put it simply, this Fcssenden
n-cillatoi 1- .1 submarine sounding
apparatus that sends its signals
tlnough the water, not through the
.. . one result being that these sij;
1 ,iK tracl more swiftly than they
' mhl through the air, incc sound
vcs through water at the rate of
-1 100 feet a .second, while through the
.l.i it moves at the rate of only 1,100
jcrt .1 second.
Ml seafaring men know the un
tM stworthinss of sound warnings
scit through the air from steam
whistle-, or steam sirens. These
warnings arc often unheard even at a
rry short distance, say one mile or
It--", owing to adverse wind condi
ti jus, or to disconcerting "holes in
tl c air," or to unfavorable rcflcc
'1 .is or shippings of the sound from
ti'c water's surface. For this reason
s! bmarinc bells have for years been
used with excellent results on light
ships and buoys, and to some extent
r.'i moving vessels their warnings
Ik mg transmitted for miles through
ti e water.
In fact, it was in trying to extend
tl c usefulness ot these submarine
hells, especially in connection with
ships, that Prof. Fcssenden evolved
his present electric oscillator, and
olvcd the whole problem of protect
n vessels from collisions at sea.
His system of submarine signaling
s rca'llv a kind of water wireless,
destined, perhaps, to as important a
development as the aerial wireless.
A Modern Wonder Worker.
few weeks ago in Boston I had
a talk with Prof. Fcssenden about
his invention at the factory of the
Submarine Signal Company, a gniuv
and resounding establishment, t.u
lnrthplacc of submarine bells, scores
of which arc now clanging forththeir
warnings under the sea, electrically
or pneumatically, on buoys or light
ships spaced along the perilous ocean
fringe's of many lands.
I found the professor in a labora
tory room filled with strange appara
tus, electrical instruments, a model
of his improved iceberg detector, and
arious other indications of an in
All his life Prof. Fcssenden has
been an active explorer in new fields
of knowledge. For years lie was as
sociated with Thomas A. Edison. lie
was one of the pioneers in wireless
telegraphy, and his system of wire
less transmission is used in the great
Arlington towers at Washington, D.
C. Also his system of electric power
transmission was used bv the Cana
dian government in distributing the
energy of Niagara Falls through the
Province of Ontario. For years he
was professor of electricity and
physics at the University of Pitts
burgh. I have never met a man more
keenly interested in more different
kinds of things.
A Warning Voice.
In one corner of the factory, in a
fenced-off space, we came to the new
born oscillator, a smallish metal af
fair, no bigger than a sewing ma
chine, with many copper '"parts for
the electrical connections and a
drumhead of solid steel, twenty-two
inches in diameter and five-eighths of
an inch thick, that vibrates aston
ishingly under the electric current
and gives forth a sound of terrifying
" ould you like to hear it? asked
the professor. Then turning to an
assistant, "Arc you ready?"
He switched on a buzzing genera
tor, adjusted a rheostat, pressed a
black Icev, whereupon "Whoo-oopI"
the thing barked at us suddenly like
an angry calliope, and the tone per
sisted as long as the key was held
down. A shift of the rheostat handle
brought a current of greater fre
quency and the "tone rose to a pier
Another turn and the shriek was
deafening. Louder and shriller
screamed the quivering drumhead as
the scientist manipulated the rheostat
handle in the manner of a motoruiau
speeding up his trollcv car. The
whole factory resounded. I covered
my cars and waved for mercy.
"But it will be unendurable on a
ship, a thing like that, sounding all
the time," I said.
The inventor hook his head.
"When jo'j hear the oscillator sound
ing on a vessel you will scarcely
notice it. Here we are right at the
source of the sound, but 011 a ship
the oscillator is deep down in the
hold and i submerged in water. You
In Naval Warfare.
Prof. Fcssenden then showed mc a
gray steel tan!, like a big bathtub,
with ends made of steel plates, such
as are used in battleships. Experi
ments have been made with this tank
filled with water am! the oscillator
welded to one end, so that the vibra
tions pass through the liquid.
"When we sound the oscillator in
this way," he said, "the water in the
tank is thrown into a state of extra
ordinary agitation, so much so that
if vou dipped your hand in during
the experiment it would be hurled
out v lolcntly and painfully. I scarce
Iv know whether this shock is phy
sical or electrical. It is due to the
tact that under the rapid and power
ful impact of the vibrating end plate
the mass of liquid is literally
squeezed together about a thou
sandth of an inch for each vibration,
and then torn apart. One thou
sandth of an inch is an enormous
amount when you reflect that water
is practically incompressible. It is
almost as if the atomic structure of
the water had been twisted or dis
torted." "Would these -vibrations be trans
mitted through the water to a consid
erable distance?" I asked.
"To a very considerable distance.
c have already -cceived them at a
distance of thirty-two miles, but that
is only a beginning like the first
wireless message sent across the
English Channel, which seemed won
derful fifteen years ago, but is noth
"Do you think it will be possible to
transmit these water vibrations over,
say. a hundred miles?"
"I have no doubt of it. perhaps
scvenl hundred miles, with larger
oscillators and more powerful cur
rents." "And you will be able to send mes
sages in this way through the water
itself with no wires or cables?"
"Exactly. It is simply a matter of
making the oscillator toot out dots
and dashes according to the code.
Now, you sec the importance of these
oscillators in naval warfare, for a
battleship equipped with such instru
ments can talk to its own submarines
while they are miles away and sub
merged and can actually direct their
movements against an enemy's ves
sels." A Revolutionary Development.
" ithout the submarines being
obliged to come to the surface?"
"They need not come up until just
before launhing their torpedoes, say
at a distance of a thousand yards
from the vessel they wish to attack.
Then they will only show their peri
scopes for a few seconds while they
make final observations."
"And then launch their torpedoes?"
"It's a revolutionary development
"You arc not the first one to ex
press that opinion," smiled the pro
fessor. "Some big authorities think
it will change our whole naval
"But this has never been actually
accomplished, has it, the control of
submerged submarines from a battle
ship?" "Not yet, but it soon will be ac
complished. We have already put
oscillators on several American bat
tleships, on the Wyoming, the Dela
ware, the Utah, the Florida, and on
four'of the United States submarines
the D-i and D-2, the K-i and K-2
and we are now installing them on
battleships of a great foreign power."
I asked about the method of listen
ing at a distance to these water wire
less signals, and Prof. Fessenden ex
plained that thi may be done in a
temporary way with the help of a
microphone lowered, for instance,
from a lightship, or from a vessel at
anchor. This microphone is connect
ed with an ordinary telephone head
piece, through which a listener on
the deck may hear signals sent
through the water by an oscillator
miles away. i
tg& cMwmln -ritfA BiiBBBBff
mjk- 7 , - hbHP-tVW . 'Mr 'JfTHbbbwI HI
i. ' i mi g mt'$. &tHr.T'TMfc .' jh-"-" ' . v ;- t j-im r . rm x. jrM f Hn -, r- kj ?---h z r ttm
- amispxswsmzi&'Ga. '& -: mmm,,Kim?r-',(-i. -naiBP. . j; ,vh
lit I mmmfr-WKfmmMW Wli M Iff II1 ill
ml ilHyitftf W rmTFi ? :mk
ii B .: v '" x- n -:i. l iflaBBW - ' , Jr-:-M A -jSmKUlSimSNSRFfmtSBBI
VKT tfP-rX-v, - ? VBJNm'a A bbbMhmbbbKhdHk1IIIbbbMhbIhbbbbbbbbbh
gvjX NHPfet!'- -7 " AKOfmBf-dS-lMaM IPof 'water wireless
m gtMtti tf? BBSbBFV LWITCffBOARD ON r BOARD
77EFSSWJ?tf'r f JSKmmf y-
OSCILLATOR AS xTV l '9tmW& " , . ., ... 1
nv i n. i i r 1 1 im i t-it .s - - s. .iz-iTr y v v.--. -i Ji . ". rr 't -Jirtr.i-yifw u r '. mm a ,zi?r ! a t i
' lL'i wipTT" 'V I lgllfcT ii ff " w'tz M J
BRFIF "":.. i,VJ-i xyvmFTsit
4WU ' i". , . r-il4T . , , .KT - .TifT
"As a permanent listening arrange-
i use tlic oscillator itself, which is real-
! Iy a kind of telephone. I'll show you'
what I mean. suppose you say
something, anything you please, to
this steel diaphragm after 1 have
gone out." ,
A Satisfactory Test.
With this the professor went into
another room, and I recited, "Mary
had a little lamb" to the oscillator
and then counted slowly up to nine.
Whereupon I heard the inventor's
voice issuing distinctly from the disk
of steel and repeating word for word
what I had said.
Standing in the next room, he had
heard my remarks to the steel dia
phragm through a telephone connec
tion, and had spoken back to mc by
this telephone. In other words, the
minute vibrations of my voice and
Pel'iT. t V5r;?.a
$ EXTEBIO& VIEW OF THE LEC7J3fCAL EA&,
of his voice had been sufficient to set i above.
crringly according to orders from
that thick metal plate quivering so
that audible words were transmitted
through it in cither direction.
"So you sec," resumed the profes
sor on his return, "a vessel equipped
with a set of oscillators may use
them both for sending and for re
ceiving." "Docs a vessel need more than one
"Yes, it needs two. like two cars,
one on either side, which allows it to
fix the direction from which a signal
comes. This is done by a delicate in
strument that takes account of dif
ferences in the intensity of a given
signal as heard by the two electrical
cars, one of which, on the more fa
vorable side, hears the signal more
distinctly than the other. A ship's
officer has only to adjust this instru
ment and then read oil on a dial the
exact point of the compass from
which the signal comes."
"Then a battleship, as it receives
water wireless signals from one of
its own submerged submarines, could
tell in what direction that submarine
"Within a few degrees, yes. In
such experiments our errors in fix
ing the direction have not usually
exceeded half a point of the com
pass." "How about the distance of a sub
merged submarine from a battleship
could the battleship tell that?"
"Yes, approximately, by the inten
sity of tlic sound received, for, of
course, the oscillator's loudness
grows less as the distance increases.
There will be a distance indicator
with a dial graduated in thousands of
yards, and an officer will read off
these distance indications just as he
notes the points of the compass. Bc
sides this, a battleship will get pre
cise information from the submarine
herself I mean a friendly submarine
by talking with her in code, by
asking questions as to her speed, di
rection, distance below the surface,
Safety for Battleships.
From all of this it is plain that a
battleship which can thus controlthc
movements of submerged submarines
has an enormous advantage over the
ships of an enemy. A single cruiser,
aided by half a dozen deadly craft,
steaming far below the surface and
able to maneuver safely on the lower
levels, at the bidding of the mother
ship, might easily wipe out a whole
squadron of drcadnaughts unprotect
ed against this new danger. With os
cillators aboard, a battleship becomes
an eye to see, a brain to guide, while
the submarines, moving, sightless,
through the deep, "black waters, are
arms that strike an destroy un-
"Yonr invention increases the ter
rors of the .submarine?" I continued.
"It leaves the drcadnaught practi
The professor shook his head.
"That is true for drcadnaughts not
equipped with oscillator-, but for
others that arc able to listen with
electrical ears, the submarine be
comes far less formidable. The os
cillator makes it possible for a ship's
officer to hear the propeller move
ments of an enemy's submarine while
it is miles away. With our existing
apparatus we can detect such pro
peller sounds ..t a distance of two
miles, anil vvc have a sound amplify
ing device that will cte::d this dis
tance to live miles or more."
"Does that mean safety for battle
ships from submarine attack?"
"A great measure of safety, yes."
"Then those three British cruisers
that were sunk by German subma
rines could have escaped if they had
carried these listening--oscillators?"
"What would they have done?"
"As soon as they heard the pro
pcllor noises of the attacking subma
rines, which would have been some
time before the German torpedoes
were launched, they would have
changed their courses and gone
ahead at full speed. That would have
baffled the enemy, for submarines arc
slow-going craft and only dangerous
when their presence is not suspected.
It is even possible that the British
cruisers, knowing by dial indications
the approximate distance and direc
tion of the submerged German ves
sels, could have destroyed them by
launching torpedoc. of their own."
A Convincing Experiment.
An illustration of the fact that the
propeller and engine sounds of a
submerged submarine may be detect
ed by a distant vessel running along
the ocean surface was furnished sev
eral years ago when the Submarine
Signal Company actually demon
strated the thing in Newport harbor
at the request of a United States
"Do j-ou mean to tell me," asked
the incredulous officer, "that if one
of our submarines submerges and
runs back and forth out of sight on
the lower levels, you can hear her
in a vcisel at the surface and follow
her by means of your listening ap
paratus?" "Certainly we can," said the signal
man. "uo ahead and sink your sub
marine. I'll show you."
So they madc the test, and for
some time a swift launch equipped
with water wireless microphones cir
cled and zigzagged about Newport
harbor guided by sounds from the
I the party heard them, there was no
doubt of it.
"At sixteen miles and at twenty-
five miles," said -Mr. Perkins, relating
i the experience, "the signals were so
plain that you could hear them with
the telephone receiver a foot away
I from your car."
Suddenly a squall and snow storm
came up, but the tug pushed on until
I they heard the Peaked Hill bell buoy
I sounding on their starboard, and this
is thirty-one miles from the Boston
lightship. In a whirl of snow flakes
they stopped and listened for the last
time the five hours was nearly up
and night was coming on and here
again they caught the submarine
toutings of the Susie D. a little faint
er, but quite unmistakable. Thirty
one miles by water wireless!
A Check to Sea Horrors.
Coming to the general future ot
this invention, its many advantages,
insure its wide adoption on vessels
of all sorts. In fogs and dancers of
the night every ship will sound its
code letter two or three times a min
ute, thus revealing its identity to
other ships miles away. 'And the lo
cation and distance of each vessel
will be made known by the auto
matic swing of an electric needle
mounted beside the compass the
greater the swing on a graduated
dial, the less the distance. This
means no more collisions like that
on the St. Lawrence, when the Em
press of Ireland went down. The
Empress of Ireland would have been
talking that night to the other ships,
listening to her signals and steering
accordingly, if they had both carried
water wireless oscillators.
As to icebergs, the echo method
depths picked up and magnified by answer flashed out of the turmoil in
.1.- -i .-..! .i. : . .. i. -..:.. ir -.... !..
""You'e wrong! You've lost her." the dl ,Iom had been welded fan " ' ; " V" iT
declared the officer presently. "The, inside the steel skin of the battle- Jn1 'Ttc ouUy'c
submarine is nowhere near here. I ' ships and inside of the steel ribs of P1""-, . ' c -iSc indiratnrt il.r
know the course she was to take." I the submarines, with the result that I : .fca n elect ,c indicator) he
tm- i r ..! t. .. .1 1.-.1 l r---..i ..hnt. i !'---. .,) vv...u. ... i..'..iiv. v.. ..
i lie sicnai man insisicii nc was im-y n.m us-un luntu n uuiau - . . , ...i.:i -i.
right, however, and a little later the ; against masses of restraining
submarine came to the surface at the that were not in the same phase or
very spot indicated by the listening period of vibration with themselves;
apparatus. The officer was mistaken in other words, the oscillators were
and convinced. J out of tunc with these steel plates
I asked where the electrical oscil-' and steel rib. consequently their yi
lators arc placed on a vessel, and brations suffered a great drag in
learned that this point in somewhat I passing through this opposing steel
forward of amidships and three oi ! skin, and were much weakened when
four fathoms under water, the exact finally they struck the water. The
location depending upon the lines of remedy lay in attaching the oscilla
thc hull. For example, ill the case , tors to steel plates that would vibrate
of the I'nitcd States Utah oscillators in unison with tlicm. ccordingly a
i tfvifi- tftrrer M'Jiil. cli ifnc
..... I .fc,.S. .s.us-., .....is. -..w .....
menu , - ., . , . .
mice nines nufii danger, -rts 10 iiiu
were placed about half way between
the bow and amidships and about
twentv-threc feet below the water
line. The deeper the oscillators arc!
in the water, the better is tlic sound
transmission, since there is less in
terference from surface disturbances.
Some Earlier Tests.
Before coming to some remarkable
tests of the Fcssenden oscillator
made by the United States navy in
the summer of 1914 on two of its sub
marines, it may be well to mention
other tests during the preceding
years-, which show the difficulties
and disappointments that often at
tend the development of a great in
vention. The summer of 191.1 found all go
ing well in the laboratory experi
ment i and it was decided to try the
oscillator practically on a large ves
sel. Arrangements were according
ly made with the United States navy
authorities, and oscillators were
placed aboard the battleships Dela
ware and Wyoming, and extensive
tests were made in Augus't and Sep
tember during the Fisher's Island
Later in the same year oscillators
were placed aboard the submarines
D-i and D-a and tests were made at
Hampton Koads off the Virginia
capes. Much time and effort were
consumed in thcsc experiments and
high hopes were raised, butvvhen the
final achievement was considered the
result was found to be unsatisfactory.
The signal did not carry to the ex
pected distance and, on the whole,
the new oscillators were not found
superior to the old submarine bells.
Disappointed and perplexed, yet
confident that his basic idea was
sound. Prof. Fcssenden went back
to the- factory for weeks of further
investigation. What was the matter?
Why had his oscillator signals car
ried only three or four miles, when
they should have carried fifteen or
twenty miles? Why? Suddenly the
nroncrlv tuned steel nlatc in the form
of a disk was made and attached to
the oscillator, this being the steel
drumhead already described.
A New Demonstration.
A new demonstration of this modi
fied oscillator was made in Massa
chusetts Bav toward the end of Janu-
arv, 1014. An old wooden wrecking J with three oscillators and used rcgu
perils of shoals and reefs along regu
larly navigated coasts, it is plain that
a line of oscillator stations placed at
intervals, as lighthouses and bell
buoys arc placed, and sounding forth
water wireless code signals at brief
intervals in bad weather or at night
woul create a continuously sounding
zone of safety, reaching ten or twen
ty miles out to sea, and making it
practically impossible for vessels to
drive upon the rocks.
During my stay in Boston I wit
nessed a demonstration of this im
portant submarine signaling work on
board an ocean-going collier, the
Dcvcrcux, .1 long iron vessel that
lilies down the coast to Norfolk, ami
unquestionably tlic most scientific
collier in cxistcmre, being equipped
tmr. the Susie I)., was equipped with
a steam turbine and generator for
furnishing current to the new oscilla
tor, also with a derrick and boonifor
lowering the heavy apparatus into
the sea. A switchboard was set up
on deck and, when everything was
ready anil the weather favorable, the
Susie D. was moored fast to
the Boston lightship at the
mouth of the harbor. Then a power
ful ocean-going tug, the Ncponsct,
with Prof. Fesscndcn and Mr. J. F.
Perkins, vice president of tltc com
pany, and assistants aboard, steamed
out into the ocean to sec how far
away they could pick up the signals
with their microphone receiving ap
paratus. It was after 12 o'clock
when they started, and the under
standing was that Mr. Vaux, the
sending operator on the Sujic D.,
would keep his oscillator tooting
twice a minute for five hours. Two
miles out the Ncponsct stopped her
engines and the microphones were
lowered into the sea. It was impos
sible to listen while the tug was mov
ing because of the slap of the waves
and the interference of foreign noises.
As the boat came to rest. Prof. Fcs
senden sljppcd on the telephone head
set and listened.
"Tooooooot-toot-toot " came the
signal, and again after half a minute,
"Fine!" beamed the inventor. "He's
sending D. W's. It's clear as a bell."
At four miles they stopped again
and and listened, then at six miles,
then at eight, then at sixteen, and
finally at twenty-five -miles. Each
fime the signals from the Susie D.
were heard distinctly. Every one of
larly for sending and receiving wa
ter wireless messages.
I stood in the captain's cabin 011
the Dcvcrcux. beside the switch
board, while Operator Danny Price
sent wireless signals pulsating
through the depths of Boston harbor
out to the tug Lc Baron II. Jenkins
listening miles away with micro
phones overboard and then out into
the sea beyond. The turn of a brass
wheel and the throw of a switch con
nected him with one or the other of
the oscillators, or with two at a time.
Price glanced at his voltmeters and
ammeters, then pressed a key.
one of th : steel diaphragms eighteen
feet below the water line. Up here
on deck it was like a boy's wooden
whistle, rather low-pitched and mu
sically pleasant, but a Swedish sailor
known as Charley, who happened to
dive overboard while the oscillator
was sounding, declared that it nearly
split his "noodle." All sounds are
greatly intensified under water.
I myself had the experience of
both listening and sending. 1 spell
ed water wireless signals in dots and
dashes and heard them gp forth, and
I caught answering messages that
came vibrating among the islands
and shoals and flashing lights of the
Darkness was coining on as the old
barge with her red and black hull
steamed past the spar buoy; of Nash's
Rock and came abreast with Boston
Light, and I reflected that all these
vessels lying abount us were safer
than they had ever been from dan
gers of the sea because of this inven
1 1 Bf 1 1 1 ' I wGWffl " l iiHlffhttir'' i WmT"- &&. ;js-A;Mr : mm A3mS.:.rf-,.i jiMm'iyf'ty:
Wr? - ". ?IXaJh
I tm.MMm J- .-.. '
TTMgigrrrr ii iiiTirTwwnMBinfiMrgMfgwrTiaTrT n' " m ""
W9 B- "r WW mm W " 3Tfatk AJrpj T - M tS 4P 3" "K "VV"-