The Use of a New Element

Source : From the New York Express
Title: The Use of a New Element
Date: January 12, 1853.

The unbelieving world will hardly be prepared for the record of the triumph of the Ericsson ship—a vessel which has twice moved at the rate of nine and ten miles the hour without the use of sails or steam! There have been so many predictions of failure, so many alleged signs of failure, so many doubts, and so much ridicule cast upon the whole enterprise, that perhaps even now it requires something akin to moral courage to tell the world that this great enterprise has at last been successful.

But seeing what we have seen, and sailing on board a ship’ propelled by a new power, it would be rank injustice to the inventor, to the capitalists who have shown confidence in the enterprise, and to the public who have most to hope from the invention, longer to doubt success. In the beginning it ought perhaps to be enough to state that this Ericsson vessel has been once to Sandy Hook and back again, and once, as yesterday, some twelve or thirteen miles out and back; that she has made her nine and ten miles the hour; that she has consumed only at the rate of six tons of coal in the twenty-four hours, and that she has demonstrated the great fact, that a new motive power can be applied to machinery on sea and land.

Our reporter has elsewhere given the capacity of the new ship, which, by the way, is as beautiful in her model, and as perfect in her building, as she is novel in her machinery; but there are some things connected with this enterprise which deserve a more public notice.

In the first place, Capt. Ericsson has perfect faith in his invention, and the capitalists who have expended three hundred thousand dollars in bringing the experiment to perfection, have so much faith in its entire success, that they are ready to-day to provide the ways and means for laying the keels of five other vessels.

In the second place, the only drawback to the complete success of the first vessel, viz., the doubt as to a power sufficient to make as good time as first class steamers, will be removed by the discovery of the means to make cylinders of any reasonable capacity. There has hitherto been a limit upon this power, and cylinders of fourteen feet, which is the size of those on board of the Ericsson ship, have before been deemed extraordinary; but Messrs. Hogg and Delamater, machinists in this city, are ready to build cylinders of sixteen, twenty, and twenty-four feet, which is far beyond anything which has hitherto been made. We cylinders of sixteen feet diameter, Mr. Ericsson is sure of obtaining all that is desirable in the way of power and speed, and such cylinders will be put into the new ships.

For twenty years the idea of propelling vessels mainly by air has been the darling object of Captain Ericsson’s life; and now behold the full realization of his wishes. He conceived this idea in England, and it has been realized in the United States.

This floating palace upon the water is the full fruition of a long and burning hope. Difficulties of a practical character have from time to time arisen; but one by one they have been overcome, until promise has become reality. The breathing ship, with lungs, respiratory organs, and every visible sign of vitality, has had her day of trial, and her hour of victory. We think it would be wrong longer to doubt the success of the experiment, or that there is to be a revolution in the power of locomotion.

This new ship, when wholly completed, for she is not nearly finished in her machinery now, will make a voyage southward, and after that probably a voyage to England; first, to convince the magnates of the land at Washington that there is something new under the sun; and secondly, to show John Bull that the motto of Brother Jonathan still is, “that something can be done as well as others.”

The Ericsson is one of the most beautiful ships afloat in our waters, both as regards her model, strength, interior arrangements, and decorations.

Her modus operandi, or working power, consists, as our readers are well aware, of the expansive qualities of air by means of being heated. The arrangement of her cylinders, four in number, is such that the air within the lower cylinder is heated to such a degree as to impart twice its volume. Each of the four lower cylinders are 14 feet in diameter, under which the heat is applied, by means of which the air expands and raises the piston; directly above these are another set of cylinders, called supply cylinders, each about 10 feet in diameter, the pistons of which are connected with the lower cylinders, and rise arid fall alternately with the piston of the former.

The cold air is admitted into the lower cylinder through what is called a regenerator, which is simply a number of thicknesses of wire cloth, so packed together, embracing a surface of 6 by 12 feet, as to measure some 24 inches in thickness.

This regenerator, or myriad of Wire meshes, is also the medium through which the heated air passes off, after having raised the piston of the lower cylinder up, and thus opened the valves which permitted the escape of the heated air. This regenerator absorbs, if we may so speak, the heat from the air as it passes off, and the iron meshes, in like manner, impart a similar degree of heat to the cold air, which is thus made to pass from the supply into the working or lower cylinder.

A regenerator is attached to the side of each cylinder, and is, in many respects, the crowning point of excellence of this invention; for, when the air once becomes heated, it not only, by its own expansive power, moves up a ponderous piston, but, having done that, passes off through the regenerator, leaving nearly all its heat in the wire meshes, to be imparted to the cold air which is then allowed to rush in. The amount of heat under the bottom of the lower cylinder necessary to produce 12 pounds pressure of air to the square inch (the average amount of pressure intended to be used by Captain Ericsson) is only about 380 degrees, which is furnished to all four of these cylinders by the consumption of the trifling quantity of six tons of coal in twenty-four hours.

The appearance of the machinery is the most beautiful of any we have examined; and the operation of the pistons, as they passed up and down, thus imparting power and motion to the crank and shaft, and moving a paddle-wheel on either side, of 32 feet in diameter, ten times around in each successive minute, was a wonder that well might tax our credulity to believe in its reality, but such was nevertheless the fact.

There was much pleasant speaking upon the occasion, which came at intervals on the return to the city, and after the vessel was at anchor.

Captain Ericsson delighted the company with his lucid explanations, accompanied by a diagram of the machinery. He had an answer for every inquiry, and seemed to remove every doubt. The great idea of his invention, as explained by him, was the use of heated air over and over again, and by this means the use of six tons of fuel was made to answer the purpose of fifty tons in an ordinary steamship. The space occupied by the coal bunks in the old steamers would nearly cover the space occupied by the cylinders in the new ships, and the space now occupied by the coal bins or bunks would be nearly all saved.

Capt. E. begged that all who had doubts would submit them, and that all who had questions to put would ask them. Many were the inquiries made, but we heard not one which did not appear to be satisfactorily responded to. Indeed, we have never heard anything more clearly illustrated than the diagrams of the machinery.

At the close, and when the vessel was off Governor’s island, Mr. Dana, of the Tribune, proposed a resolution of thanks to the inventor for the pleasure and instruction which had been imparted by his explanations. Mr. D. thought the triumph a complete one; and such, he felt sure, was the judgment of all on board. The resolution was adopted with hearty unanimity.

Professor Mapes spoke of Capt. Ericsson and his invention as having done that which marked an era in the progress of natural science, second only in importance to that, the fame of which is identified with the name of Isaac Newton.

E. W. Stoughton, esq., counsel for Capt. E., and the best friend of the enterprise, also spoke in high terms of the inventor and the liberal merchants who had provided the ways and means to prosecute the enterprise. Conspicuous among their names were J. B. Kitchings, Mr. Lamar, President of the Bank of the Republic, Mr. Hutchings, and others.

After this, a more formal meeting was announced, H.J. Raymond, esq., in the chair, and C.D. Stuart secretary. The chair addressed the company at length upon the importance of the work in hand, and the triumph of genius seen in such an enterprise. Messrs. Solon Roberts, Stougliton, Fisher, Erastus Brooks, Jones, and others, also spoke favorably of the great achievement. In the meantime a committee, consisting of Messrs. While, Mapes, and Freeman hunt, reported resolutions, &c.

We offer no elaborate report of the remarks made because they were mainly social and private, and as nothing but an examination of the ship, which now lies off the Battery, can give a just conception of the character of the machinery, we cannot well give in detail to the reader what this vessel really is. Economy in fuel, economy in space, economy in manual labor, and economy in the expense of machinery, are the great things accomplished by this invention; and if there is not enough, there is what perhaps ought to be valued more than all the rest, economy in human life.

Firemen are no longer to descend as if to the regions below, there to be roasted alive. The engineer is not necessary to watch a score of stove cocks and valves, upon whose regulation depends the safety of thousands of lives. Neither fire nor smoke is seen or felt, and there is no more danger in being blown up on board of such a vessel than in a sailing ship. Perfect safety from explosion is certain, and perfect neatness and quiet are attainable, which is no small consideration to those who have been kept from crossing the ocean by the bad odour and danger of our sea-going steamers. Instead of the pipes belching forth their fire and smoke, and dark as the workshops of Vulcan and Pandemonium can make them, the four pipes of the Ericsson are white as porcelain, and this is symbolical of the neatness which may be observed.

If, then, we are to cross the ocean in perfect, safety without the aid of steam or sails, and with more than four-fold economy of fuel and room, and labor, who will not bless the name of Ericsson. Commerce has a deep interest in this question, but the great subject of safety from the perils of the ocean is one perhaps which we can all more fully appreciate.