looks through several of the open doors down the interior, he has the sensation of being in a subway car lower and narrower than he has ever seen before, and crowded with human beings.

When a submarine leaves port her commander's first care is to trim her. She must always run on a stable keel, with her weight carefully adjusted both athwartship and fore and aft. That weight may vary from one moment to another - for example, by discharging a torpedo and thus suddenly lightening the load on one side; or, more gradually, by the consumption of fuel. In order to accommodate the trim of the vessel to these constant changes, facilities exist for transferring fuel oil quickly from one reservoir to another.

Here is where the water ballast comes into play. It performs the same rôle as the weights in a scale pan. Reservoirs on either side permit sea water to be taken in and discharged at will, and indicators show the exact level of the water at any moment. So delicate is the balance of one of these vessels when submerged that a variation of two hundred litres, or even less, in the water ballast will affect the equilibrium of a boat of six hundred tons.

The Galatée is navigating on the surface. The smooth water ripples along her brown sides, and her deck echoes the footfall of heavy boots. Constant orders from the bridge and from the ventriloquist at the steering gear cadence themselves into a sort of subdued soliloquy. Through the open hatches fresh air descends, mingling with the rising smell of warm, oily metal. I catch a glimpse of a sailor's arm or shoulder in an opening, eclipsed a moment later by the silent shutting of a thick steel hatch.

'Engage the port Diesel.'

The boat leaps forward, and our flat wake deepens into a glittering furrow.

'Deck hatches open. Blow out the ballast tanks.'

This is a safety precaution to show that the blowing machines, which drive the water from the reservoirs, are in perfect working order. Oil pools rise rapidly through the water and spread out on the surface like a bed of pretty blue and pink aquatic flowers.

'Prepare to submerge.'

At this command the life of the boat instantly assumes a new tempo. Orders are passed quickly from mouth to mouth. In response to a command from inside, the two hatches behind close as if automatically. The submarine is shutting off in quick succession every means of access to her interior, before diving.

'Won't you descend?' says the commander, who waits for me to leave the deck.

'Beg pardon. I almost forgot that indispensable precaution.'

The hatch descends above us. From the four little portholes of the conning tower I catch a view of the deserted bridge. Beyond is the breech of the rapid-fire gun glistening in grease, its muzzle closed by a cast-steel stopper. The periscope, manœuvred by a lever, emerges from its channel in the deck and rises above our heads over our steel roof. A phonographic voice comes through the speaking tube:

'Attention. Prepare to submerge.'

Not a sound is heard from the interior of the vessel. Conversation abruptly ceases. The Diesel engines stop and silent electric motors take up their task. The life of every person on board now rests in the hands of a single man, whose most trifling order is instantly followed by a quick mechanical movement of a hand and a simultaneous response by the boat itself.

'All valves open except the zeros.' This is the method of submersion. In the first place, water is admitted to

the ballast tanks fore and aft. It cannot enter, however, unless the air can escape through the air valves. It is by controlling the latter, consequently, that the submarine loses her buoyancy. Under ordinary circumstances the ballast tanks numbered zero are reserved for the final operation. They are in the waist of the boat. That explains the last command. Until that has been executed, the submarine still remains on the surface.

'Attention. Open the zeros.'

'Zeros opened,' answers the sailor who operates the control valves. "What time is it?' "Three-five P.M.'

It is a thrilling moment for me. Through a port I watch the deck disappear. Already the lower portion is submerged. Little waves leap up at the supports of the gun, and soon are tapping at its breech. It is a curious sight, the submergence of this piece of artillery. All the rounder part of the hull is now submerged, but our conning tower continues to rise above the surface: we are still in the outside world. But even as this thought flashes through my mind a dash of water blurs my view. Quickly the sea creeps up the glass port, which for just a second is divided equally between two elements. I feel as if I were passing through a wall—the boundary wall between two worlds, the world of air and the world of water. Now only a pale grayish light pierces the port. Little by little it deepens to turquoise blue.

'Close the valves. Submerged?'

The muffled voice of an underofficer comes through the speaking tube: 'Seven metres, twenty." 'What time is it?'


'Halt at twelve metres.'

Twelve metres is the maximum depth at which the periscope can be

used. That tiny box of lenses and prisms is the only part of the vessel above the water. Behind it trails a narrow ripple of foam.

The commander leaves the periscope for a moment to let me get a view. We are completely submerged, but the moment I place my eyes before the aperture I see a little window opening over a broad expanse of water. It seems to me as if I myself have shrunk to correspond with this clear-cut but tiny image. I feel as if I am gliding just over the surface of the water outside the harbor of Brest, without a boat, borne by the wind, like a gull.

I resume my place at the port, trying to peer into the secrets of the deep blue water. Not a fish, not a seaweed, appears in the field of vision. Millions of white bubbles dart past like swimming flowers; they rise from the deck and exterior fittings of the vessel like marble fireworks.

And the cannon! I can still see it, a dim vague shadow. From its muzzle, stopped by its steel plug, an enormous moustache of bubbles streams back on either side. It looks like some enraged


I proceed along the galley from the conning tower to the heart of the vessel. A second officer is leaning over his dials and luminous indicators. Around him and along the sides stand groups of silent men, each at his post. Two quartermasters seated on camp stools operate the depth controls. The moment the mercury column departs from the twelve-metre mark they restore the vessel to its proper depth by a quick movement of their levers. Now and then the boat starts to rise - only a degree or two, perhaps, but enough to throw a novice like myself slightly off his balance. Except for that we seem absolutely immobile; nobody need worry about seasickness. There are no ports, as in the conning tower. I stand

in a crowded compartment filled with people speaking a laconic language in a hushed voice. 'Attention. Admit two hundred litres aft. Discharge four hundred litres forward.'

I divine rather than really hear the murmur of the electric motors in the engine-room. So far as the machinery is concerned the silence is broken only by the clicking of the numerous electric contacts which light up and darken down on luminous dials, and occasionally by a long-drawn-out gurgling sound of compressed air whistling in the reservoirs as it drives a little water out into the sea.

[ocr errors]

The voice that descends from the conning tower is distant like the lament of a man interred alive. It asks: 'What is the water-level aft?' "Two thousand, five hundred litres.' Close to me a sailor is writing figures on a blackboard. Two thousand, five hundred; two thousand, eight hundred; three thousand. It is the amount of water necessary to keep the boat on a level keel at a given depth. He is constantly erasing and rewriting. The barometer indicates four degrees of condensation - that is, the air inside the vessel is denser than the normal atmospheric pressure. In order to rarefy it, it is blown into the reservoirs which supply force to the torpedo tubes. I can hear the roaring of the blast. Little by little the needle descends until it reaches the red mark which indicates normal atmospheric pressure.

But horrors! It continues to descend toward zero. Won't the cursed thing ever stop? Ah, there it pauses! It had been forgotten for ten or fifteen seconds a century of agony.

Meanwhile the commander has not left the periscope. Down the speaking tube comes a hoarse order:

'Prepare to fire.' 'Attention.'

One section of the upper deck carrying the torpedo tubes has turned ninety degrees on the axis of the vessel. 'Are you ready?' 'Ready.'

'Attention. Fire.'

I hear the faint crackle of an electric contact, followed by a short, low sigh. 'Have you fired?' "We have fired.'

A moment's silence, then a new command:

'Ready to clear the central ballast tanks. At five kilos pressure, clear.'

A throbbing rumble shakes the hull as the compressed air, overcoming the pressure of the water, clears the tank. The Galatée is about to rise.

Surface! The blue of the ports fades into a livid gray; and great bubbles bounce past them like transparent medusa. Little by little we reach a limpid zone where we already glimpse a premonition of the sun. Vague shadows float past the port. At length the light becomes white and steady. I see the sky above Brest Harbor. It is like a resurrection, and steadily the submarine emerges, shaking the water from her dripping back.

'Shall we open the hatches, Commander?'

'What is the pressure?'

A douche of fresh air descends. Air, impalpable, invisible, but like something glorious and pure discovered for the first time. We have returned to the land of the living. The deck is already drying in the breeze. Our gun resumes its impassive sentry duty with the French flag clinging damply to its breech, and our siren shrieks announcing the end of the manœuvre.



THE first point to understand is that the Mohammedans are divided into two big sects the Sunnites, of which the Turks, Arabians, and Egyptians are members, and the Shiites, to which the Persians and half of the Mesopotamians belong. The split between the two religions is profound. The Shiites cannot tolerate the Sunnites, and the Sunnites look upon the Shiites as rather worse than Christians or Jews. It all originated with the assassination of Mohammed's son-in-law, the fourth caliph after Mohammed, Ali Ibn Abu Talib, and his sons Hassan and Hussein.

The great majority of Mohammedans support the assassins, but the minority remain true to the memory of their victims, and hence a great schism runs through the entire body of Islam. Ali came to occupy a higher and higher place. He was almost more esteemed than Mohammed, and was raised to the rank of a kind of demigod. The caliphs before, and even more so the caliphs that followed him, were looked upon as pretenders and murderers, and were therefore despised by all Shiites.

Ali started the line of the twelve imams, the last of whom disappeared and promised that he would reappear again at the end of the world and take revenge on his enemies. He was called Mohammed ul-Mahdi by the Persians. The Shiites themselves, however, are in turn divided into still more sects. All of them do not believe in this

1 From Vossische Zeitung (Berlin Liberal daily), January 25

Mahdi, who was descended from Buhr Ibn Ali, the oldest grandson of Hussein, the son of Ali. In Yemen the second grandson, named Zeid, is honored, and his second advent is expected.

The inhabitants of Yemen, who are racially quite different from the rest of the Arabians, have called themselves Zeidi after this man Zeid. It is not hard to imagine with what fanatical hatred the Wahabis, to whom an oath even in the name of the Prophet is regarded as a fraud and a delusion, regard these worshipers of Zeid. They are the most unitarian sect in the world, and believe only in the supremacy of Allah.

The Yemenites inhabit the richest part of Arabia. They are the heirs to a high and ancient culture. The Wahabis, on the other hand, are of Bedouin blood, or at least half-Bedouin, and are wild fanatics who hate everything that smacks of culture. Religious prejudices prevail over economic and cultural considerations, and they still lead a primitive nomadic life. In 1924 the Wahabis revolted against the tyrant Hussein, King of the Hejaz, after England had promised them her support. Hussein turned in flight to Imam Yahia, the ruler of Yemen and the deadly enemy of Ibn Saud. The ruler of Yemen did not see what a chance he had, and, instead of attacking the Wahabi army of Ibn Saud in the rear with his own strong forces and driving it into the Red Sea, he reasoned in this way: 'Ibn Saud will conquer and overthrow King Hussein, but in doing so he will be hated and feared by the

[blocks in formation]

Everyone knows what happened. Ibn Saud placed the crown of the Hejaz on his own head, England recognized his government surprisingly soon, and Imam Yahia failed at the decisive moment. The traditional hatred between him and Ibn Saud was deepened and intensified by these events.

Imam Yahia prepared himself for his day of reckoning with Ibn Saud. Yemen is a mountainous country separated from the Hejaz by a range of mountains nearly twelve thousand feet high. The strategic railway to Mecca follows the coast through Tehama, where the rulers of Asir, the Idrisis, are in the saddle. These Idrisis have still another brand of Mohammedanism, a kind of iron discipline very much like that practised by the Senussi in Tripoli and Morocco. They, however, worship the founder of their religion and are not set against him as the Wahabis are. Nevertheless, they did conclude with the Wahabis a treaty against Hussein.

Up to this time the Idrisis were allied to Italy. Sayyid Mohammed Idrisi was full of peaceful intentions during the Italian war in Tripoli, but the Italians provided him with weapons and money to help overthrow the Sultan. A few years later, on the thirtyfirst of December, 1913, the English came. This was the time when British colonial policy was coming to a head, and the English gave Tehama to the Idrisis, along with the cities of Hodeida and Loheija, the salt mines of Salif, near the British island of Kamaran, and the island of Farsan, opposite Jizan, the main port of Asir. Mohammed Idrisi at once sealed a pact with

England, and Italy lost her unique posi tion in Arabia.

Mohammed Idrisi, whom his family call Mohammed the Great, died three years later, and in 1922 his eighteenyear-old son, Ali, succeeded him on the throne. Ali was a half-developed, hysterical young man with Negro blood, completely crazy and tyrannical. He managed to get into fights with his family, with the English, with Ibn Saud, with Imam Yahia, and with the Bedouins of Tehama. The Bedouins called Imam Yahia to their aid, and he occupied three quarters of Ali's domain without a single battle. He thus acquired control over the coast of the Red Sea, and then made a treaty with Italy.

At this point the English came in again. They got behind Ibn Saud, who had marched into Asir from the north ready to fight the Yemenites if they undertook to go any farther. The Italians became indignant, refused to recognize Ibn Saud, and supplied Imam Yahia with flying machines and guns. Another enemy of the Italians then reared his head-the leader of the Senussi, whom the English and the Italians had both thrown out of Tripoli, and who had sought refuge with Ibn Saud. He felt this was a propitious moment to reappear in the political arena.

What he did was to recommend his friend, General Djemal Pasha el Ghazzi, the former adjutant to Enver Pasha, as Prime Minister of Asir. This new minister at once invited the Senussi leader to prepare a little revolution. The two men secretly managed to overthrow the anti-English half-wit, Ali, and to put on his throne the politically adept Said Hassan, who was honored as a holy man.

The purpose of the Senussi was clear. They wanted English backing so that sooner or later they might be given access across the Sudan to Tripoli.

« ElőzőTovább »