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
"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
"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
"I did, dad, but something seems to be the matter," was
"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
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
"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
"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
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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Room | Tom
Swift And His Submarine Boat