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The practicability of constructing a Life Boat, with properties applicable to particular situations, superior to any now in use, and of adopting means for the extinguishment of fire on board of vessels at sea, more especially steam vessels, had occurred to me previously to the publication of my “ Appeal to the British Nation," which suggested the formation of the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck; but I was aware that such plans could better be carried into execution by public bodies or departments interested in maritime affairs, than by any individual.
The Royal National Institution is now established under the highest patronage of these kingdoms, and, through the able and zealous guidance of its committees, holds out the cheering hope that every means will be used to call into action the individual efforts and inventions of all who may have the power to render that personal assistance, or to suggest those means through which our fellow-creatures may be rescued from the perils of the sea ; I therefore feel it to be as much a duty now to offer those separate and more minute measures which may contribute to the accomplishment of so great an object, as I before did to address my views of a universal system for this purpose to the public consideration.
I proceed, then, to state my ideas on the construction of a life boat, on a plan which, I believe, has not yet been suggested. The principle I propose is to combine the safety and the incapability of being submerged, which the life boat possesses, with the commanding power of being impelled against both the wind and a heavy sea, which the steam vessel alone can effect to any great extent..
In adapting the dimensions of the life boat to the force of the
engine by which she is to be propelled, the important point will consist in ascertaining the smallest sized vessel calculated to receive an engine that, in proportion to her bulk, would have a commanding power over her, and at the same time, framed on the most perfect construction, would :admit of being on a reduced scale : -perhaps the boat might be about forty feet long, but varying in all her dimensions according to the nature of the service for which she may be intended : it would be both desirable and requisite that her beam should be considerable, and hence it would become nearly impossible for her to overset.
Her draught of water ought not to be great; her construction should be low, and such as that she might take the ground; her Hoor so completely filled with cork, as to be solid to a few inches above the water line, except only a small space to give more room for the machinery of the engine; consequently she would always be free from water in the roughest sea, and could not sink lower; but to guard against the necessity of having to take in a large number of persons, let the sides also have an additional quantity of cork, greatly preferable to air-tight boxes, which are liable by a violent shock to be rendered useless at the moment when most important.
It would then, under any circumstances, be impossible for her to go down; she should be built of the best materials, and so put together as to sustain great violence without going to pieces---from her form she scarcely could be upset. .
The engine should be formed to work within as small a perpendicular space as possible, fixed in a cabin for the purpose ; and to prevent the fire in the furnace from being extinguished, it should be placed at least as high as the floor, that it may be above the water line: the rest of the vessel should either be open, halfdecked forward as far as the engine, or with a short forecastle. She should have valves, or small ports, opening outwards only, that any sea she might ship would readily discharge itself; and being so constructed, water could not force its way in ;-she might have a windlass of a single piece of wood across, in the manner of the Irish wherries, with which to weigh her own anchor and to assist for other purposes, or so framed that the power of the steam engine might with ease be applied to it instead of manual labor. It would be desirable to have masts which might be raised or taken down at pleasure, perhaps as a lugger or schooner would be the most convenient; she ought also to be fitted with oars to be used when requisite.
Strong curved timbers should come round from the bows to the quarters, in which the outward axle of the water wheels should be fixed; they would defend the paddles when running alongside of a vessel in distress, or near to rocks, which protection would be of the utmost consequence to save them from injury at the time when every thing depended on them.
Farther to add to her means of security, since steam vessels are the most exposed to conflagration from their own intense fires, when tossed about in the roughest seas, I would suggest that she might, when thought advantageous, bë fitted with forcing pumps or engines to throw water by her own steam power, on the plan I shall more generally describe ; by these means she might also extinguish fire on board of other vessels. .
The whole plan is simple and practicable, and I am persuaded would produce a life boat of the most invaluable description, which, from its strength and buoyancy, would scarcely be liable to accident in any sea, and which would be capable of reaching its destined object against the united force of winds and waves, when no other boat could succeed ; thus possessing a power in all seas, and under all circumstances, that, I believe, never has been attempted, and certainly never attained by any other plan yet brought forward.
A steam life boat, possessing such powers and capabilities, would, on many dangerous and exposed parts of the British and Irish coasts, render the most essential services, and might occasionally be used as a pilot boat. - I will instance off Liverpool, as one of the various situations to which she would be peculiarly apa plicable. Amongst the formidable banks which there lie some miles from land, and are covered at high water, wrecks frequently take place, and many people miserably perish, from the impossibility of a common life boat, pilot boat, or other vessel, making way against a strong tide, a heavy sea, and a contrary wind, for several miles through those intricate channels, so as to render any aid ; but I scarcely am aware of any circumstances of wind and tide against which a steam life boat of this description might not be expected to succeed.
EXTINGUISHMENT OF FIRE.
NEARLY allied to the calamity of shipwreck, not less sudden and tremendous in its nature, and often directly leading thereto from its results, may be regarded those disasters arising from a vessel taking fire at sea. In such a moment of unexpected danger, left on the wide ocean to their own resources, and beyond the hope of receiving aid from any other quarter, it has too often happened that the crew have become so panic struck and bewildered, that the few important moments in which any means could have been effectually
vert thoshe most certa:wever sudden and previand co
pursued to insure their safety have been lost in confusion and despair.'
In this, as in all other situations of extreme danger, the greatest safeguard will be found in that promptitude and coolness which can best be insured by forethought and previous arrangement to meet the calamity, however suddenly it may arrive ; and which will be the most certainly accomplished by being ever ready to convert those means which are always at hand, and those powers which are constantly within reach, through the most simple and direct process, into the immediate and effectual instruments of preservation.
Vessels of all descriptions, in various degrees, carry within themselves, as part of their ordinary equipment, means for the extinguishment of fire; and in their crews they possess the certainty to have them used in the most vigorous manner, by men stimulated through no less an inducement than the preservation of their own lives. '
The general measure here proposed for vessels not worked by steam is to convert their pumps into powerful engines for throwing water for this important object.
The mode of working what are called chain-pumps, on board of men of war down to the class of sloops, is particularly adapted to this purpose ; in such cases, it would only be requisite to apply that machinery to a very small additional apparatus, not of the least inconvenience at any other time ; perhaps a forcing-pump and compression-ball, as used in fire engines, would be the most applicable, by which torrents of water might be thrown to any part of a ship, or several such pipes in play at the same time would give a complete command of the hull, decks, and rigging of the largest vessel.
By these means, and a mode already in use on board of men of war, of stopping the scuppers and flooding the decks, it would scarcely be possible that any fire could get so much a-head as to become incapable of being soon extinguished."
In vessels of a smaller size any ingenious mechanic would with ease, and at a moderate expense, fix the apparatus to turn the pumps in general use into forcing-pumps, by which sufficient water might be thrown to extinguish an ordinary fire.
The water required on all these occasions might either be admitted into the vessel through apertures for the purpose, or supplied over the side by pipes.
These principles apply generally, but steam vessels possess peculiar advantages, from having their impelling power without manual labor, and from the promptitude with which their enormous force could be brought to act on pumps and engines, which, with but little change, would answer the double purpose of overcoming almost any leak, or of throwing such a body of water, that they would instantaneously become deluged in every part. These vessels are of all others the most exposed to peril from conflagration, yet they carry within themselves the means by which a fire could not exist on board for ten minutes. · The furnace requisite for working the machinery being defended from the deluge thus suddenly caused, the decks might be flooded, the parts most exposed to the action of fire, by having channels leading to them, might be laid under water, and the rigging effectually protected by incessant streams thrown on it. The power of the steam engine would do the whole; it would only require three or four engineers or seamen, who might understand the process, to guide the pipes and direct the operations.
The means of applying the entire force of the engine, or to such an extent only as might be desirable, would be simple, easy, and capable of being immediately accomplished by one man, who; with the aid of a lever, or by some other ready process, would only have to throw the machinery which was to work these forcing-pumps into contact with the steam engine, and the whole might be in full operation in five minutes after the fire was discovered.
The expense of fitting steam vessels in this manner would be small in comparison with the importance of the object, and would be fully repaid from the increased number of passengers they would be certain to receive, independent of the advantage they would derive from the reduction in the rate of insurance which would naturally follow on all vessels carrying within themselves this twofold means of preservation, from the danger of sinking from any leak which might take place, or of being destroyed by any fire to which their extremely combustible nature renders them liable.
The vast advantages which would result from this simple application of the engines of steam vessels to their own preservation, in situations of danger, are strikingly clear and incontrovertible. To define their great capabilities in aid of all the operations of naval warfare is impossible ; but a steam vessel employed in connexion with men of war having, besides the power of being propelled against wind and tide, the great additional means not only of extinguishing any fire within herself, but also, by being brought alongside of a ship which might be set on fire in action, of insuring the preservation of those to whose aid she was thus sent, is an extent of utility, the value of which scarcely can be estimated, but of which the most experienced naval commanders will be the best able to judge. . In the royal dock yards, on the river Thames, and in various of