Victor G. Durham.

The Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep online

. (page 2 of 12)
Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 2 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

five minutes."

Another cheer went up as Jacob Farnum, leaving the outer door open,
hurried back to his own party. Captain Allen, a retired master of
coasting vessels, had five times as many volunteers in the crowd as he

"Jack, I'm sorry I can't go with you," sighed Mr. Farnum, as he returned.
"But the call of humanity is too big a one. I'm going to take Williamson
with me. The rest of you go with Lieutenant Danvers and his men. I'll
hope to be able to go with you to-morrow, anyway."

"Isn't there a tug hereabouts that those people could hire?" questioned
the naval officer.

"Oh, yes; there's a small one to the south of here, but her captain
would charge at least fifty dollars a day," replied the shipbuilder,
as he drew on a heavy deck ulster.

"I suppose these people expect you to go out for nothing," hinted
Lieutenant Danvers.

"Oh, yes, of course," nodded the shipbuilder. "But one can't be a
crank, or a miser, when women are red-eyed and weeping from worry over
their missing husbands and sons."

There was a suspicion of moisture in Mr. Farnum's own eyes as he snatched
up a cap, bidding his own party a hasty good-bye ere he ran from the

"There goes a good-natured man," laughed Lieutenant Danvers.

"A big-hearted one, you mean, sir," corrected Captain Jack Benson.
"He's a man with a heart bigger than any torpedo craft he could possibly
build and launch."

"I wish him all luck," said the naval officer, heartily. "And that
crowd, and also the poor seafaring men that put out in the like of the
'Mary Bond.'"

The crowd had gone from the office building, now, following Mr. Farnum
and his volunteers down to the little harbor. Jack, his chums and the
naval party slowly followed down to the water front.

Little time did the shipbuilder lose in getting under way. A rousing
cheer ascended when the grim little "Benson" slipped her moorings and
turned her nose out toward the sea.

"Your pipe-hungry machinist went on that craft, didn't he!" asked the
naval officer, as the crowd began to turn back from the beach.

"Yes," nodded Captain Jack. "So there's nothing at all to prevent our
getting the 'Hastings' out on the wave as soon as you like."

"I'm going to send my men up to the hotel, first, for a jolly big feed,"
proposed Lieutenant Danvers. "They've been on the rail, eating on the
jump, and now they'll appreciate a good square meal."

"Suppose we all go up to the hotel for luncheon!" proposed Captain Jack.

"Then how about having torpedoes aboard when we return?"

"How many real torpedoes will you want for to-day, Mr. Danvers?" Benson

"Two, besides the dummies, will be plenty."

"Then I'll run over to Mr. Partridge, the superintendent of the yard,
and he'll have a foreman and a gang attend to it," suggested the young
submarine skipper.

Accordingly, this was done. Then the party slated for the afternoon
cruise went over to the hotel. By the time that they came back from
the midday meal the two service torpedoes were aboard the "Hastings"
and the target was in readiness to be towed out to sea.

This "target" was not a handsome-looking affair. It was an old scow,
some thirty feet long and broad of beam, that had once been used, up
the coast, in sea-wall construction work. Mr. Farnum had bought it a
short time before and it now lay at anchor, near the beach, ready to
be towed out to sea for its last service to mankind. The scow was
heavily laden with rock, this being intended to sink the craft's keel
as far as was advisable. The old scow had now something more than four
feet draught, with less than two feet of freeboard.

Two of the workmen, in an old whaleboat, waited to row the party out to
the "Hastings." Jack was soon able to welcome Lieutenant Danvers on
board the submarine.

"You can look around all you want, Ewald and Biffens," suggested Mr.
Danvers, "and see if you can find any great differences between this
craft and the 'Pollard' and the 'Farnum.'"

The two sailors, accordingly, made themselves wholly at home in the
interior of the submarine.

"Both men have put in tours of duty on the first two boats turned out
by your company," explained the officer. "They know all about the two
Pollard boats that the Navy bought."

"Then they won't find very much that is different on board the
'Hastings,'" Jack replied. "All that is new here is in the way of a few
more up-to-date little mechanisms and devices. A man used to running
the old 'Pollard' would really be wholly at home here."

A few minutes, only, were allowed for inspection of the newest submarine
of the lot. By this time the workmen in the small boat had made fast a
towing hawser between the bow of the old scow and the stern towing bitts
of the "Hastings."

"Use my men all you need to, in casting off, or in boat handling
generally," requested Lieutenant Danvers. Jack therefore ordered Ewald
and Biffens forward on the upper hull to cast loose from moorings. Hal
stood the trick in the engine-room, while Jack himself sat at the wheel
in the tower.

In another minute, despite her rather heavy tow, the "Hastings" was
nosing briskly out of the harbor. The gasoline engines this little
craft were of a "heavy service" pattern, which adapted the submarine
to the work of towing at need.

"How far out do you want to go, sir!" asked Captain Jack, as the Navy
lieutenant took a seat beside him in the tower, after Eph and the
sailors had gone below.

"We want to be sure to be well out of the path of coastwise vessels,"
replied Danvers. "That's the main thing, you know. We can't take any
risk of sinking a merchantman while we're having our fun."

"With this tow, then, it will be three o'clock before we get out where
we really ought to be, sir."

"That will give us at least two hours of good daylight," nodded Mr.
Danvers. "Of course you know this coast well enough to pick your way
back after dark?"

"I'd run the craft five times the distance, under water, and hit the
harbor without thought of an accident," spoke young Benson, seriously,
and with no thought of boasting.

"Jove, my young friend, if you can do a thing like that, you're a
genius at the work," muttered Danvers, after a swift, side glance at
Skipper Jack.

"I've done as much before," laughed Jack. "Either of my friends could
do it, for that matter."

"Then you're veritable young kings of the deep!" declared Lieutenant
Danvers, heartily.

"Oh, we're not wonders," smiled Jack, goodhumoredly; then added, more
seriously, "If we really do anything worth while, my friends and I,
we're to be regarded simply as the products of constant practice."

"You're modest enough about it," agreed Danvers.

Presently, the naval officer himself took a hand at managing the
submarine. Jack, knowing that the boat was in fine professional hands,
slipped unconcernedly below, to chat with Hal Hastings, who sat doggedly
by his engines.

"What's the matter? What makes you look so solemn, old fellow?" asked
the young submarine skipper, when he caught sight of his chum's solemn

"Oh, you'd laugh, if I told you," smiled Hal.

"Seeing omens of ill again!" persisted young Benson.

"I suppose," sighed Hal, "well, I have a sort of premonition."

"Pre - premo - " stuttered Captain Jack, holding comically to the port
side of his jaw. "Oh, pshaw! Call it a plain United States 'hunch.'
What's the tip the spooks are giving anyway, Hal?"

Hastings smiled again, though he went on:

"Oh, it's just a queer sort of notion I have that something is going to
happen to us this afternoon."

"Right-o," drawled Jack. "You don't have to shove off from that, Hal.
Something is going to happen to us. This afternoon we're going to have
the first drill in the actual firing of submarine torpedoes."

"Oh, I know that," Hastings admitted, quickly. "But what I see ahead,
or feel as though I see, is some kind of disaster. Now, you'll think
I'm a sailor-croaker, won't you, Jack?"

"Disaster?" repeated Jack, slowly. "Well, to be sure, we've the outfit
on board for a disaster, if we wanted one. Two real torpedoes that hold,
between them, four hundred pounds of gun-cotton - or danger-calico, as
Williamson would call it. But cheer up, old fellow. There's no danger,
after all. Williamson and his pipe are on the other boat."

"Oh, of course nothing is really going to happen," laughed Hal. "It is
just the feeling that is over me. That's all."

It was fully three o'clock by the time Lieutenant Danvers decided they
were far enough out to sea, and far enough from any craft in those
waters. Not a stick or a stack of another vessel showed within ten
miles of them. The scow was accordingly cast loose and allowed to

Captain Jack was at the tower wheel again, as Eph and the two sailors
returned from setting the scow loose.

"We've got to be sure to record one good hit against that old barge of
stone," muttered Lieutenant Danvers, who stood beside the youthful
submarine commander. "The sea is roughening, and I doubt if we could
pick up that scow in tow again. We've got to destroy her, or she'd be
a fearful menace to navigation, drifting about in the night in the path
of incoming vessels."

"Oh, I guess you'll get rid of her easily enough," spoke Jack,
confidently. "You're a professional at this business, sir."

"So are the two men with me," nodded the officer. "By the way, Ewald
can just as well come on deck and take the wheel, if you want him to do
so. Then you can go below and see all that we do with a torpedo."

"Now, that's what I call a great idea," cried Benson, enthusiastically.
"I want to know just how a torpedo is handled at the time of firing."

"It's the only thing you have left to learn about this business,"
smiled the naval officer. Then he passed the word for Ewald. When that
it sailor had taken the wheel, the naval officer and the young submarine
skipper went below.

"We'll swing in one of the dummy torpedoes, first, of course," announced
Mr. Danvers.

One of the dummies was, therefore, hauled forward on a truck, then
forced on into the torpedo tube. Jack watched, intently, this part of
the business.

The torpedo itself was a cigar-shaped affair, with a propeller at the
after end. This propeller was set in motion by means of an engine in
the after part of the torpedo, the engine being so constructed that it
was set in operation at the moment the torpedo left the tube and entered
the ocean outside. The propeller was fitted with apparatus that would
drive the torpedo in a straight line.

"The torpedo looks like a miniature submarine, doesn't it?" muttered
young Benson.

"It surely does," nodded the naval officer. "And, since the torpedo has
to travel under water, what better model could have been chosen? Now,
the engines in these dummy torpedoes can be set for two, four, six or
eight hundred yards, and the torpedo, once it enters the water, travels
forward, in a straight line until the engine gives out. That is, the
torpedo travels ahead if it doesn't hit something. So, in actual war
conditions, we would always get nearer to the object than the distance
for which the engine is set to run. The speed of a torpedo like this,
under water, is a good deal better than thirty miles an hour, but the
distance the torpedo can go is naturally short. That is a direct
consequence of its speed. Now, Mr. Benson, would you like to know how
to fire the torpedo, since it is already in the tube?"

"Certainly, sir," nodded Jack. And then he continued as if reciting a
lesson: "Just give that firing lever at the back of the after port a
quick shove to the right and downward. That releases the charge of
compressed air and forces the torpedo out. At the same instant the
forward port opens, so that the torpedo can be shot out into the water.
The compressed air also serves to keep the sea water from rushing in
through the torpedo tube. When the lever is swung up and back again
that closes the forward port, and it is then safe to open this after

"You've committed that to memory," laughed the naval lieutenant.

"Oh, we've often talked this over, all three of us," smiled Jack.

"Then, since you understand this part so well, Benson," proposed Mr.
Danvers, "perhaps you'd like to go forward, on deck, and see when this
dummy torpedo is fired?"

"I surely would," agreed the submarine boy "And Eph can just as well
come with me."

The two submarine boys, therefore, hastened above, out on the platform
deck, and then further forward on the upper hull, until they lay out
along the nose of the "Hastings."

Danvers reached Ewald's side in the tower, while Biffens waited below,
at the lever, for the firing signal.

The "Hastings" was now drifting, rather aimlessly, something more than
four hundred yards away from the scow. As the sea was roughening all
the while, the two submarine boys out forward were having a hard time
of it. Added to that, icy spray was falling over them.

Lieutenant Danvers quickly rang for speed and then brought the submarine
boat within about three hundred yards of the scow, and at a position that
pointed the nose of the "Hastings" at the middle of the scow's hull, the
line of fire making a right angle with the scow.

"Get ready to watch, out there!" warned the naval officer.

"Now, Eph," glowed Jack, "we're going to see the thing we've so often
dreamed about! We'll see that dummy torpedo leap forth, like a real
one. For a little way, at least, we ought to see the track of the

"Feel like betting the dummy will bit the scow?" questioned young Somers,
half doubtfully.

"Of course it will," retorted Jack Benson, scornfully, "with naval
experts on the job!"

Lieutenant Danvers gave the firing signal.

In the silence that followed, the two submarine boys hanging over the
nose of the boat heard just a muffled click below. Then -

"There it goes!" shouted Jack Benson, with all the glee in the world.

Down beneath them, under the nose of the "Hastings" an object shot into
brief view. First the war-head, then the middle, then the tail and
propeller of a fourteen-foot Whitehead torpedo swept away from them,
two or three feet below the surface of the waves. A line of bubbles
came to the surface, showing that the torpedo was headed, straight and
clean, for the stone-laden scow over on the ocean. Then the torpedo,
still under water, passed out of their range of view.

"Hurrah!" yelled Jack Benson, leaping to his feet with all the glee and
fervor of the enthusiast. "Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" bellowed Eph Somers, for the glory of the game had gotten into
his blood, too. Both submarine boys capered up and down on the
platform deck.

But Lieutenant Danvers sat with left hand on the conning tower steering
wheel, his watch in his right hand. He was counting the seconds.

"Look out for the signal," called the naval officer, coolly. "When I
tell you, then look out for what happens over at the scow. Er - now!"

They were too far away to hear the impact, but the two submarine boys
saw a slight commotion in the waters under the scow's rail. Then the
dummy torpedo bounded back, rising and floating on the surface - spent!

Had that torpedo contained the fighting service charge of two hundred
pounds of gun-cotton it would have shattered and sunk the biggest,
staunchest, proudest battleship afloat.

"It's uncanny - isn't it?" gasped Jack Benson, feeling an odd shudder
run over him.



"Yep!" agreed Eph Somers, blaster of day-dreams. "But say?"

"Well?" demanded Captain Jack.

"At the same time," muttered Eph, grimly, "I'm glad that scow isn't a
real battleship, with a half a dozen twelve-inch cannon turned on us."

"Humph!" muttered Jack, dryly, "if that scow were an enemy's battleship,
twelve-inch barkers and all, we'd be twenty feet under the surface, and
we'd be out of sight and out of mind."

"Quite right," nodded Lieutenant Danvers. "In a contest of that sort
I'd feel fifty times safer here than on the battleship we were after.
Now, Benson, you've seen the first part of it. We have the other
dummy to fire. The real gunner, on a submarine, is the fellow at the
wheel. Do you want to take the wheel, manoeuvre the boat and give the
order for the next dummy shot?"

"Do I?" uttered Jack Benson. "Just!"

Orders were then given to place the other dummy torpedo in the tube, and
this done, Jack took his place at the wheel, while Eph Somers and the
lieutenant stood outside. At the naval officer's direction Jack Benson
came up on the other side of the scow, about three hundred yards away,
with the nose of the "Hastings" so pointed that the torpedo dummy could
be delivered straight amidships.

At just the right moment Captain Jack passed the order to fire. Then he
watched the scow with a strange fascination. Danvers stood, watch in

"Now!" he shouted.

Barely two seconds later the second dummy torpedo rose, a few yards back
from the side of the scow.

"That torpedo struck, full and fair," nodded Lieutenant Danvers, turning
toward the conning tower. "Mr. Benson, if you always hit as full and
well, you'll be an expert torpedoist."

"Why, it's nothing but holding the nose of your own boat full on the
other craft, amidships, and the torpedo itself does the rest," uttered
the young submarine skipper.

"That's it," nodded Lieutenant Danvers. "But, when you're below the
surface, the problem becomes a harder one."

"But then I'd come up enough to use the periscope, and get the bearings
of the enemy's vessel," declared Benson. "Then I'd drop below, using
the compass for direction, and the number of motor revolutions to give
me the knowledge of distance traveled."

"That's just the way it is done," agreed Danvers. "After all, it's just
a matter of accurate boat handling, and being able to judge distances
by the eye alone. And now, Mr. Benson, if you'll run over yonder,
carefully, we'll pick up the dummies. After that, we've got to make
as good a shot, with a real torpedo, and sink the scow."

"And, if you don't, sir - ?" smiled the young submarine skipper.

"Then we'll be guilty of poor shooting, and have to try the second
loaded torpedo," replied the naval officer. "If we miss with the
second, then we'll have to contrive either to tow the scow, or to sink
her somehow. If either of the loaded torpedoes fails to explode, we'll
have to pick it up, at all hazards. If we left a loaded torpedo
floating on the surface of the water, here in the paths of coast
navigation, it would sink the first ship that struck the war-head of
the torpedo."

The sea, by this time, was rough and whitecapped, and a brisk wind was
blowing down from the north-east. It was no easy task to get a rope
around first one dummy torpedo, and then the other. Yet at last this
was done, and the heavy objects were hoisted aboard and stored below.

"Now, we'll get off and sink the scow, before dark," muttered Lieutenant

"Are you going to let me fire the torpedo at her, sir?" demanded Skipper
Jack Benson, eagerly.

"If you feel sure you can do it," replied the naval officer. "For that
matter, if you fail, there'll be one loaded torpedo left, and I can
take the second shot."

At a sign from the young skipper Eph hurried below, to relieve Hal
Hastings, who wished to see some of the fun. Hal came up into the
conning tower to take the wheel while Jack Benson slipped below to
direct the loading of the torpedo into the tube. Then Biffens, the
sailor, took his post by the firing lever, while Ewald stood back to
pass the word from the conning tower.

This loaded torpedo, like the dummies, had been set to run four hundred
yards. Captain Jack, therefore, determined to release the torpedo at
a range of three hundred yards.

The "Hastings" had drifted somewhat away from the scow, but Jack, one
hand on steering wheel and the other at the signals, ran the submarine
over so that he could head the craft around to deliver a broadside fire
at the scow, at right angles. When he had the "Hastings" in this
position he shouted down:

"Be ready, Ewald!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

A breathless instant followed, during which the young submarine commander
took his last sight from the conning tower.


"Fire it is, sir."

Jack and Hal could just barely see, from the tower, the slight commotion
that the torpedo made in the water at the bow when released.

Hal, watch in hand was counting: "One, two, three, four - " and so on.

Suddenly there came a low rumble, followed by -


The explosion was a dull and sullen one, but loud enough to make the
blood of the submarine boys tingle. A column of spray shot up, followed
by detached whiffs of smoke, for the torpedo had exploded beneath the

In the same instant a sound of rending timbers reached their ears. Then
the scow - where was it? Only the waters rolled where the scow had
been. Captain Jack and Hal rubbed their eyes.

"The same thing would have happened to a battleship," smiled Lieutenant
Danvers, who had come up behind them. "Now, you young men begin to have
something like an idea of what an engine of war you are handling,
because this craft would be much more deadly, and vastly more
nerve-racking to an enemy, because she would approach under water, and
those on the battleship would have little or no means of gauging their
peril. Incidentally, Mr. Benson, I must congratulate you upon the
neatness of the shot."

"To accept congratulations for that would be like robbing a poor-box in
a church," laughed Jack. "It called for nothing but aiming the nose of
the boat straight."

"And, even under water," replied Danvers, "it calls for but few more
calculations. With really trained men all through the crew of a
submarine, you can now understand what show the battleship of coming
days will have against a single hostile torpedo boat. Why, the captain
of a torpedo boat, if he has but one torpedo on board, could sail in
under a fleet, pick out his battleship, sink it and then scuttle away,
under water, from the rest of the enemy's fleet."

"It seems almost like cowardice, doesn't it?" asked Hal Hastings,

"Not exactly," replied Lieutenant Danvers, grimly. "In the first place,
the game of war is to destroy the enemy with as little loss as possible
to yourself. Moreover, the commander and crew of a submarine torpedo
boat, during a naval campaign, would have to take risks enough to make
most men's hair turn gray."

"I'm not wishing for war," muttered Jack Benson. "Still, if one has
to come, I hope I'll be in command of a torpedo craft that sees service."

"And I think you'd have your wish, my lad," nodded Lieutenant Danvers.
"Of course, none but regularly commissioned naval officers may command
the craft of the Navy. Still, in our Civil War, and in the War with
Spain, we had to commission a good many volunteers. So, in the event of
another war coming, I don't believe the Navy Department would feel that
it could possibly pass by boys trained as well as you three have been."

"Are you going to use the other loaded torpedo to-day, sir?" asked Jack.

"Against _what_?" demanded Danvers. "You've sunk the scow as deep as
the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean."

"Then I suppose we may as well put back to Dunhaven, sir?"

"Yes, Benson."

Jack accordingly signaled for slow speed ahead, turning the nose of the
"Hastings" toward the west. Hal and Eph, as the submarine started back,
took a drill in loading and unloading torpedoes into the tube, performing
this work with one of the dummies, Ewald and Billens assisting.

Knowing that Hal was not in the engine room, Captain Jack was content
to run along at slow speed. Nor had the boat gone more than two miles
when something struck the bow.

At the first impact alert Jack Benson felt his heart leap into his
mouth. It was as though the "Hastings" had struck, lightly, on a
reef. Almost by instinct Jack threw the wheel over to port. Something
was rasping, forcefully, under the hull of the submarine. As the helm
went to port that something underneath, whatever it was, sheered off.

"What was that, Benson?" called up Lieutenant Danvers, sharply.

"Struck something, sir, I'm sure," Jack called back.

At the first sound of trouble, Hal Hastings leaped into the engine room.
Lieutenant Danvers sprang up the stairs into the conning tower. He was
in time to find Captain Jack swinging the nose of the "Hastings" around.
Then the youthful commander signaled for the stop and the reverse.

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryVictor G. DurhamThe Submarine Boys' Lightning Cruise The Young Kings of the Deep → online text (page 2 of 12)