THE fact that there are any survivors of the Titanic left to tell the story of the terrible catastrophe is only another of the hundreds of instances on record of the value of wireless telegraphy in saving life on shipboard. Without Marconi's invention it is altogether probable that the world would never have known of the nature of the Titanic's fate, for it is only barely within the realm of possibility that any of the Titanic's passengers' poorly clad, without proper provisions of food and water, and exposed in the open boats to the frigid weather, would have survived long enough to have been picked up by a transatlantic liner in ignorance of the accident to the Titanic.
Speaking (since the Titanic disaster) of the part which wireless telegraphy has played in the salvation of distressed ships, Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of this wonderful science, has said:
"Fifteen years ago the curvature of the earth was looked upon as the one great obstacle to wireless telegraphy. By various experiments in the Isle of Wight and at St. John's I finally succeeded in sending the letter S 2000 miles.
"We have since found that the fog and the dull skies in the vicinity of England are exceptionally favorable for wireless telegraphy."
Then the inventor told of wireless messages being transmitted 2500 miles across the Abyssinian desert, and of preparation for similar achievements.
"The one necessary requirement for continued success is that governments keep from being enveloped in political red tape," said he.
"The fact that a message can be flashed across the wide expanse of ocean in ten minutes has exceeded my fondest expectations. Some idea of the progress made may be had by citing the fact that in eleven years the range of wireless telegraphy has increased from 200 to 3000 miles.
"Not once has wireless telegraphy failed in calling and securing help on the high seas. A recognition of this is shown in the attitude of the United States Government in compelling all passenger-carrying vessels entering our ports to be equipped with wireless apparatus."
Of the Titanic tragedy, Marconi said:
"I know you will all understand when I say that I entertain a deep feeling of gratitude because of the fact that wireless telegraphy has again contributed to the saving of life."
One of the most essential factors in making ships safe is the construction of proper bulkheads to divide a ship into water-tight compartments in case of injury to her hull. Of the modern means of forming such compartments, and of the complete and automatic devices for operating the watertight doors which connect them, a full explanation has already been given in the description of the Titanic's physical features, to which the reader is referred. A wise precaution usually taken in the case of twin and triple screw ships is to arrange the bulkheads so that each engine is in a separate compartment, as is also each boiler or bank of boilers and each coal bunker.
Then there are submarine signals to tell of near-by vessels or shores. This signal arrangement includes a small tank on either side of the vessel, just below the water line. Within each is a microphone with wires leading to the bridge. If the vessel is near any other or approaching shore, the sounds; conveyed through the water from the distant object are heard through the receiver of the microphone. These arrangements are called the ship's ears, and whether the sounds come from one side of the vessel or the other, the officers can tell the location of the shore or ship near by. If both ears record, the object is ahead.
LIFEBOATS AND RAFTS
The construction of life-boats adapts them for very rough weather. The chief essentials, of course, are ease in launching, strength in withstanding rough water and bumping when beached; also strength to withstand striking against wreckage or a ship's side; carrying capacity and lightness. Those carried on board ship are lighter than those used in life-saving service on shore. Safety is provided by air-tight tanks which insure buoyancy in case the boat is filled with water. They have also self-righting power in case of being overturned; likewise self-emptying power. Life-boats are usually of the whaleboat type, with copper air-tight tanks along the side beneath the thwarts, and in the ends.
Life-boats range from twenty-four to thirty feet in length and carry from thirty to sixty persons. The rafts carry from twenty to forty persons. The old-fashioned round bar davits can be got for $100 to $150 a set. The new style davits, quick launchers in type, come as low as $400 a set.
According to some naval constructors, an ocean steamship can carry in davits enough boats to take care of all the passengers and crew, it being simply a question as to whether the steamship owners are willing to take up that much deck room which otherwise would be used for lounging chairs or for a promenade.
Nowadays all life-boats are equipped with air tanks to prevent sinking, with the result that metal boats are as unsinkable as wooden ones. The metal boats are considered in the United States Navy as superior to wooden ones, for several reasons: They do not break or collapse; they do not, in consequence of long storage on deck, open at the seams and thereby spring a leak; and they are not eaten by bugs, as is the case with wooden boats.
Comparatively few of the transatlantic steamships have adopted metal life-boats. Most of the boats are of wood, according to the official United States Government record of inspection. The records show that a considerable proportion of the entire number of so-called "life-boats" carried by Atlantic Ocean liners are not actually life-boats at all, but simply open boats, without air tanks or other special equipment or construction.
Life-rafts are of several kinds. They are commonly used on large passenger steamers where it is difficult to carry sufficient life-boats. In most cases they consist of two or more hollow metal or inflated rubber floats which support a wooden deck. The small rafts are supplied with life-lines and oars, and the larger ones with life-lines only, or with life-lines and sails.
The collapsible feature of the Chambers raft consists of canvas-covered steel frames extending up twenty-five inches from the sides to prevent passengers from being pitched off. When the rafts are not in use these side frames are folded down on the raft.
The collapsible rafts are favored by the ship-owners because such boats take up less room; they do not have to be carried in the davits, and they can be stowed to any number required. Some of the German lines stack their collapsible rafts one above another on deck.
Lewis Nixon, the well-known ship designer, suggests the construction of a pontoon to be carried on the after end of the vessel and to be made of sectional air-tight compartments. One compartment would accommodate the wireless outfit. Another compartment would hold drinking water, and still another would be filled with food.
The pontoon would follow the line of the ship and seem to be a part of it. The means for releasing it before the sinking of the vessel present no mechanical problem. It would be too large and too buoyant to be sucked down with the wreck.
The pontoon would accommodate, not comfortably but safely, all those who failed to find room in the life-boats.
It is Mr. Nixon's plan to instal a gas engine in one of the compartments. With this engine the wireless instrument would remain in commission and direct the rescuers after the ship itself had gone down.
LIFE PRESERVERS AND BUOYS
Life-preservers are chiefly of the belt or jacket type, made to fit about the body and rendered buoyant by slabs of cork sewed into the garment, or by rubber-lined air-bags. The use of cork is usually considered preferable, as the inflated articles are liable to injury, and jackets are preferable to belts as they can be put on more quickly.
Life-buoys are of several types, but those most common are of the ring type, varying in size from the small one designed to be thrown by hand to the large hollow metal buoy capable of supporting several people. The latter are usually carried by sea-going vessels and are fitted with lamps which are automatically lighted when the buoy is dropped into the water.
American ocean-going steamers are required to have some approved means of firing lines to the shore. Cunningham rockets and the Hunt gun are largely used. The inaccuracy of the rocket is of less importance when fired from a ship than when fired from shore.
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