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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/426

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��Popular Science Monthly

��pay clerk to his assigned post, bluejackets and marines to the ammunition passages and their hoists. There is not a man aboard who has not his post, and down in the hull of the ship are the men of the engine-room force ready to give her every ounce of needed power.

Every man who passes has a patch of fleecy cotton peeping out of his ears and as you dig in your pocket for some, a blue- jacket halts long enough to caution you to pack it in lightly and not to hold your hands over your ears.

The turn of your ship to fire at its target has not yet come, but off to port or star- board you see a vivid sheet of flame leap out from the turret gun of another ship that is on the range. A cloud of smoke hugs the water alongside her and a great roar grows with each second. It is like the thunder of railroad engines, racing at full speed over a bridge. You see her shell strike the water and throw up a geyser of white foam. On beyond it other and smaller geysers rear their white columns when the shell ricochets, skimming across the sea in bounds as a stone thrown by a lad skims across a mill pond.

A still more thunderous roar comes across the water when a salvo, or broadside, is let loose and each shell, as it strikes, sends up its whirling column of water.

So far you are but an idle participant in the great game, watching it at a safe distance. Your ship is at last on the range and the order to fire has been flashed to one of the turret guns. A mighty blast rocks the mass of steel beneath your feet and it slides to port from the drive of it. The military masts, for all the world like inverted waste baskets, whip over to one side like a bent fishpole and you grin and try to affect the calm of a true sailorman. If you have been alert you have caught fleeting impressions of vivid white sheets of flame, great blurs of orange-colored vapors, and you grasp the nearest support and strain your eyes toward the target.

The "spotters," with eyes glued to their

���Stripped to the waist the casemate crew keep the big guns bellowing at the target as it moves through the water miles away

��glasses watch for it too, and pass below their judgment of the range. If the range is good the first salvo will tear the water near the target into boiling geysers. A hit will pass through the screen of netting and cloth and will add its bit to the fight for the gunnery honors. Now and then when a two-gun turret launches its shells simul- taneously, and the range is perfect, a "straddle" shot is the result, one just over and the other just short of the bobbing target. Field artillerymen call it a

"bracket" and it is rarely that two shells fired at exactly the same range will not show this dispersion.

Other ships are firing, loosing their eight, ten, twelve or fourteen-inch shells at their targets. It is a deep-sea spectacle that would have driven Nero or Barnum into hiding for pure shame. Wherevef you look towards the targets you see flying jets of water, churning green sea to white. The air is filled with lightning-like flashes and the rolling clouds of vari-colored smoke. The dull boom of big guns plays through it all.

If you were privileged to enter one of the big turrets you would carry away with you a jumbled impression of its activities — a gun crew stripped to the waist with the light 'of battle in their eyes; an in- terior white as a hospital ward and just as clean; a gun- pointer with his eye placed against the rubber eye-piece of his telescopic sight with the cross wires centered on the tar- get. In recent prac- tices our ships have fired at ranges and broken world's records that a few years ago were hardly dreamed of.

The turretj are far from the noisiest part of the ship, for the walls of armor deaden the deafening roar that greets you on deck. It is quiet in the interior of a big turret, with its whirring, smashing, clanking fury, its snakelike hiss of compressed air that blows unburned particles of powder and powder bag lining out through the muzzle before the breech is swung open, but quiet only when compared with the racket on deck. And it would, if you could enter it

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