THE Admiral authorizes you to go aboard * the Michigan to witness the firing of the Delaware against the San Marcos Boat leaves the starboard gangway at five clock I rub the sleep out of eyes that are heavy with that slumber which only the sea can give, and turn to see an orderly disappear with a wireless message in his hand. Where am I? Why is the gray dawn coming through a square hole in the ceiling, instead of through curtained windows in the wall? And why is that wall circular? Ah, yes, I am aboard the “North Dakota,” and the circular wall at the foot of the bunk is the lO-inch barbette armor of her No. 1 turret (the officers' quarters are forward on this ship) and that “window” is a square light in her forecastle deck; and those two black cylinders that I see above it are the forward pair of twelves and—ten minutes later I am gulping down a cup of coffee with half a dozen of our officers who have been detailed to the “Michigan,” whence they will observe with critical eyes the success or failure of the one particular rival of the “North Dakota"—her twin sister the “Delaware." So we tumble into a steam cutter and a few minutes later are on the quarter deck of the “Michigan,” whose gun tompions (plugs which close the muzzles of the guns) have already been decorated with the coveted red pennant with a black ball in the center, which is carried by the ship that has made the best gunnery score in the annual Spring battle practice. The firing on the “San Marcos” is to be carried out (as are all the major gun practices of our fleets) with a close approximation to battle conditions; and she will steam past the target “in division,” that is to say, she will form one of a line of four ships, with the “Michigan” leading her. The wisdom of this policy must be evident to the veriest tyro—it means that, if ever the test of actual battle comes, it will present conditions with which the ship's company are largely familiar; the vital difference, of course, being the din and shock of such shells of the enemy as may land upon the ship. In the opinion of many naval officers the sound of shells that strike one's ship will be no louder than the stupendous crash of the ship's own salvos; and the shock to the ship as a whole of a striking shell can be no greater, surely, than that of the discharge of her own guns, which, I noted, shook the huge bulk of the ship as by an earthquake, and made the masts, in the tops of which I stood, whip to and fro, for a moment, like reeds shaken in a wind. (This vibration lasts but a second or so. Long before the shells reach the target the platform is perfectly steady for observations by the spotters.) But here, drifting lazily across our bow, comes the “Delaware,” fresh from the Coronation Review, where she ranked as the largest and most handsome of the assembled warships. Stripped for action and with the light of dawn glistening down the long, lean length of her, this shapeliest of battleships looked for all the world like a huge torpedo boat destroyer! The “Michigan,” her anchor home, gets under way, and passing to starboard of the “Delaware,” leads her out to the course, two other battleships falling in astern to complete the division. We steam past the “San Marcos,” leaving her some miles to port. Soon we are fifteen thousand yards from the mark and still dropping her astern, while the far-distant fleet resolves itself into a confused group of smoke-enshrouded masts and smokestacks. Still we keep going, until observations show the sunken ship to be some twelv , to thirteen miles distant. The speed is raised to 15 knots, and a faint feather of foam parts at the stem and flows by the keen cutwater of the “Delaware” 350 yards astern. Then, over goes the helm and around swings the “Michigan,” leaving a broad band of curiously foaming and twisting water in her wake. Splitting this in its exact center, the “Delaware” follows, and in a few minutes we ^AMERICAN 391 Scientific American as a preliminary to a mag-will be comparable in its size and completeness War. In one respect it will be unique, for it will be 'a specialist in the particular field that he covers. the Hon. George “von L. Meyer, the Secretary o/ the lymphs taken during the recent maneuvers and target grounds. are straightened out on the course. And now the range-finders are trained upon the faint blotch that marks the position of the “San Marcos,” and they tell us that we are some twelve miles from the target. The observer calls out the decreasing distances: “Twenty thousand yards,” —"nineteen thousand, five hundred yards.” “That is eleven miles,” I say to myself, “and she won't be firing her ranging shot for another five or six minutes at least.” But, glancing at the ship, I notice one of her forward 12-inch guns is rising slowly to near the maximum elevation of fifteen degrees. “Can it be possible that she is going to open up at a range of over ten miles?” I ask of a young ensign who is sharing a perch with me half way up the after cage mast. 1 am reaching for my camera when, white and swift as any lightning stroke, there burst a flash of flame from the gun, and the “ranging” shot is off on its ten-mile flight through the air. Up go our glasses on the distant “San Marcos.” There is a wait of half a minute (it seems to one's tense nerves more like half an hour) when, apparently right at the wreck, therespurts up a vast geyser of snow-white water 200 feet into the air! The observers on the “Panther,” which was anchored one thousand yards astern of the “San Marcos,” stated that this trial shot landed only 75 yards short of the target! Think of the marvel of it all! Nigh upon half a ton of steel launched into the air from a point about nine or ten miles distant, after describing a vast parabolic curve, drops within less than 100 yards of the object aimed at! Then comes another flash—another long wailing cry of the swiftly-spinning projectile —and another splash, this time one hundred yards over the target. And now for the salvo. One sees the ten 12-inch guns, which project across the starboard deck, move up like the black antennae of some Brobdingnagian monster, as if feeling their way to 'the target. Crash, goes the salvo, to be followed some 25 seconds later by the truly splendid spectacle of many giant geysers spurting high around the target. Fast and furious come the flash and the roar of the discharges. Now it is the foremost pair of twelves; then the aftermost; then a four-gun, and then a six-gun salvo. Over half a hundred shots are fired, all within a period of a few minutes, and many of them with an interval of only 30 seconds between rounds. For the second time that day the courtesy of the Admiral is extended, and the ship's cutter takes me over to the “San Marcos” for an inspection of the damage done on this and other days of firing. As I neared the old vessel, my mind went back to a visit made thirteen years ago aboard this ship, at the close of the Spanish war, when her captain took me down to the gun deck and showed me how the blast of her port 12-inch guns had dished the deck above, and showed me also the hole in her port bow, through which a shot from La Socapa battery at Santiago had entered the gun deck £ id caused one of the very few gunnery casualties of the war. Poor old Texas! At one time it looked as if your only mission in the fleet was to get into trouble, and stand as the butt for jests inside the navy and out. Did I not see you one morning in the Brooklyn navy yard, lying ingloriously on the soft ooze of the dock bottom, into which you had deliberately settled in the night, as the result of some one having left open one of your sea cocks. In those days, about everything in the calendar of mishaps that can occur to a ship seemed to come your way. Well, you redeemed yourself in the Spanish war, and you have more than redeemed yourself in the information which you have furnished to the Service, regarding the inability of your fabric to stand up under the mighty hammering of modern ordnance. As I climbed aboard, it came to me that the last time I trod the main deck it was in the company of that fine officer of the older school, Capt. (Continued on page 398.)
This article was originally published with the title "A Landsman's Log Aboard the Battle ship “North Dakota”—II."