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Author Topic: The American Torpedoes at Chatham  (Read 1942 times)

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Offline kyn

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The American Torpedoes at Chatham
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2014, 13:36:27 »
Thursday, 5th October, 1865 – The Morning Post

The American Torpedoes at Chatham.

The experiments of Messrs. M’Kay and Beardslee, from America, with their Torpedoes, were made in the river Medway to-day with complete success, so far as the sinking of the Terpsichore was concerned.  The experiments were made in the presence of the Lords of the Admiralty, who came from London to witness them, and were conveyed to the scene of operations in the Wildfire steamer.  Other steamers took from Chatham and Sheerness the chief officers of the two yards, military officers, and ladies; and they were moored in the river near the Terpsichore.  The explosions took place in Gillingham Reach.  Here a number of torpedoes which had been placed at the bottom of the river were successively exploded.  The effects carried: some sent up a greater volume of water, spray, and smoke than others; some threw up a tall column of water.  In all cases the effect was very fine the sun producing prismatic effects on the spray, while the violence of the explosions denoted that, if any vessels had been over the explosives, they must have been destroyed, or at least sunk.  The full effect of the torpedoes was shown in the sinking of the Terpsichore.

The Terpsichore is an old 18-gun ship.  She was selected to put the torpedoes to the test.  She was moored in Gillingham Reach, and a torpedo was placed beneath her.  At four o’clock in the afternoon, after a good deal of preparation, the torpedo was exploded as usual by means of an electric current.  The shock to the ship was very violent.  She seemed to be lifted out of the water somewhat, and her upper deck to be forced upward where the explosion took full effect; she also reeled under the shock.  A large hole must have been made in her bottom, for she began rapidly to fill, going down by the head; and in two minutes and a half she had settled down as far as she could sink.  The tide having run down by the time the explosion occurred, there was not a depth of water sufficient completely to submerge the vessel.

The day being fine there was a great concourse of people on shore to witness the explosions; the fortifications at St. Mary’s, the slope of the high ground, the ruins of Gillingham Fort, and the shore was studded by thousands of spectators, military and civil.  The river was covered with yachts and boats, and a pleasure steamer was crowded with passengers.  The time which elapsed between each explosion made the display a rather tiring one, some persons having been on the ground for hours.  It had been expected that the Terpsichore would have been sunk at two o’clock.  The Lords of the Admiralty arrived about that time, but the exploding of four torpedoes and the preparations for the destruction of the Terpsichore, occupied till four o’clock.  Of course the preparations for destroying the ship could not be made on a hostile vessel attempting to enter a port or river; but if by any arrangement beforehand a torpedo could be exploded under a ship, the result of to-day’s trial shows that it must be sunk.  The Terpsichore was empty.  A laden ship, in deep water, would rapidly have sunk if treated as she was.  A crew of hundreds of men would have but a poor chance escaping.  Thus the experiment of to-day fully demonstrated the great destructive power of the American torpedoes.

The Lords of the Admiralty came to Chatham by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway.  The members of the board present were – the Duke of Somerset, K.G., First Lord; Admiral the Hon. Sir F.W. Grey, G.C.B., Rear-Admiral Charles Eden, C.B., and Rear-Admiral E.G. Fanshawe.  There were also present Mr. E.J. Reed, Chief Constructor of the Navy; Mr. F. Barnaby, Assistant Constructor; the members of the Gun Committee, the members of the Marine Committee, and the members of the Obstruction Committee.  The distinguished visitors from London launched on board the Wildfire, Master-Commander Brockman, which conveyed them from the dockyard and back again after the experiments.  On their return the Lords of the Admiralty inspected the Bellerophon and Lord Warden.  They subsequently returned to London.


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