The first week of December, 1907, will long be remembered as one of the most boisterous in the annals of transatlantic travel. The steamers which made the western passage encountered what was almost a continuous gale, from the time they left the English Channel and the Irish coast until they passed the Sandy Hook lightship. Not only were the winds at times of cyclonic force, but the captains of the various ships agree in stating that the seas were among the heaviest encountered in their experience. The fact that although all of the ships were some days late in arriving none of them received any serious damage, testifies to the high state of perfection which the art of constructing and navigating the modern ocean liner has reached. Of all the ships which made the passage, the greatest interest naturally attaches to the "Lusitania," which, because of her great size and power, would be expected to show superior ability, not only to smash her way at high speed through the heavy seas, but to do so with far less discomfort to the passengers than would be experienced on a smaller vessel. Let it be recorded then, at the outset, that her experience in the boisterous weather she encountered makes it certain that the ship will never be built whose size is such that she will not be more or less the sport of the elements, and whose power will never be so great but her speed will be to some extent cut down by the combined resistance of the wind and sea. But having admitted this much, it was proved in the recent rough passage that increase in size and power contributes enormously to the comfort of the passengers and the average speed of the trip. A length of close upon 800 feet, a beam of 88 feet, and a draft of 34 feet, to say nothing of a displacement of over 40,000 tons, provide dimensions and mass to which even the most furious of Atlantic gales are able to impart only slow and rhythmical movements of pitching and rolling. Although the rise and fall of the bow must at times have been as great as 50 feet, the movement, except on rare occasions, was gradual, and did not involve those sudden changes of position which are so strongly provocative of seasickness. So also the roll- ing, which rarely reached ten degrees each side of the normal, was very slow, and was accompanied by an appreciable period of rest before recovery. It has been proved in this ship beyond question, that increase of comfort is gained by increase of size, and the future is certain to see a growth in the dimensions of transatlantic ships, whose only limits will be those imposed by the length of piers at which the ships lie, and the depth of the harbor channels through which they must pass. The 70,000 horse-power, quadruple turbine engines proved to be admirably adapted for driving the vessel into a heavy head sea. "Racing," that bugaboo of the marine engineer, has been practically eliminated. The four propellers are so deeply immersed, and their diameter is relatively so small, that the tips of the blades are fully 12 feet below the surface of the water; and, consequently, they are very rarely lifted clear of the water, even when the ship is pitching heavily. When they do lift, the speed of rotation is already so high, that the increase due to the lessened resistance is scarcely noticeable. Moreover, there is no lowering of the ship's speed, as in the case of a racing reciprocating engine; the thrust on the ship being constant, or subject to only slight variations. This even thrust, coupled with the fine entrance lines of the ship and her great momentum, enabled the "Lusitania" to maintain a remarkably even and high rate of speed against the biggest seas that were encountered. There was none of that severe impact, loss of speed, and subsequent acceleration which mark the performance of a ship driven by reciprocating engines. Consequently, the turbine as a drive for big ships 'has already rendered itself very popular with the officers on the navigating bridge. During the first heavy gale, which was encountered off the coast of Ireland, the ship was driven into enormous head seas for some hours at a speed of over 23 knots an hour. Ultimately, in spite of her freeboard forward of fully 50 feet, she began to ship green seas, which swept the fore deck, tore loose the derrick booms, and began to batter in the lighter plating of the forward breastworks. Subsequently, for the rest of the trip, she was driven under reduced power, the revolutions being about 157, as against the maximum speed of 180 per minute. This passage proved that if suitable alterations were made forward on the forecastle deck and the bridge structures, in the way of breakwaters and extra heavy scantling, and plating sufficient to stand the impact of the seas, it would be possible to drive a ship of this size with the full power of her engines through any gale which might be encountered and maintain a speed of 23 knots an hour against it. Such a ship, however, must be prepared to take on board and resist the impact of solid green seas, which may be at times 10 or 15 feet deep on the highest forward deck. The navigating bridge of this ship is 70 feet above the water, and yet at times the seas struck the rails and stanchions so heavily as to bend and split them in several places. Probably the best provision for heavy weather would be some form of turtleback deck forward, with the navigating bridge and pilot house carried upon a light framework above it, the forward end of the deck structures being given something of a snowplow shape, with a view to deflecting the seas that came on board, and throwing them clear of the passenger promenades and deck houses.
This article was originally published with the title "The Mastery of the Ocean"