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The naval authorities and manufacturing departments have been somewhat troubled by the recent publication of the secret princqials of the wiiito head or “ fish ” torpedo, the careful preservation of which secret for more than ten years has doubtless enhanced the interest attaching to that wonderful and mysterious engine of warfare. The revelation of the secret, however, is not of much consequence, for although the British Government paid L 17,000 for it, and have spent L 50.000 in improving upon it, the same secret has been sold to nearly all the principal Powers in Europe; and America, who refused to buy it, produced a very good invention itself. In fact, for some time past the so-called secret has been scarcely a secret at all, for it has either eked out or been guessed, and that which has remained to the multitude an enigma until now has long been answered by the words “ clockwork and water.” The full publication of the secret is due to an officer formerly in the British navy, but more recently employed in Turkey, in which country it is understood ho acquired the information on the subject which he has given to the world in his book on tors pedo warfare. In full detail he show-

how the marvelous powers of the fish torpedo are imparted, and explains the mei! chanical action by which the length of run is regulated ; how the fish is made to rise to the surface or sink to the bottom at the end of its journey, and the method by which it acquires the extraordinary property of maintaining any depth under water which it may be required to travel in order to attack most effectually the ship it is sent to destroy. As already intimated, this is all accomplished by some simple machinery with springs and valves for the admission of water, by which means the gravity is regulated at will. It has been no part of the secret that the propelling power is compressed air by which a small pair of engines are worked at forty-horsepporer,w r er, nor the gun-cotton charge in the head is exploded by detonation on striking an object. The whole secret has been in the after-part of the body where adjusting wheels are placed, which are “ set ” before starting the torpedo, much as the alarm of of a clock is set to sound at a certain time. The revolution of the propeller as the torpedo travels turns a wheel which at the proper instant releases a spring and closes the airchamber, thus stopping the engine, which determines the length of the run. To sink the torpedo, a similar arrangement automatically opens a valve and admits water, and the opposite process of discharging the compressed air gives it buoyancy sufficient to float it on the surface of the water. The apparatus for adjusting the depth is somewhat more intricate, but it is nevertheless simply the means of admitting sufficient water for the purpose, and in connection with it a self-acting balance, which assists in preserving the horizontal position and equilibrium of the torpedo on its course. The machine, as manufactured in the Government laboratory, is said to have greatly advanced upon the original design of Mr. Whitehead, and is even represented as embracing some other secret principles unknown to the inventor, but the “ great secret ” of the fish torpedo exists no longer.

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Bibliographic details

THE SECRET OF THE FISH TORPEDO., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 105, 27 May 1880

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THE SECRET OF THE FISH TORPEDO. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 105, 27 May 1880