Tom Swift And His Undersea Search by Victor Appleton
Chapter XXII. Studying Currents
There was no question about Tom's statement. They had approached close to the side of a small, sunken and wrecked steamer, and in her side was torn a great hole. In the light from the submarine it could be seen that the plates bent inward, indicating that the explosion was from outside.
"What are you going to do, Tom?" asked Ned, as he saw his chum move the engine room telegraph signal to the stop position.
"Going to investigate," was the answer. "We might as well take the time. We may learn something of value."
"Do you think there is any treasure in her?" asked Mr. Damon.
"There might be," answered Tom. "We'll put on the diving suits and go outside."
"I hope there aren't any devil fish," remarked Ned.
"Same here," Tom agreed. "But I don't believe we'll meet with any. Will you take a chance, Ned?"
"I surely will! I'd like to find out what sort of ship that is --or rather, was, for there isn't much left of her."
He spoke truly, for indeed the torpedo had created fearful havoc. The full extent of it was not observed until Tom, Ned, Koku and two of the crew had put on diving suits and approached the hulk. She lay on her side on the sandy bottom, heeled over somewhat, and when the investigators had walked around her, as they were able to do, they saw a second, and even larger hole in the opposite side.
"Two submarines must have attacked her," said Ned, speaking through his telephone to Tom.
"Either that, or else one sent a torpedo into her, dived, came up on the other side and sent another."
"Well, let's see if she has any treasure aboard," Ned proposed. "Wouldn't it be queer if we should discover two treasure ships?"
"More queer than likely," Tom answered. "We've got to be careful going inside her."
"Why?" asked Ned. "Do you think we'll set off a hidden mine?"
"No, but part of the wreckage might be loosened if we climbed over it, and we might fall and be pinned down. I've read of divers being caught that way. We must be careful."
"Do you suppose a German sub did this?" Ned asked.
"I think very likely," Tom answered. "Maybe we can tell if we can discover the nationality of this craft."
They made their way to a position just outside the gaping hole in the starboard side of the craft. Evidently; it was, or had been, a tramp steamer, and the torpedo hole on her starboard side was about amidships. She must have filled and sunk quickly with two such great holes torn in her.
Standing near the wound in the steel skin, Tom and his companions tried to see what was inside. Their portable torches did not give light enough to make out clearly the character of the cargo carried, and it was too risky to venture into the mass of wreckage that must be the result of the explosion of the torpedo.
"Let's try the other side," suggested Tom, and they moved around the stern of the craft. When they reached the place where the name was visible Tom raised his electric torch and, in the glow of it, they all read the painted inscription, Blakesly, New York.
"That's the vessel that disappeared so mysteriously!" exclaimed Ned, speaking through his instrument. "I remember reading about her. She sailed from New York for Brest, but was never heard of. At last we have solved the mystery!"
"Yes," agreed Tom, "but without much avail. We are too late to do any good."
"Not one of her crew or passengers was ever heard of," went on Ned. "It was surmised that a German sub attacked her, and that she was either sunk 'without a trace' or else her survivors were taken aboard the submarine and carried to Germany."
"Perhaps we may learn something to that end," said Tom, as they got around to the other side. The hole there was not quite so big, and as it seemed safe to enter Tom and Ned prepared to do so, the others remaining outside to give them aid in case of necessity.
It was comparatively easy to enter by this wound in the side of the Blakesly, and, proceeding cautiously, Tom and Ned made the attempt. They found they could not penetrate far, however, because of the mass of wreckage scattered about by the explosion. They could see through into the engine room, and there the machinery was in every stage of destruction, while below the boilers were disrupted.
"She must have gone down in a hurry," remarked Tom.
"Yes, and with part of her crew," added Ned, as he pointed to where a heap of white bones lay--grim reminders of the Great War. The engine room forces had been trapped and carried down to death.
"I wonder if, by any chance, she did carry gold," suggested Ned.
"It wouldn't be down here if she did," asserted Tom. "And if she was a treasure ship, and the huns knew it, they wouldn't leave any on board."
"That's just it," went on his chum. "They may not have known it, and have ripped a couple of torpedoes at her without any warning. It would be just like them."
"Granted," assented the young inventor. "Well, we can take another look around outside. Maybe there's a way of getting on deck, and so going below from there. I wouldn't chance it from here."
"Me, either," Ned answered.
They looked around a little more, a further view showing how dangerous it would be to attempt to enter the shattered engine room, where a misstep or a sudden change of equilibrium might cause disaster.
"Nothing there," Tom reported to Koku and the others waiting for him outside.
"Rope by up go him stern," said Koku, motioning toward the after part of the wreck.
"What does he mean?" Tom asked one of his crew.
"Oh, he went walking around outside while you were inside, sir," was the answer, "and he seems to have found a rope ladder or a chain, or something hanging from the stern."
"Let's go and see it," proposed Tom. "I've been wondering if we could get on deck."
"Are we going to spend much time here?" Ned wanted to know.
"Not much longer," Tom replied. "Why?"
"Well, I was thinking we'd better keep on looking for the Pandora. I don't want that fellow Hardley to get the bulge on us."
"Oh," laughed Tom, "he isn't likely to. But we won't take any chances. As soon as I see if we can learn anything that may be useful from this hulk, we'll go back and start on our way again."
The party of divers, led by Koku, who wanted to point out his discovery, walked slowly along on the bottom of the sea, around to the stern of the Blakesly.
"See!" said the giant through his telephone, and, as the instruments were interchanging, all heard him.
Koku pointed to several ropes and chains that were dangling from the stern of the sunken craft. Evidently they had been used by those who sought to escape from the sinking ship after she had been torpedoed.
"Wait a minute!" Tom telephoned, as he saw Koku grasp a chain, evidently with the object of hoisting himself up on deck by the simple method of going up hand over hand. He could easily do this by adjusting the air pressure inside his diving suit to make himself more buoyant.
"Koku go up!" said the giant.
"Better make sure that chain will hold you," cautioned Tom. The giant proved it by several powerful tugs, and then began to raise himself from the sandy bed of the ocean.
"Well, if it will hold him it will hold us," asserted Tom. "Ned, we'll go up. You two stay here," he said to the members of his crew. "We can't take any chances of all getting in the same accident if there should be one."
A little later Tom, Ned, and Koku stood on the deck of the sunken craft. Much of what she had carried had been swept off, either in the explosions or by reason of currents generated by storms since the fatality. But what seemed to be the cabin of the captain, or of some of the officers, was in plain view and easy of access from this level.
"Let's take a look!" said Tom.
Ned followed him to the door. It had been torn off, and inside was a table made fast to the floor. From the appearance of the room it was evidently the compartment where the charts were kept, and where the captain or his officers worked out the reckoning. But it was tenantless now, and if any maps or papers had been out they were dissolved in sea water some time since.
"Let's see if we can find the log book," proposed Ned.
"Good idea," assented Tom.
Using the iron bars they carried, they forced open some of the lockers, but aside from pulp, which might have been charts or almost anything in the way of documents, nothing was come upon that would tell anything.
Unless the log book was kept in a water-tight case the ink would all run, once it was wet," Tom said, when they were about ready to give up their search.
"I suppose so," agreed Ned. "But I would like to know whether she carried treasure."
However, it was impossible to discover this, and dangerous to look too far into the interior. So Tom and his party were forced to leave without discovering the secret of the Blakesly, if she possessed one.
Later, however, when they had returned home, Tom and Ned made a report of what they had seen, and so cleared up the fate of the vessel. They learned that she carried no treasure, and they were glad they had not risked their lives looking for it. What had happened to her crew was never learned.
They returned to the submarine and told what they had viewed. And then, with a last look at the wreck, they passed on in their search for the Pandora.
Several fruitless days followed, and though a careful search was made in the vicinity of the true location given by Mr. Hardley, nothing was discovered.
"How long will you keep at it before you give up?" asked Ned one evening, as they went aloft to replenish the air tanks and charge the batteries.
"Oh, another week, anyhow. I have a new theory, Ned."
"Ocean currents. I believe there are powerful currents in these waters, and that they may have shifted the position of the Pandora considerably. I'm going to study the currents."
"Good idea!" cried his chum.
And the next day they began observations which were destined to have surprising results.