IT was with no feeling of regret that Mr. Melvin Vaniman, leaning over the taffrail of the steamship Trent watched the ill-fated airship America sink slowly to the sea. One might suppose that the engineer who had spent so many years of work on this dirigible would entertain some sentimental regard for the old balloon. But Mr. Vaniman thoughts were on another expedition, in which he would not be hampered with old material, an old gas bag, and old engines, but could plan an entirely new airship made of brand new material exactly as he wanted it. The America had served her purpose well, and from her in the years that had passed Mr. Vaniman had learned the lessons that were necessary to make a future ship successful. The design of this new airship was already beginning to take form in his mind, and after a short rest he was eager to begin . the work again along new lines. When the America was abandoned it was structurally sound, showing that the principles involved were correct. One part only had failed; a key worked loose in one of the propellers, and to this defect Mr. Vaniman attributed the failure of the expedition, as was pointed out in the Scientific American of October 29th, 1910. The propeller was one of a pair that could be revolved with their axes so as to exert a thrust at any desired angle. Had he been able to use this pair of propellers to lift the machine bodily upward by power, .he could have raised his equilibrator 0 u t of the water and prevented t hat terrifying and nerve-racking surging of the airship caused by the drag of the equilibrator in the waves during the storm. Contrary to public opinion, Mr. Vaniman faith in the equilib rat 0 r, or its equivalent, was not shaken, of enabling the America ; to beat all records for dirigible balloons as to time in the air, distance traveled, and weight carried. Its action in the sea, its defects and good qualities were all known after this voyage, and it was from this experience that Mr. Vaniman got to the heart of the problem, viz., the designing of a device that would serve the purpose of the old equilibrator and not have its defects, a device that would have a changeable weight, not a fixed weight; in other words, an equilibrator that could be made heavy or light at will. Principal Features of the Construction. Early this summer Mr. Vaniman succeeded in interesting Mr. F. A. Seiberling, president of the Goodyear Tire Rubber Co., of Akron, Ohio, who agreed to furnish the necessary capital. The construction of the gas bag was immediately started at the Goodyear plant and it was shipped to Atlantic City early in September. The gas bag was built according to Ml ;. Vaniman directions, and differs considerably from that of the America The Akron as the new airship is called, is longer but of smaller diameter, and tapers gracefully toward the stern. The old hangar of the last year's expedition is being used by Mr. Vaniman, and to use this shed without enlargement it was found necessary to cut out 10 feet from the envelope as originally designed. The present length of the gaG bag, therefore, is two hundred and fifty-eight feet, while its diameter is forty-seven feet. Below the airship runs a car similar in shape to that of the “America,” but, in the present instance, considerably longer. The body of the car is a steel tank forming a reservoir for five tons of gasoline. On this tank a platform is built, which is the deck of the airship. To drive the airship three engines are provided. One forward, of 100 horse-power rating, is fitted with propellers that rotate only in the vertical plane. The next two engines, of 100 and 80 horsepower, respectively, drive the propellers whose plane of rotation may be turned to any desired angle. Normally, only the forward engine will be used to drive the airship ahead, and it should give the craft a speed of about 30 miles per hour. About 60 pounds of gasoline will be consumed per hour, so that the supply of gasoline should last about a week. The propellers of the other two engines will be feathered, or turned to horizontal position, so as to offer no resistance to the forward propulsion of the vessel. In addition to these engines, there is a 17 horse-power engine directly connected with a dynamo, which will generate current for lighting the airship at night and for operating the Marconi wireless telegraph apparatus. This engine will also operate a blower with which the ballonets of the gas bag may be filled. Furthermore, it will drive a pump countershaft with which any one of the large engines may be started. Substitute for the Equilibrator. “If we can only keep down,” said Mr. Vaniman in a recent interview, “our problem will be solved.” It is an easy matter to- design an airship to lift the necessary weight to enable one to cross the Atlantic. The difficulty is to maintain the airship at a constant moderate elevation above the water. The equilibrator 'performed this office last year. This year Mr. Vaniman expects to control the height of the airship mainly by taking on water ballast, and also by using stabilizing planes fore and aft. In case of emergency the elevating and depressing engines can be used. There will he three planes on each side . of the car, at the forward end, which, as indicated in our front page illustration and also in the accompanying sketch, are curved upward, while those at the rear, mounted on the rudder, are reversely curved. These planes may be tilted to any angle desired,, and will serve to keep the car on an even keel. When dipping down to take up water ballast, the forward planes will be used for . depressing the bow and the rear planes for elevating the stern. These planes may he controlled separately by hand-wheels 'at each side of the binnacle, as indicated in one of the sketches. The level .of the vessel may also be controlled to a considerable extent by inflating the ballonets forward at the expense of those to the rear, when it is desired to make the bow heavier than the stern, and vice versa, when it is desired to make the stern heavier. To scoop up water ballast, it will be necessary to drive the balloon down near the level of the sea, which may be done by tilting either pair of the adjustable propellers to the proper angle. The only object in having two sets of adjustable propellers is to have a reserve pair in case of accident. The device with which the water ballast will be taken up is similar to the equilibrator used last year. It consists of tanks about 6 inches in diameter and 24 inches long, strung upon cables exactly as were the gasoline tanks of the equilibrator. These water ballast tanks will be provided with openings near the upper end of each, so that by dragging them in the sea they may scoop up water. There will be three sets of tanks strung on separate cables, and under normal conditions they will not hang from the car, as did the equilibrator, but will be stored in the body of the vessel. When taking up the water for ballast, if the wind is strong, the airship will be headed into the wind and the tanks will be trailed from a point aft of amidships, so that there will be no tendency for the airship to nose downward into the sea. It is planned to maintain the airship at an elevation of between 200 and 1,000 feet at the outset of the voyage, but as the airship is lightened by the consumption of gasoline and the provisions, the airship may rise to much greater heights. During the daytime it will have to be heavily water-ballasted in order to hold it down when the gas in the balloon is expanded by the heat of the sun. At n i g h t this ballast will be po u re d out to compensate for the contraction and consequent reduced lifting capacity of the balloon. Suspended below the car will be the lifeboat in which the crew of the “America” made their escape. This will be materially changed to facili-t ate launching and for the comfort of the crew. There will be no well in the center, because there will be no equilibrator to pass down through it. [n this boat the wireless telegraph apparatus will be stored. A much more powerful equipment will be jjixmded this year, with a range of 500 miles, so that there wm be little difficulty in keeping in touch with vessels along the course. To provide a ground, a wire wiU extend to the stern of the vessel, and thence trail in the as indicated in the front page illustration. The Crew. The crew of this expedition will consist of the commander, navigator and helmsman, a wireless operator two engineers to keep constant watch over the engine and one extra man for general work Provisions will be carried for a cruise of twenty days. An ingenious cooking stove has been provided. Last year, when at the close of the first day it began to grow dark, Mr. Vaniman was astonished to find that the exhaust pipe of his engine was red hot and expelling streams of sparks that were invisible by day. This year he has made a cook-stove on the exhaust, as shown in one of the sketches, and will utilize the heat for cooking. On the Wings of a Storm. The construction of the airship is proceeding very rapidly and will probably be completed by the end' of this month. Thereafter, two or three trial trips will be made, and then, when weather conditions are favorable, the expedition will be launched. Mr. Vaniman expects to make good use of the storms that travel across the Atlantic to carry him over. It will be recalled that last year a storm was encountered which carried the airship along at such speed that it had to drift broadside to the wind, owing to the drag of the equilibrator. This storm with tb.e aid of the motors took the airship to a point near Nova Scotia, but then vanished, and a second storm which had been forming over Cuban waters for three days began to affect the airship, although 1,200 miles away. The. wind flowing toward the storm center was so strong that the motors could not be used, and the airship was taken southward out of its course. Had the “America” been able to lift its equilibrator and scud before the wind, it would have been carried more than half-way across the Atlantic inside of two days by the first storm; for the meteorological charts show that this storm traveled to within a few hundred miles of the ether side before it was spent. As a rule, it takes from three to four days for a storm to cross from the western to the eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean. As is well known, the winds of a storm always blow toward the storm center. As a storm center moves up our coast, the winds blow toward it from the northeast, but when it passes beyond us out to sea, it is followed by westerly winds. It is Mr. Vaniman's plan to start after a storm center has passed from 800 to 1,500 miles out to sea. Then on the wings of a western wind, he will be carried toward this center, which, in the meantime, will be moving rapidly across the ocean. By driving his airship at the rate of 20 miles an hour, he will succeed in moving faster than the storm center, and he confidently expects to be able to cross the Atlantic, under such conditions, in less than four days. Navigating Instruments. In connection with the airship expedition, Mr. Vani-man has devised a number of interesting instruments which will indicate the direction of his travel, and also nis speed. One of these consists of a combined camera and compass, the camera having its field divided into squares. Noting how long a fixed object on the water below takes to pass across a given number of squares and knowing his height above the water, as indicated in the barometer, he will be able to determine definitely his speed over the water, and, by referring to the compass, his direction of travel. The only fixed objects on the ocean are the white caps. It will be recalled that, although waves travel, the water that forms them is practically stationary. Hence the foam of a white cap may be considered a fixed object on which observations may be made. In addition to this, Mr. Vaniman has invented a sextant of an interesting type, for use on the expendition. Despite the sensational nature of the expedition, Mr. Vaniman cannot be considered a mere adventurer. He is intensely interested in mechanics and invention, and in no other field does he consider that there are such possibilities as' in the future. dreadnought of the air, the dirigible balloon. Electricity Experiment in Purchasing Electricity.^The work of electrifying the lines from Lauban to Konigszelt is soon to be begun. The current for these lines will be bought from commercial electric power stations, instead of being supplied by a power station built by the railroad itself. The decision to purchase power was made in order to determine whether this would be a . cheaper way of operating the line than if the power were generated by a station built especially for the railroad. Telephone Precautions in Gas Works.—An investigation was recently made in Germany to determine whether any accidents had ever occurred in gas works by the ignition of gas with sparks from the telephone apparatus. No such accidents were reported, although it was found that gas could be ignited if it were projected upon the instruments while they were in operation. Hence the Association of German Gas and Water Works has decided to permit the use of telephones in gas works, but requires that they be protected. The bells, for instance, should be covered with a wire gauze guard. Restoring Sulphated Cells.—A method of restoring sulphated storage cells was recently described in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. It is recommended that the cell be restored by charging it at the usual rate in a solution of sodium sulphate. The sodium sulphate should be pure, and the best concentration is found to be 200 grammes Na2SO410H20 per liter. A 60 hours' charge should be sufficient to restore the cell. The cost would be exceedingly small as compared with the method now sometimes used, of charging the cell at half the normal rate for a long time in the ordinary battery acid. Cactus Telephone Poles. —According to a recent press report, the government is about to build a telephone from Tucson, Arizona, into the Catalinas, for the forestry service. The building of the line will be rather difficult, owing to the rocky nature of the country, which will make it impossible in some places to set wooden poles of the ordinary type. It has been proposed that in the canyons the cacti growing along the line be used. Brackets will be fastened to the cacti, and the wires will be supported on the brackets in the usual way. This type of pole may be adopted wherever cactus grows along the line, provided it does not require too much zigzagging. The Boston Electrical Show of 1912.—Plans are under way to make the electric show in Boston, from September 28th to October 26th, 1912, the largest electrical exposition ever held in the world. The entire Mechanics Building in Boston will be used. This building has 105,000 square feet of exhibit space, not counting the halls and aisles, and a- seating capacity for over one hundred thousand visitors at one time. It is hoped that this electric show will afford an impressive demonstration of the possibilities of electric development, particularly in New England. There seems to be a wide-spread electric awakening in New England, which is extending beyond the cities to the rural districts as well. Electric Cranking for Automobiles. —One of the prominent automobiles for 1912 will be equipped with a generator and storage battery normally used for lighting the lamps and igniting the engine, but with the generator so arranged that it may also be used as a motor to “turn over” the engine, thus obviating the necessity of cranking by hand. When the operator pushes the clutch pedal, a gear wheel on the electric motor will engage with teeth on the fly wheel, and the motor will be operated by current from the storage battery, • to turn the fly wheel and start the engine. When the engine starts the motor becomes a dynamo, and generates current to be used for charging the storage battery. and for Ignition purposes. Science The University of the Philippines. —According to the Manila Free Press it is expected that Vice-Governor Gilbert will select several new members of the faculty of the University of the Philippines during his visit to the United States. Physics apparatus to the amount of $2,500 has recently been purchased. Several hundred students are now in attendance. Standard Time in Portugal and Her Colonies.— Following the good example recently set by France, Portugal and all the Portuguese colonies will adopt standard time, in accordance with the recommendations of the Washington Meridian Conference of 1834. The change takes effect January 1st, 1912. Western European time (i. e., Greenwich time) will be used' in Portugal, the islands of Principe and Sao Thome, and Whydah. A Double Shooting Star. —The rare (if not unprecedented) observation of a double shooting star was made by the Abbe Verschaffel, director of the observatory at Abbadia, at Hendaye, France, at 3:17 A. M., July' 22nd, according to a note published in L'Astrono-mie. The larger of the two components was eight or ten times as bright as Venus, and left a slight trail; it was followed at a distance of about four degrees by its companion, which was as bright as Venus. Both objects were white. They moved rather slowly from west to east. r Prof. Schuster to Lecture at Johns Hopkins. —A course of lectures will be given between October 16th and 28th in the physical laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, by Arthur Schuster, F.R.S., honorary professor of physics in the University of Manchester. Prof. Schuster will discuss the cosmical applications of recent advances in physics, explaining the methods of examining correlations between solar and terrestrial phenomena, and pointing out the problems in solar ahd terrestrial physics that seem to call for special investigation. Meteorologists and climatologists will be interested to know that the lecturer proposes to disprove the existence of Ed. Bruckner's 35-year meteorological cycle. A Martyr to the X-Ray.—Dr. Hall-Edwards, of the Birmingham University, according to the English Mechanic and World ot Science, has not been spared the payment of a heavy price for the benefits he has conferred on mankind by his researches in X-ray photography. A short time ago both his arms were amputated as a consequence of the dangerous experiments he had carried out. He has just made the novel suggestion that photography should be included in the ordinary university course of training. The connection between photography and art, he thinks, has been overrated. Nothing has helped science more than photography of late years, and it should, therefore, receive more attention than it does at present in the education given both in schools and in the universities. The Telephone and the Phonograph. —A reproach which has often been raised against the telephone is that it leaves no trace whatever of the conversation transmitted. Thus, a telephone conversation can never figure in a law suit. It is not surprising, therefore, that for some time past efforts have been made to devise an apparatus by means of which a permanent record can be kept of the words spoken over the telephone, and the phonograph has often been thought of in this connection.- According to a note reproduced in La Nature from L'Elettricista, Prof. P. Perotti has just scored a success in this direction. The telephone receiver is composed of two loud-speaking telephones; one of these is furnished with the usual mouth-piece; the other is connected with the vibrating membrane of a Pathe phonograph. The current required for this telephone is a little greater than for ordinary installations. The phonograph record can be made to reproduce the speech In the usual manner. Engineering A Tunnel Under the Yangtze.—It is stated, on the authority of the London and China Telegraph, that a report has been made to the viceroy of Kiangsu on the much-talked-of project of a bridge over the Yangtze River. The report is said to be adverse to this project, and to advocate a tunnel, as more practicable and much less expensive. A Year's Progress at Panama.—The total amount of excavation in the Atlantic, Central, and Pacific divisions during the fiscal year 1910-11 was 31,804,120 cubic yards. 'There were excavated in the Atlantic Division 6,738,513 cubic yards. The total excavation in the Central Division was 18,522,692 cubic yards, of which 16,221,672 cubic yards were removed from the section, locally known as Culebra Cut, and the remainder—2,301,020 cubic yards—from the Cha-gres River section. Excavation in the Pacific Division aggregated 6,542,915 cubic yards. Photographic Views of the “Liberte. “—The photographs of the wreck of the “Liberte” show how similar were the effects of the explosion of her magazines to those observed on the “Maine.” This is not surprising. In both cases the energy of a large amount of explosives was suddenly developed at a point many feet below the surface of the water. The resulting gases, .unable to escape through the bottom or sides of the ship, being resisted by the incompressible water, expended their energy in tearing apart the decks above and folding them back, forward upon the bow, and to the rear upon the superstructure. The Latest Atlantic Liner. —Not a great many years ago the new Anchor liner “Cameronia,” the latest addition to the fleet of large passenger ships on the Atlantic, would have been hailed as the largest ship afloat; but so rapid is the increase in length and size that a handsome ship of this class will slip into a port like New York on her maiden voyage with scarcely more than a passing notice. She is 530 feet in length, and at full load displaces 17,000 tons. Built at the yards of D.&W. Henderson&Co., Ltd., she is not only the largest vessel launched from that yard, but is the most up-to-date vessel possessed by the Anchor Line. Widening the Corinth Canal. —The canal which cuts the Isthmus of Corinth was opened in 1893, its route being the same as that over which the Romans tried unsuccessfully to construct a canal in the time of Nero. Although it shortens the journey from the Adriatic to the Piraeus by 202 miles, this canal has been little used by foreign steamships, on account of its narrowness and the strong current, which makes the passage dangerous, and it has hardly been successful as a financial enterprise. Operations have now been begun, however, to widen the canal, so as to make it navigable for vessels of the largest size. The cost of the improvements is estimated at $160,000. Advantages of Internal Gear Drive—The advantages of gears over chains as a motor-truck drive may be enumerated as follows: The gears can be properly inclosed and lubricated and any range of reduction obtained. The differential can be run at a higher speed and hence at less strain and higher efficiency than chains. The bevel gear reduction can be made one to two, while with the chain the bevel reduction is found to be in general one to three, and one to four. The former, therefore, is a more efficient bevel gear because the efficiency of the bevel gear decreases when the ratio of reduction increases. The side swaying of cars causes chains to get out of line and thus increases wear. The stretch of the chain must be taken care of from time to time by readjustment of the radius rods. Both radius rods must be given uniform readjustment or the rear wheels will not run in line. Few laymen can do this. Bevel gears are at all times in positive relation to one another and do not require readjustment.
This article was originally published with the title "Vaniman-Seiberling Transatlantic Expedition" in Scientific American 105, 17, 366-367 (October 1911)