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| Home | Reading Room Tom Swift And His Submarine Boat

Tom Swift And His Submarine Boat
or Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure
by Victor Appleton

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Chapter Twelve

For a Breath of Air

They could hardly realize it, yet the depth-gage told the

story. It registered a distance below the surface of the

ocean of five thousand seven hundred feet--a little over a

mile. The Advance had actually come to rest on the bottom of

the Atlantic.

"Hurrah!" cried Tom. "Let's get on the diving suits, dad,

and walk about on land under water for a change."

"No," said Mr. Swift soberly. "We will hardly have time

for that now. Besides, the suits are not yet fitted with the

automatic air-tanks, and we can't use them. There are still

some things to do before we start on our treasure cruise.

But I want to see how the plates are standing this


The Advance was made with a triple hull, the spaces

between the layers of plates being filled with a secret

material, capable of withstanding enormous pressure, as were

also the plates themselves. Mr. Swift, aided by Mr. Jackson

and Captain Weston, made a thorough examination, and found

that not a drop of water had leaked in, nor was there the

least sign that any of the plates had given way under the

terrific strain.

"She's as tight as a drum, if you will allow me to make

that comparison," remarked Captain Weston modestly. "I

couldn't ask for a dryer ship."

"Well, let's take a look around by means the searchlight

and the observation windows, and then we'll go back,"

suggested Mr. Swift. "It will take about two days to get the

stores and provisions aboard and rig up the diving suits;

then we will start for the sunken treasure.

There were several powerful searchlights on the Advance,

so arranged that the bow, stern or either side could be

illuminated independently. There were also observation

windows near each light.

In turn the powerful rays were cast first at the bow and

then aft. In the gleams could be seen the sandy bed of the

ocean, covered with shells of various kinds. Great crabs

walked around on their long, jointed legs, and Tom saw some

lobsters that would have brought joy to the heart of a


"Look at the big fish!" cried Mr. Damon suddenly, and he

pointed to some dark, shadowy forms that swam up to the

glass windows, evidently puzzled by the light.

"Porpoises," declared Captain Weston briefly. a whole

school of them."

The fish seemed suddenly to multiply, and soon those in

the submarine felt curious tremors running through the whole


"The fish are rubbing up against it," cried Tom. "They

must think we came down here to allow them to scratch their

backs on the steel plates."

For some time they remained on the bottom, watching the

wonderful sight of the fishes that swam all about them.

"Well, I think we may as well rise," announced Mr. Swift,

after they had been on the bottom about an hour, moving here

and there. "We didn't bring any provisions, and I'm getting

hungry, though I don't know how the others of you feel about


"Bless my dinner-plate, I could eat, too!" cried Mr.

Damon. "Go up, by all means. We'll get enough of under-water

travel once we start for the treasure."

"Send her up, Tom," called his father. "I Want to make a

few notes on some needed changes and improvements."

Tom entered the lower pilot house, and turned the valve

that opened the tanks. He also pulled the lever that started

the pumps, so that the water ballast would be more quickly

emptied, as that would render the submarine buoyant, and she

would quickly shoot to the surface. To the surprise of the

lad, however, there followed no outrushing of the water. The

Advance remained stationary on the ocean bed. Mr. Swift

looked up from his notes.

"Didn't you hear me ask you to send her up, Tom?" he

inquired mildly.

"I did, dad, but something seems to be the matter," was

the reply.

"Matter? What do you mean?" and the aged inventor hastened

to where his son and Captain Weston were at the wheels,

valves and levers.

"Why, the tanks won't empty, and the pumps don't seem to


"Let me try," suggested Mr. Swift, and he pulled the

various handles. There was no corresponding action of the


"That's odd," he remarked in a curious voice "Perhaps

something has gone wrong with the connections. Go look in

the engine-room, and ask Mr. Sharp if everything is all

right there."

Tom made a quick trip, returning to report that the

dynamos, motors and gas engine were running perfectly.

"Try to work the tank levers and pumps from the conning

tower," suggested Captain Weston. "Sometimes I've known the

steam steering gear to play tricks like that."

Tom hurried up the circular stairway into the tower. He

pulled the levers and shifted the valves and wheels there.

But there was no emptying of the water tanks. The weight and

pressure of water in them still held the submarine on the

bottom of the sea, more than a mile from the surface. The

pumps in the engine-room were working at top speed, but

there was evidently something wrong in the connections.

Mr. Swift quickly came to this conclusion.

"We must repair it at once," he said. "Tom, come to the

engine-room. You and I, with Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharp, will

soon have it in shape again."

"Is there any danger?" asked Mr. Damon in a perturbed

voice. "Bless my soul, it's unlucky to have an accident on

our trial trip."

"Oh, we must expect accidents," declared Mr. Swift with a

smile. "This is nothing."

But it proved to be more difficult than he had imagined

to re-establish the connection between the pumps and the

tanks. The valves, too, had clogged or jammed, and as the

pressure outside the ship was so great, the water would not

run out of itself. It must be forced.

For an hour or more the inventor, his son and the others,

worked away. They could accomplish nothing. Tom looked

anxiously at his parent when the latter paused in his


"Don't worry," advised the aged inventor. "It's got to

come right sooner or later."

Just then Mr. Damon, who had been wandering about the

ship, entered the engine-room.

"Do you know," he said, "you ought to open a window, or


"Why, what's the matter?" asked Tom quickly, looking to

see if the odd man was joking.

"Well, of course I don't exactly mean a window," explained

Mr. Damon, "but we need fresh air."

"Fresh air!" There was a startled note in Mr. Swift's

voice as he repeated the words.

"Yes, I can hardly breathe in the living-room, and it's

not much better here."

"Why, there ought to be plenty of fresh air," went on the

inventor. "It is renewed automatically."

Tom jumped up and looked at an indicator. He uttered a

startled cry.

"The air hasn't been changed in the last hour!" he

exclaimed. "It is bad. There's not enough oxygen in it. I

notice it, now that I've stopped working. The gage indicates

it, too. The automatic air-changer must have stopped

working. I'll fix it."

He hurried to the machine which was depended on to supply

fresh air to the submarine.

"Why, the air tanks are empty!" the young inventor cried.

"We haven't any more air except what is in the ship now!"

"And we're rapidly breathing that up," added Captain

Weston solemnly.

"Can't you make more?" cried Mr. Damon. "I thought you

said you could make oxygen aboard the ship."

"We can," answered Mr. Swift, "but I did not bring along a

supply of the necessary chemicals. I did not think we would

be submerged long enough for that. But there should have

been enough in the reserve tank to last several days. How

about it, Tom?"

"It's all leaked out, or else it wasn't filled," was the

despairing answer. "All the air we have is what's in the

ship, and we can't make more."

The treasure-seekers looked at each other. It was an awful


"Then the only thing to do is to fix the machinery and

rise to the surface," said Mr. Sharp simply. "We can have

all the air we want, then."

"Yes, but the machinery doesn't seem possible of being

fixed," spoke Tom in a low voice.

"We must do it!" cried his father.

They set to work again with fierce energy, laboring for

their very lives. They all knew that they could not long

remain in the ship without oxygen. Nor could they desert it

to go to the surface, for the moment they left the

protection of the thick steel sides the terrible pressure of

the water would kill them. Nor were the diving suits

available. They must stay in the craft and die a miserable

death-unless the machinery could be repaired and the Advance

sent to the surface. The emergency expanding lifting tank

was not yet in working order.

More frantically they toiled, trying every device that was

suggested to the mechanical minds of Tom, his father, Mr.

Sharp or Mr. Jackson, to make the pumps work. But something

was wrong. More and more foul grew the air. They were

fairly gasping now. It was difficult to breathe, to say

nothing of working, in that atmosphere. The thought of their

terrible position was in the minds of all.

"Oh, for one breath of fresh air!" cried Mr. Damon, who

seemed to suffer more than any of the others. Grim death was

hovering around them, imprisoned as they were on the ocean's

bed, over a mile from the surface.



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