Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Glitch Sporting Bathyscaphe

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Note: this article would best be read in context, i.e. after having perused the letters and accounts of Ernest Glitch, Experimentalist, in the order they appear in The Chronicles

An extreme depth marine hunting vessel

November 1860, off Dogger Bank, North Sea

Golden Trefoil II hung twenty feet above the choppy, grey North Sea. Glitch reclined inside, cosseted by the close-fitting velvet acceleration couch. Lord Armstrong and Hodges looked at the swaying craft from the safety of HMS Warrior, brand new and pride of the Navy.

"Mr. Hodges, do you think this is wise of Glitch? I mean, this is the Trefoil's first outing - a condemned man could have proven out the safety, before Glitch need risk his life!"

Hodges answered, "Aye my Lord, 'tis the maiden test of her in hunting trim, but the pressure dodecahedron has been tested Sire." The questioning look Lord Armstrong gave him led Hodges to continue, "Master Glitch lowered me in that infernal Platonic shape Sire... to such a depth that I hit the floor of the Atlantic Ocean." Hodges paused, reflecting, "I saw wondrous things, Sire, ten furlongs down..."

Lord Armstrong quickly calculated, "My God Mr. Hodges, that's a lot of pressure! I take it all went well, your presence here being testament to that!"

"It was not without incident Lord Armstrong. A leak sprung. At an indicated pressure, measured in hundred-weight per square millifurlong, of some... Ah, but look... Master Glitch is signalling!"

HMS Warrior. Pride of Queen Victoria`s Navy.

The Captain ordered the winch crew to begin lowering the Golden Trefoil II. HMS Warrior was taking sea trials and testing of it's battery of six Armstrong 100lb breech-loaders. Glitch's contacts through the Stockton Gentlemans Nitrous Club had enabled him to get GT2 on board for speed trials. Warrior had been measured at over 17 knots with combined steam and sails, therefore GT2's design submerged traverse velocity of 500 furlongs to the hour was possible. With such velocities, Glitch intended to eventually hunt marlin, orca & sailfish with the craft, but during this maiden outing he would be pleased to inject a porpoise or a baby whale.

Each of GT2's four spikes where primed with a gill of tincture of curare & emulsified frogs-back. The paralysing concoction had been a favourite of Glitch's father during his whaling days. Mad Judge Glitch had perfected the formula using volunteers from the Bishop Auckland Home for the Elderly & Confused. The result was an injectable viscous brown liquid, capable of paralysing an adult bull blue whale in less than five seconds.

While the seven furlongs of towing rope was being let out, the "Great Ruddy Twindler" (as the 10 ton, 23 foot dia. Griffith's propeller was known) began to propel HMS Warrior. Her revolutionary iron hull sliced through the cold sea, getting faster as the the captain had the sails rigged to catch a stiff westerly.

"So Mr. Hodges, you were telling me of your immersion to great depth," Lord Armstrong pressed Glitch's assistant for details.

"Aye my Lord, you be aware of the peculiar nature of the dodecahedral pressure cabin?"

"Only that it consists of three rock crystal sides, and nine of the very best wrought molybdenum steel, finely machined at my own works!" Lord Armstrong boasted.

"Forgive me Lord Armstrong, on the ephemeral nature of my memory! Of course you yourself were responsible for their production at Elswick. Can you remember the question your metal craftsman had Sire, concerning the included angle?"


"Only vaguely Mr. Hodges, those minutae are lost to me... at the time I was having a perplexing problem with my hundred pounder."

At this moment, a shout came from the winch crew. The long length of hemp rope stretched tight into the churning wake of HMS Warrior. The rope was fully extended.

Seven furlongs behind the Warrior, Glitch began manoeuvring the Golden Trefoil II. The control rod between his legs Glitch found particularly sensitive. By moving it slightly away from him or towards him, he made the GT2 dive or surface. Moving it from side to side, the GT2 translated similarly. Glitch grabbed the control rod with both hands, braced himself deep into the velvet acceleration seat and forced the rod over to starboard as far as he could.

Back on board the Warrior, Lord Armstrong said, "This should be exciting, Mr. Hodges! From what Glitch has intimated about the performance of his craft, we should see the rope traversing behind us with great velocity!" Nothing happened. "From side to side, with rapier-like swiftness, he did say..... Is there a problem Hodges?"

They looked astern, the hemp rope now being drawn back onto the Warrior by the power of forty men. The Golden Trefoil's maiden voyage was over.

"May I speak bluntly Sire?" Hodges asked. Armstrong nodded, "Master Glitch has miscalculated. For the craft to perform as he intends, he needs the strength of Titan! At least he has to be stronger by some thirteen and two thirds times. The mechanical advantage of the control surfaces is not in his favour, Lord Armstrong."

Lord Armstrong was shocked, "But surely Mr. Hodges, you pointed this out to Glitch?"

"Aye Sire, I did that." Hodges adjusted his otter-fur eye-patch with his gleaming hook, "And the Master beat me for the impertinence, Sire"

"Good grief man! This is Eighteen Sixty! You need not be subject to abuse like that man! What on earth keeps you in his employ?"

"Master Glitch enables me to experiment Sire, puts food upon my table, provides hog-fat for my ears, diethyl ether for my spirits and sack-cloth for my groin."

The mention of Hodges' groin threw Lord Armstrong for several seconds. Hours earlier, he'd witnessed Hodges relieving himself over the side of Warrior. The tackle on his hook would have made donkeys envious worldwide. "Erm... well anyway Mr. Hodges, you were telling me earlier about the design of the dodecahedron?"

"One moment Sire, I wonder if you could shield me from the wind for a moment?" Hodges had taken out a small hand mirror, a blade and a paper wrap, Lord Armstrong opened his coat upwind of Hodges. Hodges emptied a small pile of white powder from the wrap onto the mirror and chopped up some lumps with the blade. He then took out short length of goose quill and placed one end in his nostril. Hodges sniffed up the white powder and said, "Thanking you my Lord, this Styrian arsenious oxide habit I've got will be the death of me!"

"Your immersion to extreme depths, Mr. Hodges?" Lord Armstrong reminded.

Invigorated by the deadly arsenic coursing through his body, Hodges said, "It was a marvellous descent, Lord Armstrong. Ninety miles off Iceland. I saw many luminous and phosphorescent marvels of Gods scintillating handiwork during the decent through the black depths. When I hit bottom I struck an arc between carbons. The illumination showed a scene of wonder, of beauty,.. of strangeness.

"I will never forget it. Huge thick white worms, four feet long, with scarlet heads. A nest of them. Writhing. They surrounded a miniature volcano, which was spewing black ink into the oceanic vastness from a rough chimney-like concretion. It was incredible, a scene never before witnessed.... but then I saw the leak. At the dodecahedral face tri-juncture nearest an aqueous fumerole, the pitch was oozing inwards."

Armstrong interrupted, "Pitch? You mean the asphaltum, joining the sides, Mr. Hodges?"

"The same, Sire."

"Aha! I had a heated discussion with Glitch about this. A most eccentric and poor design."

Upon hearing the words "poor design", Hodges began unscrewing his hook. He had found the chromium steel hook could become snagged during fisticuffs. Also, the punching power he could inflict with only the small iridium staple holding the ends of his radius & ulna together was of a formidable nature. He said, coldly & with venom, "You should be most circumspect, Lord Armstrong, about the cavalier and condescending way with which you deliver judgement upon a design marred only by poor workmanship at your Elswick works."

"But Mr. Hodges, you yourself critisised the design of the Golden Trefoil!" Lord Armstrong stated. He went on, with indignation, "And to blame my engineering works for a leak in a pressure vessel which should have been held together with at least sixty keyways and set-screws -- not black gum -- I find both perplexing and..." He stopped. Hodges was "warming-up" in a manner quite unlike that of a prize fighter. He was shuffling around the deck, muttering and jabbing at items of marine hardware. Occasional uppercuts and flurries of right-hooks dented and knocked lumps from HMS Warrior's chandlery. He reversed his eye-patch, so the otter-skin was outmost, and removed the sack-cloth comforter from his crotch. In fighting trim and mood, Hodges was getting ready to beat Lord Armstrong to within an inch of his life. As the Bishop would have put it, "The claret was about to flow."

Hodges had designed the pressure resistant dodecahedron to be a static decent vessel. A method of viewing the inky depths of the oceans. To enable curiosity to be satisfied, scientific knowledge enhanced. Glitch, upon seeing Hodges' drawings, had designed around it the dross which he'd hoped would transform the static decent vessel into a mobile hunting craft for slaughtering cetaceans.

Hodges' design for his pressure resistant cabin was simple, and devoid of the complexity engineers like Glitch and Armstrong would throw at a problem. Twelve sides. Eight inches thick. Three sides of quartz. Nine of steel. The included angle was the crux of the design. Hodges had specified that the angle be a few seconds too shallow for the sides to fit correctly. When assembled, the joins were slightly open towards the outside. This enabled the dodecahedron to be assembled using only pitch to seal the joins. Water pressure would then nip the assembly together, tighter and tighter upon decent.

At the Armstrong's Elswick engineering works, the craftsmen had queried the included angle. Lord Armstrong brushed aside the enquiry. He was having some trouble with the new 100lb breechloader. The weapon was a masterpiece of military escalation. The worlds most advanced war-ship, HMS Warrior, had been designed and built with 4.5inch thick armour plating. This thickness had been specified to withstand the world's (then) most powerful gun.. the Armstrong 68 pounder. Armstrong had immediately started work on a gun which could pierce such armour. He had it ready to sell to the Navy just as they needed guns for their invincible ship.

The consequence of Lord Armstrong's preoccupation was that the metal sides of the dodecahedron were incorrectly made. The machinist "trued-up" the angles so the sides fitted "exactly". The design then became not a self sealing dynamic assembly, with tolerance tolerance, but unpredictable and dangerous.

Although Lord Armstrong was rather alarmed when Hodges started warming up on the deck of HMS Warrior, he was totally unaware of the monumental danger he was in. Fortunately, a crowd of rough sailors had gathered at the stern to see the Golden Trefoil in action, and had been sorely disappointed with it's performance. They were delighted with the turn of events. They started jeering and taunting Hodges as he warmed up. The sailors had been bemused when Glitch and Lord Armstrong, two obvious "Toffs", had arrived on board with the be-scarred, ragged and balding apparition that was Hodges. Once again, just because he was different, Hodges became a target for vicious amusement.

At first Hodges did not notice. His mind was filled with anger that any of his engineering design be brought into question. Suddenly he was pushed and tripped simultaneously. Hodges fell. He looked up from the deck at the laughing, spitting sailors. One sailor advanced toward Hodges, drawing back a foot to kick him. Hodges, although down, unleashed a hook with his wrist-stump to the man's shin, shattering both tibia and fibula into a horrific compound fracture. The sailor crashed to the deck, crippled and screaming, blood pouring from his torn calf muscle. Hodges considered finishing the sailor, then became aware of his Master's presence. Lord Armstrong had been joined by Master Glitch.

Glitch drilled him with one of his most withering looks and said, "Hodges you useless ingrate, the Golden Trefoil is a miserable failure! I hold you solely responsible." Glitch gestured to Lord Armstrong, "I then hear Hodges, that you have been abrupt and impolite with a Lord of the Realm!... And now I find you up to the elbows in blood and brawling with common sailors!

Glitch paused while a leather strap was procured for the sailor to bite on, as the surgeon had arrived with his saw. "I'd estimate Hodges, that you can hold your breath for perhaps two or three minutes. The Warrior's iron hull is, what, 25 or 26 rods in length? These friendly sailors seem stout fellows and, by Jove, we've got plenty of spare hemp rope. With a length to beam ratio of six and a half to one, the only question is which way....
"Yes Hodges,.... you're going to be keelhauled!"

Copyright © 2003 Roger Curry
All Rights Reserved

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"Hodges emitted a scream the like of which
I hadn't heard since his scrotum was burned off
during my experiment with fluorine gas last year."

The Exotic Experimentation of Ernest Glitch,
Victorian Science with a Smile

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A Mark IV "Fat Man" plutonium implosion bomb

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