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‘holland’ Amplifications

February 2024
1min read

In his article “The Holland Surfaces,” the author fails to mention that John Philip Holland tested his submarine in the Passaic River in 1878. One of his early submarine models, the Fenian Ram , is on display in Paterson, New Jersey. During the time when the Beatles were so popular, the good citizens of Paterson awoke one morning to find that the Fenian Ram had been painted yellow after the Beatles’ song, “The Yellow Submarine.”


Recently, one of our picture editors came across an account of a descent in the Holland that is certainly the first submarine voyage ever taken by a journalist. Franklin Matthews braved the depths for McClure’s Magazine in 1899; his description of his adventure in the “diving torpedo boat” reads in part: “When one goes … in the ‘Holland,’ there is a certain tremulous feeling as one climbs down the barrel-like turret and finds himself in a brightly-lighted steel cave …

“You hear the top of the turret clamped down, and then you look about somewhat nervously to see what is to be done next. The pilot or commander in the turret rings a little bell, and one of the five men in the crew turns a wheel, and you see that the boat is under way, running along the surface …

“You look up at the tiny deadlight over your head, as you sit on your camp-stool, and you see the water dash over the glass in little waves. You hear the man in the turret give some order to the man at his feet; the floor tips slightly, and you know the descent has begun. You are so interested that nervousness disappears. Some one calls attention to a gage [sic] over your shoulder, a glass tube containing a column of mercury, which shows the exact depth to which the boat has dived. You are intent on watching that when suddenly you look at the deadlight again. You see it covered with water of a most vivid green color, and then you eyes go back to the gage. In a moment you begin to watch the crew …

“There is nothing to see but a little compartment filled with machinery, in which a few men half creep about and turn this or that wheel or push this or that lever, with entire complacency and no evidence of hurry or alarm. … In a few minutes the sensation of being under water becomes commonplace, and you begin to pity the people on the tugboat following you and who are perhaps worrying lest some dire thing will happen to you. Except for the cramped quarters, the sensation is practically the same as being in the engine-room of a liner at sea, fifteen or twenty feet below the surface of the water. …

“After a little more than twenty minutes, we were on the surface again. The turret was undamped, the air rushed down into the compartment, and the heavy feeling on the ear-drums for an instant showed that we had been breathing an atmosphere with a pressure slightly different from that on the surface of the water.”

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