Frank Cableís Account of the Trip to Washington
November - December 1899


Holland VI in Raritan Canal

Holland VI
in the Raritan Canal

US Navy Photos

Holland VI in Raritan Canal

The following account of the trip to Washington DC is from Frank T. Cable's book The Birth and Development of the American Submarine.

"The Holland was next scheduled to give some exhibitions in the Potomac River for the enlightenment of the government folks at Washington. This engagement meant a trip of nearly 500 miles, the longest any submarine had undertaken up to that time."
"On November 9th we left New Suffolk, and tied up in Greenport for the night. The next morning we were under way at daylight. There was a forty-mile gale blowing and the storm signals were set for something worse. When we reached Plum Island we decided that we would be happier in Greenport harbour than in cruising about Long Island Sound in a fifty-foot submarine, and back we went, waiting for better weather. Two days later, in good climatic conditions, we made a comfortable trip to New Haven."
"The next day we reached New York, where the insurance companies refused to cover us for an outside trip to the Chesapeake capes. As we could not afford to take any risks, we chose the inside route (now a part of the proposed inland waterways) via the Raritan River to New Brunswick, through the Delaware River and Bay to Delaware City, through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal to Chesapeake Bay, following the Bay to the Potomac River, and up the river to Washington. An eager and curious populace awaited us at each of these points. The coming of the Holland was an event."
"As the Holland was drawing about eight feet of water, and the maximum depth of the Raritan Canal is only seven feet, it was necessary to place pontoons on either side to lift her about eighteen inches above the normal water line. These pontoons were of wood and heavily timbered to withstand any shocks to which the boat might be subjected in passing through the canal. All this work was done at Elizabethport, New Jersey, where the boat was built. On December 2d we left Elizabethport, and late in the afternoon that day entered the first lock of the canal at new Brunswick, tying up there for the night. Here we found several hundred people on the dock waiting to behold the submarine wonder. Many had been there for hours. We were under way at daylight the following morning, and as we passed through various towns crowds numbering from 50 to 5,000 people lay in wait."
"At Princeton the onlookers began to assemble at the canal about noon (at this point the canal is about two miles from the town proper), and waited patiently until dark, when word came that we were berthed for the night six miles distant. At midnight our watchman turned us out to report that so great a crowd had assembled that he was getting nervous. Apparently half the inhabitants of New Jersey had gathered on the banks, armed with all manner of lights, in their eagerness to see the boat. Most of them appeared to be workmen employed during the day who could not restrain their curiosity and meant to gratify it before the boat passed on."
"The inquisitive ones pressed forward and asked numerous questions. Did the boat go entirely out of sight? How far could we see when entirely submerged? What did we do for air when we were beneath the surface? One of our crew was always on hand with ready answers to such questions. The wiseacres must be made wiser. Each of the crew, he told them, carried a small bottle of liquid air, and when he felt the air in the boat becoming vitiated he would touch his tongue with a drop of the liquid, which sustained him for a long time. This explanation served. After spoiling our nightís rest, the crowd slowly dispersed. I imagine some of them talked about that midnight excursion for long after."
"Our largest crowd awaited us at Trenton. Most of the shopkeepers had closed for half a day to give their employees a chance to see the boat, and the docks were black with people. At Bordentown, where we locked out in the Delaware River, we found the public schools closed in honor of our arrival and most of the children assembled on the docks. At Philadelphia, where we remained a week, we found it necessary to ask for the police department for a guard night and day. We were flooded with requests from the public schools and various city organizations for passes to inspect the boat. But the boat was only on view from the outside."
"The Hollandís next laps took her to the Chesapeake Canal, then to Chesapeake City, and down the Elk River into Chesapeake Bay. Here a gale of wind struck us and we were obliged to find a lee under the western shore of the bay and anchor till the wind died down. The next day we were at Annapolis, where we told submarine stories to the Naval Academy cadets, and the day following we tied up at the Washington Navy Yard on the Potomac River, thirty-nine days after our departure from Greenport. If ever a crew was glad of a good nightís rest in a real bed, that crew was the Hollandís."1
  1. Cable, Frank T., The Birth and Development of the American Submarine. (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1924, pp. 141-145.
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