The Dream Doctor
20. The Wireless Detector
Remembering Jules Verne's enticing picture of life on the palatial Nautilus, I may as well
admit that I was not prepared for a real submarine. My first impression, as I entered the
hold, was that of discomfort and suffocation. I felt, too, that I was too close to too much
whirring machinery. I gazed about curiously. On all sides were electrical devices and
machines to operate the craft and the torpedoes. I thought, also, that the water outside was
uncomfortably close; one could almost feel it. The Z99 was low roofed, damp, with an
intricate system of rods, controls, engines, tanks, stop-cocks, compasses, gauges--more
things than it seemed the human mind, to say nothing of wireless, could possibly attend
to at once.
"The policy of secrecy which governments keep in regard to submarines," remarked the
captain, running his eye over everything at once, it seemed, "has led them to be looked
upon as something mysterious. But whatever you may think of telautomatics, there is
really no mystery about an ordinary submarine."
I did not agree with our "Captain Nemo," as, the examination completed, he threw in a
switch. The motor started. The Z99 hummed and trembled. The fumes of gasoline were
almost suffocating at first, in spite of the prompt ventilation to clear them off. There was
no escape from the smell. I had heard of "gasoline heart," but the odour only made me
sick and dizzy. Like most novices, I suppose, I was suffering excruciating torture. Not so,
Kennedy. He got used to it in no time; indeed, seemed to enjoy the very discomfort.
I felt that there was only one thing necessary to add to it, and that was the odour of
cooking. Cooking, by the way, on a submarine is uncertain and disagreeable. There was a
little electric heater, I found, which might possibly have heated enough water for one cup
of coffee at a time.
In fact, space was economised to the utmost. Only the necessaries of life were there.
Every inch that could be spared was given over to machinery. It was everywhere,
compact, efficient--everything for running the boat under water, guiding it above and
below, controlling its submersion, compressing air, firing torpedoes, and a thousand other
things. It was wonderful as it was. But when one reflected that all could be done
automatically, or rather telautomatically, it was simply astounding.
"You see," observed Captain Shirley, "when she is working automatically neither the
periscope nor the wireless-mast shows. The wireless impulses are carried down to her
from an inconspicuous float which trails along the surface and carries a short aerial with a
wire running down, like a mast, forming practically invisible antennae."
As he was talking the boat was being "trimmed" by admitting water as ballast into the