MYSTERIES OF THE AIR, WIRELESS DANGERS
Writing on the perils of wireless telegraphy, Professor Rudolf Hensingmuller, of the University of Heidelburg, says:
A great series of fatal calamities upon the sea and in the air has convinced me of the necessity of an international commission to regulate the use of wireless telegraphy, and to enquire into various unexplained and mysterious phenomena connected with its use. Where, wireless telegraphy is valuable in' saving life its installation should be required by law, but if it creates unknown dangers, as I believe it does, the public should be guarded against them. The possible dangers from wireless telegraphy fall into three principal classes: —
1. Magnetization of steel and iron ships so that they exercise a powerful attraction upon one another and upon other steel and iron objects.
2. Fires and explosions caused by spark produced by the wireless.
3. Derangement of ships' compasses by the wireless.
In support of my contention that some mysterious influence is at work in drawing ships from their courses and producing disasters I call attention to a number of recent catastrophes. Never since the development of iron were steamships there as many accidents as during the past year. Now we know that the science of navigation has been perfected during this period and there should be fewer accidents than ever before. It seems clear then that some new factor has entered into the situation.
Credit: The Sphere.
Empress of Ireland and Storstad collide together.
Why did the Empress of Ireland, after swerving several miles from her course, come into disastrous collision with the Storstad when both were going slowly, or not at all? Why did the Pretoria wander twenty miles from her course, bringing her into collision with the New York, also said to have been off her course? Why did the North German liner Beulow, navigating waters thoroughly familiar to her, run ashore in the English Channel? Why did the British steamship Incomore ram the German liner Kaiser William II, in the same waters? Why did the Red Star liner Goth land run ashore on the Crim Rocks at the entrance to the English Channel? Why did the Hamburg American liner Koeningin Louisa run into the steamship Cobra off Hamburg on the same day? Why did Lieutenant Hoffstetter's aeroplane suddenly swerve in the air without apparent cause or reason and dash into the Austrian military dirigible balloon near Vienna, killing everybody in both machines? To all these questions I answer that there is an unknown aerial factor at work and this seems most I likely to be found in the Hertzian rays, as the vibrations used in wire in less telegraphy were originally called. We know that the electric current has the power of magnetizing pieces of iron lying within its field, and the intensity of this power varies in an extraordinary and often inexplicable manner. The wireless current has the same power of magnetizing bodies of iron, but how powerful the magnetization can be is not yet determined. There is reason to believe that the wireless current undergoes great intensification under certain conditions. Thus the proximity of an electric cloud, a forest, or a river in a certain electrical condition may intensify the current many thousands of times its original force. If a whole ship should become strongly magnetized we can understand that it would exercise an almost irresistible attraction over another steel or iron ship. The ships moving through the yielding fluid medium of the water and making no allowance for the unknown attraction would be pulled into contact with one another before they realized that anything was amiss. It seems to me that there is a strong suggestion of the working of this unknown magnetic force in the disaster in which the Storstad rammed the Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence River, sinking the latter ship and causing a total loss of life of over 1,000. The captain of the Empress of Ireland declared that his ship had stopped, while the chief officer of the Storstad said his ship, a slow one at the best, was going at a very low rate of speed. Under these circumstances it seems very surprising that the Storstad should have struck the great Empress of Ireland with such tremendous force that - she sunk almost instantly.
Now all the sailors and expert witnesses testified that the two ships came together with surprising and inexplicable suddenness. According to these witnesses the two ships were going either very slowly or not at all until they were within a ship's length of each other, and then they came together with a force and speed that could nothing check. Here then appears strong evidence of a magnetic attraction. Anyone who has seen a piece of iron slowly drawn towards a powerful magnet and then flying into the latter as it came within the inner radius of the source of attraction will recognize the suggestiveness of the testimony at the Empress of Ireland enquiry.
Then, again, I have been particularly impressed by the strange circumstances surrounding the disaster to the Austrian military dirigible Koertling. This machine built from the designs of the great German aeronautical engineer, Major von Priseval, was the most elaborately arid perfectly constructed dirigible ever launched. The Austrian Government relied on her as a very formidable engine of war. She was designed to travel long distances and to remain in the air for a week or more. Now it is significant that the Koertling was fitted with wireless apparatus. This was intended to enable her to send intelligence regarding the enemy's positions from great distances back to her own headquarters. She carried a crew of ten officers and men at the time of the accident. A military aero plane, a biplane of the Farman type, manned by two officers was sent in pursuit of the dirigible to show if possible, how the smaller machine could hamper and destroy the large and costly one. The aero plane rose above the dirigible and circled round and round it to the great admiration of the spectators. Suddenly, without any known reason, the aeroplane turned and dashed into the dirigible, the frame of the aeroplane ripped open the envelope of the dirigible. The gas almost immediately exploded, and the two machines fell to the ground in a mass of flame and wreckage. There was no one to toll if anything extraordinary happened on the machines, for everybody in both of them was killed. My suggestion is that the dirigible exercised a magnetic attraction upon the steel motor of the aeroplane. The possibility that fires and explosions are caused by sparks produced by wireless waves has already been widely discussed Mr. Frank Duroquier, a distinguished French electrician and wireless expert, has made some very interesting observations on this subject. He noticed that a series of mysterious and disastrous explosions occurred at points which were situated exactly midway be tween important wireless telegraph stations. Thus he found that the steamship Volturno was burned up at a point midway between the wireless stations at Clifden, in Ireland, and Glace Bay, in Nova Scotia. A series of disastrous explosions occurred in the French naval harbor of Toulon. The battleship La Libertc was destroyed there by a mysterious explosion 235 men being killed. Several others explosions of only slightly less magnitude occurred there. Observation showed that Toulon was exactly midway between the great central wireless station of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Bizerta, a wireless station on the Mediterranean. A terrible colliery explosion, costing 400 lives, occurred at Cardiff, Wales. Cardiff was found to be exactly midway between the stations of the Eiffel Tower and Clifden, Ireland. Mr. Duroquior explains that the sudden discharge of the wireless spark gives birth by induction to a radiating energy in metallic objects at great distances. Such objects are called resonators. The vibrations will produce sparks between the resonators. The distinguished electrician has tested this with little glass globes containing oxygen and hydrogen, and having in them two needles connected by wires with the ground. When these little globes arc installed in the vicinity of a wireless station sparks fly between the needles and the globes explode. The needles and the glass globe are a resonator. Any good conductor of electricity may become a resonator under certain common conditions and give of sparks that arc usually harmless, but that, will cause disaster and perhaps tragedy.
Mr. Duroquior gives the following examples: Some chains or a case of scrap iron, forgotten in the overheated atmosphere of a coal-bunker; would be sufficient to set fire to a liner in a thunderstorm or in the neighborhood of a wireless telegraph station. To blow up 'a warship all that is necessary is a few shells too close together is a badly ventilated ammunition chamber. For a dirigible balloon to explode an imperfect contact or a narrow slit it’s the metallic framework of its covering is sufficient. A spark and it’s all is over. It needs only a little coal dust isolating a steel truck from its rails to make the fire-damp in a mine burst into flame. The Hertzian waves encountering the conducting masses of these chains of these shells lying side by side, of this metallic framework, of these rails and this truck separated by only the thickness of a layer of dust, set up in them by induction alternating currents, which emit incendiary sparks at the points where the masses form imperfect contacts. It is not only in the neighborhood of a wireless station that the Hertzian waves are to be dreaded, says Duroquier, but especially midway between two powerful stations when these are sending at the same time. For at this point the wireless waves from both stations meet at their maximum strength. So the principal danger points are midway between the great wireless sending stations. If Duroquier's theory be correct, it would be prudent for shipmasters to make certain that no object which can become a resonator is left at any point where a spark could set anything on fire.