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Torpedoes

torpedo, launch, towed, vessels, explosive, proved and explosion

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' TORPEDOES. Torpedoes or explosives moving through the water to the object at tacked, as distinguished from the mine or stationary explosive, first took the form of what was in reality a towed mine. The Harvey, Menzing and the various French towing torpedoes were weapons of this kind. The torpedo was towed astern of a launch with a rig that permitted a rudder on the torpedo be ing controlled from the towing boat. The torpedo could be guided to a position on the quarter, while a second torpedo was towed astern. By means of a dipping or detaching apparatus, when the whiskers of the torpedo touched the target, the torpedo would become completely submerged before the explosion took place. Torpedo warfare received great impetus during the Civil War, various types being de veloped by both the Confederates and the Federals. Dragging for torpedoes and the use of torpedo nets dropped over the sides of ves sels were then first practised, but there appears to have been no use of submarine boats until more recently. During this war the spar or outrigger torpedo came into active use and on more than one occasion during that period and later proved its worth. This weapon consisted of a torpedo carried at the end of a spar or pole which projected from a launch. It was so arranged that just before the target was struck, the torpedo could be plunged below the sur face to obtain the holding or plugging effect of the water for the explosion. The explosive usually consisted of about 33 pounds of guncot ton which could be fired upon contact, or at will, by employing a firing battery. To carry and drive home the spar torpedo a fast sea worthy launch or small torpedo-boat was em ployed.

In its early stages of development, battle ranges seemed logically to keep the torpedo in the background, except at night, when the speedy torpedo-boat• counted upon getting near enough to launch its weapons with a more reasonable promise of making a hit. The naval constructor, accepting the torpedo at its poten tial value as seen by the majority of the fight ing officers simply limited his efforts to fabricating the under-body of his fighting craft so that the damaging effects of a chance blow from a torpedo should be confined to a re stricted area. Hence the inner and the outer

bottoms, and the water-tight, cellular division ing of the intervening space. As a matter of fact, the naval constructor's work stood up under torpedo attack and performed its func tion remarkably well. It is a matter of record, that the general run of torpedoes fired during the Russo-Japanese War did far less damage than was expected of them, and a goodly num ber of vessels so struck were not sunk as was counted upon, but were able to get into port and be repaired. There were ships lost to both belligerents by subaqueous attack, but the most conspicuous of these disasters were due to the violent blows of passive mines. Where the active torpedo had failed in its mission the anchored floating mine filled the offensive gap. These mines carried larger explosive charges than the torpedoes then in service, and proved two things: First, that the naval constructor had planned well; and, second, that the auto mobile torpedo must needs be made a more powerful weapon if it were to fill the office in tended for it. In the Russian fleet at Port Arthur were several vessels that had been built by the French for the Russian government. In addition to the usual compartmenting of the inter-bottom space, the French designers had reinforced the region most likely to be attacked by torpedoes by means of a caisson built of plating nearly two inches thick. The object of this caisson—assuming that the explosion of the torpedo should be sufficient to rend or rupture the plating of the inner and outer bot toms—was to provide more space in which the guncotton gases could expand and dissipate the most dangerous percentage of their remaining force. The ingenious theory of this style of construction was proved to be all that its originators claimed for it. The Russian ships so built were several times hit by Japanese mines, and while grievously wounded over wide areas of their under-bodies, yet the caissons remained substantially intact and the vessels were able to return to harbor.

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