The Club Men Go A Fishing
: All Around The Moon
Captain Bloomsbury was perfectly right when he said that almost
everything was ready for the commencement of the great work which the
Club men had to accomplish. Considering how much was required, this was
certainly saying a great deal; but here also, as on many other
occasions, fortune had singularly favored the Club men.
San Francisco Bay, as everybody knows, though one of the finest and
n the world, is not without some danger from hidden
rocks. One of these in particular, the Anita Rock as it was called,
lying right in mid channel, had become so notorious for the wrecks of
which it was the cause, that, after much time spent in the consideration
of the subject, the authorities had at last determined to blow it up.
This undertaking having been very satisfactorily accomplished by means
of dynamite or giant powder, another improvement in the harbor had
been also undertaken with great success. The wrecks of many vessels lay
scattered here and there pretty numerously, some, like that of the
Flying Dragon, in spots so shallow that they could be easily seen at
low water, but others sunk at least twenty fathoms deep, like that of
the Caroline, which had gone down in 1851, not far from Blossom Rock,
with a treasure on board of 20,000 ounces of gold. The attempt to clear
away these wrecks had also turned out very well; even sufficient
treasure had been recovered to repay all the expense, though the
preparations for the purpose by the contractors, M'Gowan and Co. had
been made on the most extensive scale, and in accordance with the latest
improvements in the apparatus for submarine operations.
Buoys, made of huge canvas sacks, coated with India rubber, and guarded
by a net work of strong cordage, had been manufactured and provided by
the New York Submarine Company. These buoys, when inflated and working
in pairs, had a lifting capacity of 30 tons a pair. Reservoirs of air,
provided with powerful compression pumps, always accompanied the buoys.
To attach the latter, in a collapsed condition, with strong chains to
the sides of the vessels which were to be lifted, a diving apparatus was
necessary. This also the New York Company had provided, and it was so
perfect in its way that, by means of peculiar appliances of easy
management, the diver could walk about on the bottom, take his own
bearings, ascend to the surface at pleasure, and open his helmet without
assistance. A few sets likewise of Rouquayrol and Denayrouze's famous
submarine armor had been provided. These would prove of invaluable
advantage in all operations performed at great sea depths, as its
distinctive feature, "the regulator," could maintain, what is not done
by any other diving armor, a constant equality of pressure on the lungs
between the external and the internal air.
But perhaps the most useful article of all was a new form of diving bell
called the Nautilus, a kind of submarine boat, capable of lateral as
well as vertical movement at the will of its occupants. Constructed with
double sides, the intervening chambers could be filled either with water
or air according as descent or ascent was required. A proper supply of
water enabled the machine to descend to depths impossible to be reached
otherwise; this water could then be expelled by an ingenious
contrivance, which, replacing it with air, enabled the diver to rise
towards the surface as fast as he pleased.
All these and many other portions of the submarine apparatus which had
been employed that very year for clearing the channel, lifting the
wrecks and recovering the treasure, lay now at San Francisco, unused
fortunately on account of the season of the year, and therefore they
could be readily obtained for the asking. They had even been generously
offered to Captain Bloomsbury, who, in obedience to a telegram from
Washington, had kept his crew busily employed for nearly two weeks
night and day in transferring them all safely on board the
Marston was the first to make a careful inspection of every article
intended for the operation.
"Do you consider these buoys powerful enough to lift the Projectile,
Captain?" he asked next morning, as the vessel was briskly heading
southward, at a distance of ten or twelve miles from the coast on their
"You can easily calculate that problem yourself, Mr. Marston," replied
the Captain. "It presents no difficulty. The Projectile weighs about 20
thousand pounds, or 10 tons?"
"Well, a pair of these buoys when inflated can raise a weight of 30
"So far so good. But how do you propose attaching them to the
"We simply let them descend in a state of collapse; the diver, going
down with them, will have no difficulty in making a fast connection. As
soon as they are inflated the Projectile will come up like a cork."
"Can the divers readily reach such depths?"
"That remains to be seen Mr. Marston."
"Captain," said Morgan, now joining the party, "you are a worthy member
of our Gun Club. You have done wonders. Heaven grant it may not be all
in vain! Who knows if our poor friends are still alive?"
"Hush!" cried Marston quickly. "Have more sense than to ask such
questions. Is Barbican alive! Am I alive? They're all alive, I tell
you, only we must be quick about reaching them before the air gives out.
That's what's the matter! Air! Provisions, water--abundance! But
air--oh! that's their weak point! Quick, Captain, quick--They're
throwing the reel--I must see her rate!" So saying, he hurried off to
the stern, followed by General Morgan. Chief Engineer Murphy and the
Captain of the Susquehanna were thus left for awhile together.
These two men had a long talk on the object of their journey and the
likelihood of anything satisfactory being accomplished. The man of the
sea candidly acknowledged his apprehensions. He had done everything in
his power towards collecting suitable machinery for fishing up the
Projectile, but he had done it all, he said, more as a matter of duty
than because he believed that any good could result from it; in fact, he
never expected to see the bold adventurers again either living or dead.
Murphy, who well understood not only what machinery was capable of
effecting, but also what it would surely fail in, at first expressed the
greatest confidence in the prosperous issue of the undertaking. But when
he learned, as he now did for the first time, that the ocean bed on
which the Projectile was lying could be hardly less than 20,000 feet
below the surface, he assumed a countenance as grave as the Captain's,
and at once confessed that, unless their usual luck stood by them, his
poor friends had not the slightest possible chance of ever being fished
up from the depths of the Pacific.
The conversation maintained among the officers and the others on board
the Susquehanna, was pretty much of the same nature. It is almost
needless to say that all heads--except Belfast's, whose scientific mind
rejected the Projectile theory with the most serene contempt--were
filled with the same idea, all hearts throbbed with the same emotion.
Wouldn't it be glorious to fish them up alive and well? What were they
doing just now? Doing? Doing! Their bodies most probably were lying in
a shapeless pile on the floor of the Projectile, like a heap of clothes,
the uppermost man being the last smothered; or perhaps floating about in
the water inside the Projectile, like dead gold fish in an aquarium; or
perhaps burned to a cinder, like papers in a "champion" safe after a
great fire; or, who knows? perhaps at that very moment the poor fellows
were making their last and almost superhuman struggles to burst their
watery prison and ascend once more into the cheerful regions of light
and air! Alas! How vain must such puny efforts prove! Plunged into ocean
depths of three or four miles beneath the surface, subjected to an
inconceivable pressure of millions and millions of tons of sea water,
their metallic shroud was utterly unassailable from within, and utterly
unapproachable from without!
Early on the morning of December 29th, the Captain calculating from his
log that they must now be very near the spot where they had witnessed
the extraordinary phenomenon, the Susquehanna hove to. Having to wait
till noon to find his exact position, he ordered the steamer to take a
short circular course of a few hours' duration, in hope of sighting the
buoy. But though at least a hundred telescopes scanned the calm ocean
breast for many miles in all directions, it was nowhere to be seen.
Precisely at noon, aided by his officers and in the presence of
Marston, Belfast, and the Gun Club Committee, the Captain took his
observations. After a moment or two of the most profound interest, it
was a great gratification to all to learn that the Susquehanna was on
the right parallel, and only about 15 miles west of the precise spot
where the Projectile had disappeared beneath the waves. The steamer
started at once in the direction indicated, and a minute or two before
one o'clock the Captain said they were "there." No sign of the buoy
could yet be seen in any direction; it had probably been drifted
southward by the Mexican coast current which slowly glides along these
shores from December to April.
"At last!" cried Marston, with a sigh of great relief.
"Shall we commence at once?" asked the Captain.
"Without losing the twenty thousandth part of a second!" answered
Marston; "life or death depends upon our dispatch!"
The Susquehanna again hove to, and this time all possible precautions
were taken to keep her in a state of perfect immobility--an operation
easily accomplished in these pacific latitudes, where cloud and wind and
water are often as motionless as if all life had died out of the world.
In fact, as the boats were quietly lowered, preparatory for beginning
the operations, the mirror like calmness of sea, sky, and ship so
impressed the Doctor, who was of a poetical turn of mind, that he could
not help exclaiming to the little Midshipman, who was standing nearest:
"Coleridge realized, with variations:
The breeze drops down, the sail drops down,
All's still as still can be;
If we speak, it is only to break
The silence of the sea.
Still are the clouds, still are the shrouds,
No life, no breath, no motion;
Idle are all as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean!"
Chief Engineer Murphy now took command. Before letting down the buoys,
the first thing evidently to be done was to find out, if possible, the
precise point where the Projectile lay. For this purpose, the Nautilus
was clearly the only part of the machinery that could be employed with
advantage. Its chambers were accordingly soon filled with water, its air
reservoirs were also soon completely charged, and the Nautilus itself,
suspended by chains from the end of a yard, lay quietly on the ocean
surface, its manhole on the top remaining open for the reception of
those who were willing to encounter the dangers that awaited it in the
fearful depths of the Pacific. Every one looking on was well aware that,
after a few hundred feet below the surface, the pressure would grow more
and more enormous, until at last it became quite doubtful if any line
could bear the tremendous strain. It was even possible that at a certain
depth the walls of the Nautilus might be crushed in like an eggshell,
and the whole machine made as flat as two leaves of paper pasted
Perfectly conscious of the nature of the tremendous risk they were about
to run, Marston, Morgan, and Murphy quietly bade their friends a short
farewell and were lowered into the manhole. The Nautilus having room
enough for four, Belfast had been expected to be of the party but,
feeling a little sea sick, the Professor backed out at the last moment,
to the great joy of Mr. Watkins, the famous reporter of the N.Y.
Herald, who was immediately allowed to take his place.
Every provision against immediate danger had been made. By means of
preconcerted signals, the inmates could have themselves drawn up, let
down, or carried laterally in whatever direction they pleased. By
barometers and other instruments they could readily ascertain the
pressure of the air and water, also how far they had descended and at
what rate they were moving. The Captain, from his bridge, carefully
superintended every detail of the operation. All signals he insisted on
attending to himself personally, transmitting them instantly by his bell
to the engineer below. The whole power of the steam engine had been
brought to bear on the windlass; the chains could withstand an enormous
strain. The wheels had been carefully oiled and tested beforehand; the
signalling apparatus had been subjected to the rigidest examination; and
every portion of the machinery had been proved to be in admirable
The chances of immediate and unforeseen danger, it is true, had been
somewhat diminished by all these precautions. The risk, nevertheless,
was fearful. The slightest accident or even carelessness might easily
lead to the most disastrous consequence.
Five minutes after two o'clock, the manhole being closed, the lamps lit,
and everything pronounced all right, the signal for the descent was
given, and the Nautilus immediately disappeared beneath the waters. A
double anxiety now possessed all on board the Susquehanna: the
prisoners in the Nautilus were in danger as well as the prisoners in the
Projectile. Marston and his friends, however, were anything but
disquieted on their own account, and, pencil in hand and noses flattened
on the glass plates, they examined carefully everything they could see
in the liquid masses through which they were descending.
For the first five hundred feet, the descent was accomplished with
little trouble. The Nautilus sank rather slowly, at a uniform rate of a
foot to the second. It had not been two minutes under water when the
light of day completely disappeared. But for this the occupants were
fully prepared, having provided themselves with powerful lamps, whose
brilliant light, radiating from polished reflectors, gave them an
opportunity of seeing clearly around it for a distance of eight or ten
feet in all directions. Owing to the superlatively excellent
construction of the Nautilus, also on account of the scaphanders, or
suits of diving armor, with which Marston and his friends had clothed
themselves, the disagreeable sensations to which divers are ordinarily
exposed, were hardly felt at all in the beginning of the descent.
Marston was about to congratulate his companions on the favorable
auspices inaugurating their trip, when Murphy, consulting the
instrument, discovered to his great surprise that the Nautilus was not
making its time. In reply to their signal "faster!" the downward
movement increased a little, but it soon relaxed again. Instead of less
than two minutes, as at the beginning, it now took twelve minutes to
make a hundred feet. They had gone only seven hundred feet in
thirty-seven minutes. In spite of repeated signalling, their progress
during the next hour was even still more alarming, one hundred feet
taking exactly 59 minutes. To shorten detail, it required two hours more
to make another hundred feet; and then the Nautilus, after taking ten
minutes to crawl an inch further, came to a perfect stand still. The
pressure of the water had evidently now become too enormous to allow
The Clubmen's distress was very great; Marston's, in particular, was
indescribable. In vain, catching at straws, he signalled "eastwards!"
"westwards!" "northwards!" or "southwards!" the Nautilus moved readily
every way but downwards.
"Oh! what shall we do?" he cried in despair; "Barbican, must we really
give you up though separated from us by the short distance of only a few
At last, nothing better being to be done, the unwilling signal "heave
upwards!" was given, and the hauling up commenced. It was done very
slowly, and with the greatest care. A sudden jerk might snap the chains;
an incautious twist might put a kink on the air tube; besides, it was
well known that the sudden removal of heavy pressure resulting from
rapid ascent, is attended by very disagreeable sensations, which have
sometimes even proved fatal.
It was near midnight when the Clubmen were lifted out of the manhole.
Their faces were pale, their eyes bloodshot, their figures stooped. Even
the Herald Reporter seemed to have got enough of exploring. But
Marston was as confident as ever, and tried to be as brisk.
He had hardly swallowed the refreshment so positively enjoined in the
circumstances, when he abruptly addressed the Captain:
"What's the weight of your heaviest cannon balls?"
"Thirty pounds, Mr. Marston."
"Can't you attach thirty of them to the Nautilus and sink us again?"
"Certainly, Mr. Marston, if you wish it. It shall be the first thing
"To-night, Captain! At once! Barbican has not an instant to lose."
"At once then be it, Mr. Marston. Just as you say."
The new sinkers were soon attached to the Nautilus, which disappeared
once more with all its former occupants inside, except the Herald
Reporter, who had fallen asleep over his notes, or at least seemed to
be. He had probably made up his mind as to the likelihood of the
Nautilus ever getting back again.
The second descent was quicker than the first, but just as futile. At
1152 feet, the Nautilus positively refused to go a single inch further.
Marston looked like a man in a stupor. He made no objection to the
signal given by the others to return; he even helped to cut the ropes by
which the cannon balls had been attached. Not a single word was spoken
by the party, as they slowly rose to the surface. Marston seemed to be
struggling against despair. For the first time, the impossibility of the
great enterprise seemed to dawn upon him. He and his friends had
undertaken a great fight with the mighty Ocean, which now played with
them as a giant with a pigmy. To reach the bottom was evidently
completely out of their power; and what was infinitely worse, there was
nothing to be gained by reaching it. The Projectile was not on the
bottom; it could not even have got to the bottom. Marston said it all in
a few words to the Captain, as the Clubmen stepped on deck a few hours
"Barbican is floating midway in the depths of the Pacific, like Mahomet
in his coffin!"
Blindly yielding, however, to the melancholy hope that is born of
despair, Marston and his friends renewed the search next day, the 30th,
but they were all too worn out with watching and excitement to be able
to continue it longer than a few hours. After a night's rest, it was
renewed the day following, the 31st, with some vigor, and a good part of
the ocean lying between Guadalupe and Benito islands was carefully
investigated to a depth of seven or eight hundred feet. No traces
whatever of the Projectile. Several California steamers, plying between
San Francisco and Panama, passed the Susquehanna within hailing
distance. But to every question, the invariable reply one melancholy
All hands were now in despair. Marston could neither eat nor drink. He
never even spoke the whole day, except on two occasions. Once, when
somebody heard him muttering:
"He's now seventeen days in the ocean!"
The second time he spoke, the words seemed to be forced out of him.
Belfast admitted, for the sake of argument, that the Projectile had
fallen into the ocean, but he strongly denounced the absurd idea of its
occupants being still alive. "Under such circumstances," went on the
learned Professor, "further prolongation of vital energy would be simply
impossible. Want of air, want of food, want of courage--"
"No, sir!" interrupted Marston quite savagely. "Want of air, of meat, of
drink, as much as you like! But when you speak of Barbican's want of
courage, you don't know what you are talking about! No holy martyr ever
died at the stake with a loftier courage than my noble friend
That night he asked the Captain if he would not sail down as far as Cape
San Lucas. Bloomsbury saw that further search was all labor lost, but he
respected such heroic grief too highly to give a positive refusal. He
consented to devote the following day, New Year's, to an exploring
expedition as far as Magdalena Bay, making the most diligent inquiries
in all directions.
But New Year's was just as barren of results as any of its predecessors,
and, a little before sunset, Captain Bloomsbury, regardless of further
entreaties and unwilling to risk further delay, gave orders to 'bout
ship and return to San Francisco.
The Susquehanna was slowly turning around in obedience to her wheel,
as if reluctant to abandon forever a search in which humanity at large
was interested, when the look-out man, stationed in the forecastle,
suddenly sang out:
"A buoy to the nor'east, not far from shore!"
All telescopes were instantly turned in the direction indicated. The
buoy, or whatever object it was, could be readily distinguished. It
certainly did look like one of those buoys used to mark out the channel
that ships follow when entering a harbor. But as the vessel slowly
approached it, a small flag, flapping in the dying wind--a strange
feature in a buoy--was seen to surmount its cone, which a nearer
approach showed to be emerging four or five feet from the water. And for
a buoy too it was exceedingly bright and shiny, reflecting the red rays
of the setting sun as strongly as if its surface was crystal or polished
"Call Mr. Marston on deck at once!" cried the Captain, his voice
betraying unwonted excitement as he put the glass again to his eye.
Marston, thoroughly worn out by his incessant anxiety during the day,
had been just carried below by his friends, and they were now trying to
make him take a little refreshment and repose. But the Captain's order
brought them all on deck like a flash.
They found the whole crew gazing in one direction, and, though speaking
in little more than whispers, evidently in a state of extraordinary
What could all this mean? Was there any ground for hope? The thought
sent a pang of delight through Marston's wildly beating heart that
almost choked him.
The Captain beckoned to the Club men to take a place on the bridge
beside himself. They instantly obeyed, all quietly yielding them a
The vessel was now only about a quarter of a mile distant from the
object and therefore near enough to allow it to be distinguished without
the aid of a glass.
What! The flag bore the well known Stars and Stripes!
An electric shudder of glad surprise shot through the assembled crowd.
They still spoke, however, in whispers, hardly daring to utter their
The silence was suddenly startled by a howl of mingled ecstasy and rage
He would have fallen off the bridge, had not the others held him firmly.
Then he burst into a laugh loud and long, and quite as formidable as his
Then he tore away from his friends, and began beating himself over the
"Oh!" he cried in accents between a yell and a groan, "what chuckleheads
we are! What numskulls! What jackasses! What double-treble-barrelled
gibbering idiots!" Then he fell to beating himself over the head again.
"What's the matter, Marston, for heaven's sake!" cried his friends,
vainly trying to hold him.
"Speak for yourself!" cried others, Belfast among the number.
"No exception, Belfast! You're as bad as the rest of us! We're all a set
of unmitigated, demoralized, dog-goned old lunatics! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"Speak plainly, Marston! Tell us what you mean!"
"I mean," roared the terrible Secretary, "that we are no better than a
lot of cabbage heads, dead beats, and frauds, calling ourselves
scientists! O Barbican, how you must blush for us! If we were
schoolboys, we should all be skinned alive for our ignorance! Do you
forget, you herd of ignoramuses, that the Projectile weighs only ten
"We don't forget it! We know it well! What of it?"
"This of it: it can't sink in water without displacing its own volume
in water; its own volume in water weighs thirty tons! Consequently, it
can't sink; more consequently, it hasn't sunk; and, most consequently,
there it is before us, bobbing up and down all the time under our very
noses! O Barbican, how can we ever venture to look at you straight in
the face again!"
Marston's extravagant manner of showing it did not prevent him from
being perfectly right. With all their knowledge of physics, not a single
one of those scientific gentlemen had remembered the great fundamental
law that governs sinking or floating bodies. Thanks to its slight
specific gravity, the Projectile, after reaching unknown depths of ocean
through the terrific momentum of its fall, had been at last arrested in
its course and even obliged to return to the surface.
By this time, all the passengers of the Susquehanna could easily
recognize the object of such weary longings and desperate searches,
floating quietly a short distance before them in the last rays of the
The boats were out in an instant. Marston and his friends took the
Captain's gig. The rowers pulled with a will towards the rapidly nearing
Projectile. What did it contain? The living or the dead? The living
certainly! as Marston whispered to those around him; otherwise how could
they have ever run up that flag?
The boats approached in perfect silence, all hearts throbbing with the
intensity of newly awakened hope, all eyes eagerly watching for some
sign to confirm it. No part of the windows appeared over the water, but
the trap hole had been thrown open, and through it came the pole that
bore the American flag. Marston made for the trap hole and, as it was
only a few feet above the surface, he had no difficulty in looking in.
At that moment, a joyful shout of triumph rose from the interior, and
the whole boat's crew heard a dry drawling voice with a nasal twang
"Queen! How is that for high?"
It was instantly answered by another voice, shriller, louder, quicker,
more joyous and triumphant in tone, but slightly tinged with a foreign
"King! My brave Mac! How is that for high?"
The deep, clear, calm voice that spoke next thrilled the listeners
outside with an emotion that we shall not attempt to portray. Except
that their ears could detect in it the faintest possible emotion of
triumph, it was in all respects as cool, resolute, and self-possessed as
"Ace! Dear friends, how is that for high?"
They were quietly enjoying a little game of High-Low-Jack!
How they must have been startled by the wild cheers that suddenly rang
around their ocean-prison! How madly were these cheers re-echoed from
the decks of the Susquehanna! Who can describe the welcome that
greeted these long lost, long beloved, long despaired of Sons of Earth,
now so suddenly and unexpectedly rescued from destruction, and
restored once more to the wonderstricken eyes of admiring humanity? Who
can describe the scenes of joy and exuberant happiness, and deep felt
gratitude, and roaring rollicking merriment, that were witnessed on
board the steamer that night and during the next three days!
As for Marston, it need hardly be said that he was simply ecstatic, but
it may interest both the psychologist and the philologist to learn that
the expression How is that for high? struck him at once as with a kind
of frenzy. It became immediately such a favorite tongue morsel of his
that ever since he has been employing it on all occasions, appropriate
or otherwise. Thanks to his exertions in its behalf all over the
country, the phrase is now the most popular of the day, well known and
relished in every part of the Union. If we can judge from its present
hold on the popular ear it will continue to live and flourish for many a
long day to come; it may even be accepted as the popular expression of
triumph in those dim, distant, future years when the memory not only of
the wonderful occasion of its formation but also of the illustrious men
themselves who originated it, has been consigned forever to the dark
tomb of oblivion!