Tom Swift and his Subocean Geotron

By Victor Appleton II

Summary: Extracted from one of the title pages of the book:

The young scientist-inventor embarks on one of the most challenging missions of his adventure-packed career. The mission: recover a valuable cache left on Earth thousands of years ago by colonists from another planet. Can Tom locate it before his deadly foe the Kranjovians seize the capsule?

Clues to the cache lead him to a location beneath the ocean floor -- near strange Easter Island, with its eerie ruins. Further search is impossible until Tom can invent and build a manned, burrowing mole-mobile--the Geotron.

Tom and his close pal Bud Barclay race against time in an equally challenging project: to build a unique aquarium and stock it with rare species of deep-sea life. If they fail to meet the deadline, a donor's bequest goes to the despotic Kranjovian government.

Their desperate contest with the Kranjovians propels Tom and Bud into a series of hair-raising perils. Tom's weird ordeal as a "bird man" of Rano Kao; the boy's narrow escape from being buried alive in a cave; their life-or-death undersea duel for the priceless cache -- all go to make up this electrifying, suspense-filled adventure.



Major Inventions


There are two main inventions in this book, and I will deal with them one-at-a-time.

The first -- and most complicated -- invention that is mentioned in this book is the Subocean Geotron. The Subocean Geotron (or 'mole mobile', as Bud called it) is a highly unusual vehicle -- unlike everything else on the planet, the Subocean Geotron is at home underground -- or under the ocean floor.


How does the Subocean Geotron work? In one word: repelatrons. If you'll look closely at the picture, you'll see that the Geotron is covered with what looks like satellite dishes. Those are actually repelatrons, and they are there to repel anything that gets in their way.

Say Tom wants to go forward. To do this, all he has to do is gun the repelatrons in the back and step up the power of the side repelatrons so that the dirt is pushed away and the Geotron has a clear path. It should be noted that the Geotron does not make a tunnel; when the Geotron leaves a certain spot, the dirt falls back in place.

According to the book, the biggest problem was finding the power to power the repelatrons. It seems that the repelatrons needed an enormous amount of power, and trying to fit a powerful atomic power plant into the small Geotron was no mean feat.

As for some of the minor details:

Tom plunged back to work on his underground burrowing craft. During the days that followed, the wooden mock-up was gradually translated into a full-scale operational model of a tremendously strong, heat-resistant titanium-steel alloy. This was insulated with layers of asbestalon and the amazing plastic, Tomasite, which the young inventor used on both his space and undersea craft.

"We'll need every inch of that insulation if this ever burrows down close to the Earth's mantle," Tom told Bud as they inspected the finished machine. "The temperature increases about one degree Fahrenheit every hundred feet."

"Have you named the job yet?" Bud asked.

"Yes, I'm calling it a Geotron -- from the Greek word geo, meaning 'earth,' as in 'geology.' This model will be named the Mark I."

Bud grinned. "It's still a mole-mobile to me." He noticed a narrow seam around the mid-section of the needle-nosed craft. "What's this for?"

The Geotron actually has two separate cabins, for and aft, that slide together like sleeves over a short central cylinder," Tom explained. "In case of trouble at either end, the other cabin can rise to the surface alone."

"Like a worm cut in half, eh?"

"Right. There are two power-plant units and to complete sets of controls -- once for each cabin. And you'll notice the tractor treads for ground-crawling are in two sections, also."


What problems did Tom encounter when trying to build the Subocean Geotron? First, as I said before, there was the power problem. How can you get enough power to push aside the rocks under the ocean floor? They are under tremendous presser, and trying to shove them aside really would take a lot of power. Somehow Tom licked the problem with some type of atomic engine, but the book didn't go into details.

Another problem encountered was gaps. In the book, Tom once "fell up". It seems that he once broke through the wall of a cave, and the pressure inside the cave had forced the Geotron upwards, made it collide with the ceiling, causing much damage. To resolve this, Tom added some kind of limited-range radar that would warn him if he approached any caves or holes in the rocks.

A third problem: the Geotron had the tendency to swerve and roll side-to-side. The cause of the problem wasn't explained, and I suppose that it could have been anything. Tom fixed the problem by "having the Geotron gyrostabilized", whatever that means.


How feasible is it to build a Subocean Geotron? Once again, the answer to this question hangs on the answer to another question -- how feasible is it to build a repelatron? The Subocean is only another application of the revolutionary repelatron, so, if you can build repelatrons, you can build a Subocean Geotron. On the other hand, if repelatrons are impossible inventions, so is the Subocean Geotron.


How much impact would a Subocean Geotron have on civilization? What do you think? If someone gave you a Subocean Geotron, what would you do with it? From what I understand, there is really very little demand for a vehicle that can plow through the ground. Mining companies might be able to use it to scout out land for new mines, and oil companies also might find some potential uses for it in the field of locating new oil deposits.

The Geotron would completely revolutionize the art of war, though. Imagine what a defense problem it would be if you had to worry about underground invaders! Even if you didn't bother to arm your Geotron it could still prove deadly in its ability to carry things behind enemy lines. Guarding against an incoming Geotron would be impossible, as radio waves cannot see underground objects.


The next invention of Tom's in this book is a type of super-strong glass. No real details were given on it -- in fact, the book doesn't even mention its name. The book does say, however, that the glass can withstand pressure of "fifteen thousand pounds per square inch"; however, it does not say what thickness of glass is required.

There is so little information on the glass that, for now, I'll pass up discussing it. After all, there's very little to discuss.


Tom Swift and his Sonic Boom Trap | Tom Swift and the Mystery Comet | Index

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