This landsman's Log is ,'ritten by the Editor of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN as a prtUminary to a magazine Naval Ntlnber to alpear December 9th, which will be cOlnparable in its size and cOlpleteness with the Naval Number issued during the Spanish War. In one resl,eet it wilJ bc unique, for it will contain a signed nlessage from President 'I a, and ,iII be wl'itten entirely by prominent officers of the Navy, each a s,'ecianst in the la"tieular JieJtI that I.e covers. 'Ihe leading article, Doreover, will be fI'om the pen of the Hon. George von L. Meyer, the S e cretary of the Navy. The illustrations will consist or special lhotographs taken during the recent maneuvers and target lractice of the Atlantic Fleet on the Southern Drill Grounds. THA T ever-memorable two weeks' cruise with the Atlantic f t was full of the unexpected and surprising, Returning late one afternoon from witnessing aerial target practice aboard the “Michigan” (of which more anon) I entered my stateroom to find it :in a condition of weird disorder. The bureau had been pulled a way from the wall, and its glass taken out, wrapped in a blanket and laid on the floor. Beside it, upside down, was the wash-bowl, while the water pitcher had been put to bed in my berth, where it reposed, in comical gravity, upon the pillow. On the bedding lay,. also, a heterogeneous collection of bottles, pictures, electric light fixtures, and even the electric fan. “Rough housB” on board the “North Dakota"? Impossible! “Hazing"? Yes, to be sure-hazing. the landsman. What more natural and appropriate? Had I not, when crossing the line, seen Old Neptune come aboard, whBn the luckless landlubber was belathered and gently scrap d with a barrel stave? SO, chuckling over the fun of it all, I went to the wardroom mess, and saw, would you believe it! the piano slung from the ceiling by a couple of stout ropes, and looking even more grotesqu than my tornado-stricken stateroom! Had the good ship's company gone crazy, or had I? Neither the one nor the other, gentle reader. This was merely a very necessary preparation. for target practice by our battery of fourteen 5-inch rapid-fire guns; for the discharge of even these relatively small pieces so jars the ship, that any glass or porcelain that was held rigidly in placB would be shattered. Even the strings of the piano would snap. At mBSS I got the full particulars. The “North Dakota” had fought a terrific battle during the day, in which she had been pretty badly knocked to pieces. Big guns disabled-shot holes 8t the waterline-a compartment flooded-one smokestack gone, the othBr rid- dIed-speed reduced, and all the other etceteras of damage by shell fire. It had been a drawn battle; but the adjOining coasts of the enemy were swarming with destroyers, and they would undoubtedly be sent in among our crippled ships for a night attack. And so, when the mess tables had been stowed, the “North Dakota” weighed anchor, and, with lights out, slid silently away from the fleet into the night. No one knew where the enemy might be, or from what quarter the dreaded destroyers might rush at us out of the blackness. It was for us to find him, and pour such a hail of high explosive shells upon the oncom- ing craft, that they would be disabled or sunk before they could gBt within range, round to, and start the dreaded WhitehBads upon their fatal run. I went on deCK and climbed onto the roof of No. 3 turret, which I found to be crowded, as were the roofs of the other turrets, with sailors (chiBfy the turret crews) who had taken this point of vantage to watch the attack. Suddenly there came a crackling and spluttering from the top of the search-light towers, and half a dozen beams of light stretched their long, ghostly fngers out into the murk. To and fro, far and near OVBr the ink-black waters, they swept, while thB great ship, silent, tremorless and dark, forged slowly ahead. It was a tense quarter of an hour, and just as one felt a touch of impatience, there shone out, some 2,000 to 3,000 yards distant, a moving target, looking whiter even than the search-light beams. The target consisted of four squares of gray canvas on a ground of lighter hue, each square the size of a destroyer approaching head-on. And then comes a flash, more blinding than any lightning stroke, and the crash .f an explosion, more wicked and penetrating than the loudest snap of any artillery of the heavBns! And see that beautiful, slightly-curving streak of phosphorescence, heading straight for the first square patch. That is the smoke of the shell “tracer.” The tracer is a small plug containing combustible material, which is inserted into the base of the shell. It is ignited at the instant of discharge, and throws to the rear a dense trail of smoke, which serves to show the path of the projectile, and assist the spotter and sight-setter in making the necessary corrections for the next shot. The 50-caliber 5-inch ra!Jid-fire gun is a superb little weapon. The shells leave the muzzle with the high velocity of 3,000 feet per second. Consequently the trajectory is very fat, and the moment the blinding flash of the dis- charge is Oiut of one's eyes, it is possible to see a little phosphorescent spot rise slightly abOVe, and then curve down to, the distant target. It curves so slightly that the 2,500 yards seBms to bB almost a point-blank range. Then comBS the splash and the ricochet -the last-named, because of thB high velocity, reaching a great height, sometimes curving upward a thousand yards or more into the heavens. In all target and battle practice, the time element, as well as the accuracy, is taken into account, in determining the relative excBllence of the work done by the various guns. Hence, the report of the guns came in rapid succession; and often it was possible to seB several shells in the air at the same time, one or two bBtween gun and target, and several others-earlier shots-completing their ricochets in a series of vast sweeping curves extending miles beyond the target, the shells bounding over the black waters like a series of luminescent tennis balls. Commencing forward, with No. 1, Bach battery in turn fired its quota of rounds. The guns flamed and roared down the line until No, 14, the last on the port side, had let go its last shell. The “North Dakota” then headed for the target. to learn what kind of shooting she had done, and sent a boat over to November 11, 1911 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 431 remove the shattered squares of canvas and put fresh ones in their place for the next run, with starboard batteries engaged. Acting gladly on the suggestion that I should now stand in one of the gun casemates and witness at close range the work of the gun crew, I chose battery No. 13, the aftermost battery on the starboard side. The casemate port is cut away to allow the gun to be trained dead astern; and the great width of the opening, coupled with the fact that this gun carries no shield, affords a large field of view for watching the course of the shells. What I saw, our artist has endeavored to depict in the accompanying engraving. It should be understood that only a part of the gun crew is shown. As a matter of fact, in addition to the officer in charge, there are ten men to each gun. First, the gun captain, in charge of the crew, who opens and closes the breech. Second, the pointer, who stands to the right of the gun, on a platform attached to and moving with the gun mount. This man, by means of a hand wheel, elevates and depresses the piece, keeping the horizontal wire of the telescopic sight upon the target. He also fires the gun by trigger, closing an electric circuit. Third, the trainer, who stands on a similar platform to the left of the gun. His duty is to keep the vertical wire of the telescope upon the target, which he does by means of a handwheel that trains the gun to right or left. Fourth, the sight-setter, with telephone head-piece in place, who stands to the rear of the trainer, and by means of a graduated disk and cylinder, sets the sights according to directions as to elevation and deflection, telephoned to him by the spotter, who is watching the fall of the shots from some elevated position on the ship. Fifth, the loader. Sixth, the primer man, who inserts the primer the instant the breech is closed. Seventh and eighth are the first and second powder man; and ninth and tenth are the first and second shell man. The battery here shown was manned by a detachment of the marines, of which most efficient corps, 66 men and two officers, a captain and a lieutenant, are to be found on each first-class ship. As I entered the casemate, No. 2 battery on the port side commenced firing, and battery after battery roared and flashed down the ship's broadside. I noted that to the right of the gun and to the rear of the group of men stood a row of copper cases, each containing its charge of powder neatly sewed up in a canvas bag. On the opposite side of the crew was a row of sharp-nosed 5-inch shells. As the din of the fring comes nearer, there rings out the sharp command to “load.” Instantly, with one swing of the lever, the gun captain opens the breech; the shell man thrusts home a shell, and the powder man the powder charge. With another swift swing of his arm the gun captain brings over the breech block, which is slammed into place and locked. Meanwhile the powder men, shell men and primer man have picked up their respective pieces, and stand ready for the next loading. Months of training have developed the gun crew to a point at which (were it desirable) the gun could be fired at the rate of twenty shots every minute. And now the heavy jar of the ship, the blinding fash and curiously stunning effect of the discharges, tell us that No. 11 gun in the next casemate is engaged. The tension increases until it is almost a pain; the crew stand as alert as a football team waiting for the pass of the ball! Pointer and trainer, each with eye to the telescope and shoulder crowded firmly against the gun sleeve, are ceaselessly rocking the hand wheels to and fro as they keep the wires upon the distant gray patch upon the target. “Fire!” comes the command-the steel floor of the casemate shUdders, there is a flash that seems to burn the very eyes out of their sockets, and . a curious suffocating sensation at throat or chest, and I am peering eagerly through the casemate opening to watch that little magic phosphorescent pencil point trace its telHale path to the target. Nine times in succession comes that amazing burst of flame and ear-splitting crash-and the night firing for 1911 is over. Later, and long past the midnight hour, the canvas targets, each rolled up on its battens, are brought aboard the quarter deck to be inspected by the ordnance officer and the umpires. One of the searchlights is turned down upon the deck, and one by one the targets are unrolled and the shot holes counted. Ordinarily the sailors turn in early-but not to-night. Massed around the targets, crowding the rail on one side and the 12-inch turrets on the other, they watch the count, looking eagerly for those little jagged holes in the cloth which tell of the passage of the shells. Less demonstrative, but no less eager, is the interest of the officers-and when it was told that 98 hits out of 120 rounds had been made, and the “Delaware's” score of the previous night had been beaten, the enthusiasm of that ship's company was as that of the grandstand and bleachers, when the home team has come out ahead in a championship struggle. (To be continued.)
This article was originally published with the title "A Landsman's Log Aboard the Battleship “North Dakota”—III."