Tom Swift and his Spectromarine Selector
(Later retitled as "Tom Swift and the City of Gold")
By Victor Appleton II
First, let me say that the scan of the cover of this book was sent to me by Greg Weir, and the summary was sent to me by Bill McAndrew. Thanks a lot!
Summary: Extracted from the front flap of the dustjacket:
"We're trapped a mile below the ocean's surface," Tom Swift announces to his companions as calmly as possible. His father and Bud Barclay exchange fearful glances in the air-bubble elevator stopped in its undersea descent by a jammed cable.
This close call is only one of the many hazards which beset Tom on his most challenging deep-sea venture - a trip to the ancient city of gold on the ocean bottom.
Here, with his pal Bud Barclay and other members of the Swift expedition, Tom tests his two new inventions. With the de-organic-izer, which employs revolutionary scientific principles, crusts of centuries-old sea growth are removed from the city's buildings and the original gold luster restored. With his other astounding invention - the spectromarine selector - Tom searches for a valuable new rare metal. He must succeed, if his father is to fill an important government rocket contract.
A terrifying sea monster, an abandoned submarine containing human skeletons, a near-fatal leak in the hydrodome over the scene of operations, and the unexpected appearance of an enemy fail to daunt Tom in his mammoth undertakings.
How the young scientist-inventor achieves his goals is told dramatically in this thrill-packed story of undersea adventure.
Before I Begin: A Word on the Cover
Before I get into a summary of the book, I think that a few words should be said about the pictures used in this book. The art in this book, basically, is horrible. Every single picture depicting an underwater scene is wrong.
Take, for example, the cover scan. The picture shows an air bubble that just barely encases the Spectromarine Selector. This is completely wrong -- the book was quite clear on the fact that the air bubble enclosed the entire city. More than that, however, the air bubble was enclosed with a plastic dome made out of Tomasite -- and that dome appears nowhere on the cover.
Besides that, however, just what is Tom Swift doing wearing a set of headphones? The only person to talk with is the guy working the levers, and if you'll look closely you'll see that he isn't wearing any headphones. But even if he was, what was to stop them from just talking to each other? From what I could gather the machine made very little noise -- Tom carried out normal conversations with people all the time while running his Spectromarine Selector.
And are we really suppose to believe that that is what the machine looked like? Surely there's more to it than that! But even if there isn't, why in the world would Tom have wasted all of that space? The machine could have been made far, far smaller than it is depicted. And what are those fish doing on the cover? One of the side-plots of the book involved Tom trying to figure out why sea life avoided Aurum City.
Other pictures in the book are equally flawed, but I think that you get my point. Really, Grosset and Dunlap should have tried harder to get better cover artÖ
The Spectromarine Selector
In the book Tom Swift and his Diving Seacopter Tom Swift discovered a vast underwater city, apparently made of solid gold. At the time of the city's discovery, Tom Swift did nothing more than note the city's position, because there was really very little he could do. If this doesn't make sense, think about it for a moment: how does one take possession of a city located 13,000 feet beneath the ocean's surface? The tremendous pressure at that depth taxes the strength of the world's strongest submarines; doing any kind of restoration work or establishing any sort of permanent colony at the site of the ruins was just out of the question.
As the months rolled by, however, Tom found ways of dealing with the immense challenges that prevented him from taking possession of the underwater city. First, as related in the bookTom Swift and his Deep-Sea Hydrodome, Tom found a way to create a city of his own miles beneath the ocean's surface. Later, Tom Swift developed a speedy way to clean the grime off of centuries-old objects. Armed with these two inventions, Tom Swift went on to restore what he called Aurum City (and I'll get to the details on Aurum City in a minute).
The machine that Tom developed to clean the grime off of his splendid underwater city was (somewhat unromantically) called theSpectromarine Selector. The Spectromarine Selector (or, as Chow nicknamed it, the organ) is kind of like a souped-up vacuum cleaner: you point this machine at what you want to be cleaned, and poof! it becomes clean. Silver, as Tom Swift demonstrated, can be polished in seconds. An entire swimming pool can be made devoid of algae in mere minutes. Statues, buildings, you name it -- if it's got dirt or grime, the Spectromarine Selector can remove it and make the object look as good as new.
Want to hear more about this odd device? Read onÖ
What were the nicknames of the Spectromarine Selector?The Spectromarine Selector has three names. Its official name, from what I can tell, is the Spectromarine Selector. Tom Swift, however, almost always referred to it as a de-orgranic-izer. Others, however, usually referred to it simply as the 'organ'.
How did it get its nickname of 'organ'? Well, it happened like this:
Beaming, Chow hoisted his rotund bulk up onto the operator's platform. His eyes bulged admiringly as he watched Tom's fingers move about the control board, adjusting various dials.
"Brand my biscuits, boss," Chow murmured, "you kin play this lil ole contraption like it was a pipe organ!"
Tom grinned without speaking. But the onlookers picked up the leathery Texan's remark and began needling him jokingly.
As the cook blushed, Bud followed up with an off-key rendition of "When the Organ Played at Twilight."
Brian grinned and remarked, "Tom, I think your invention had just been officially nicknamed."
How does the Spectromarine selector work?The Spectromarine Selector, despite its long name, is actually a very simple invention that works on a simple, well-known principle: water will boil at very low temperatures in a vacuum. Don't see the connection between that principle and cleaning objects? Well, let me explain.
First, the Spectromarine Selector, via a mind-boggling device called a Localator Vacuum Producer, creates a vacuum in the vicinity of the object. This vacuum drastically lowers the boiling point of the water that is inside the vacuum -- in fact, it lowers the boiling point so low that any water that is in the slime on the object can be "boiled" away without damaging the object that is to be cleaned.
Once the vacuum is in place, then, the object is heated by high-intensity light waves until the water starts to boil. Once the water is boiling, it boils the impurities and slime right off the object that is being cleaned. The steam and garbage that is cleaned off of the object is sucked back into the Spectromarine Selector and is recombined into a number of useful products -- including fuel that can be used to help power the Spectromarine Selector.
What problems did Tom have to overcome in inventing his Spectromarine Selector?As one might expect, early versions of the ultimate cleaning device are bound to have a disastrous bugs in it, and the Spectromarine Selector was no exception. The first bug Tom had to fix was the Spectromarine Selector's habit of "eating" the object it was supposed to clean:
"This little model actually works?" Phyl asked in amazement.
"Sure," Tom turned to Bud with a grin. "Like a little hair off the top, pal?"
"Please! Don't experiment on me, Professor!"
Phyl held up her leather purse with silver initials. "These need shining," she said playfully. "Could your machine remove the tarnish?"
"No sooner said than done, madame!"
Tom aimed the organ at the metal initials. Then he flicked on the power, provided by a miniature solar battery, and turned a dial.
Pyhl and Sandy gasped as the tarnish disappeared like magic. But their amazement quickly turned to dismay as the initials too began to vanish., Before Tom could turn off the machine, even the leather was partly eaten away!
"It's ruined!" Sandy groaned.
Tom, red-faced, hastily apologized.
"Don't worry," Phyl said good-naturedly. "It was an old purse, anyhow. But what happened?"
Tom explained that he had adjusted the machine to remove tarnish, a sulfide compound. But the selector circuit, by a feedback action, had also ordered the machine to remove the metal.
"There's sulfur in the leather, too," he added. "So the organ took part of that off!"
"Just a slight slip-up." Bud grinned.
"A slip-up that could cause plenty of damage," Tom admitted ruefully. "I'll buy you a new purse, Phyl, and let's say this one went for the cause of science. At least it showed me a flaw in my machine that needs correcting!"
Tom solved this problem by inventing a little add-on that would fine-tune the Spectromarine Selector's sensing abilities:
Tom explained the flaw that had spoiled his demonstration on Phyl's purse. "I think I have the answer," he added.
Pulling out pencil and paper, Tom sketched a feedback-control circuit which he had worked out in his mind overnight. Its purpose was to prevent the compounds in the object being cleaned from affecting the selection of the elements to be removed.
"Pretty slick," Art commented. "And we can add that easily before the unit's assembled."
The second problem Tom had to grapple with was the Spectromarine Selector's bad habit of producing extremely deadly cyanide gas:
"Tom, where did that cyanogen come from?"
"I don't know for sure yet," Tom admitted. "But I have a hunch it may have been formed by the action of the organ."
As soon as the atmosphere was purified, Tom checked the device. His suspicions seemed to be borne out after careful testing.
"The S-Co was releasing carbon and nitrogen too fast," Tom explained to Bud. "They combined to form the cynaogen gas."
Solving this problem was simply a matter of combining the cyanide gas with other gases to form harmless elements:
"I'll simply alter the storage system so that the hydrogen and nitrogen from the organic waste can be combined to form fuel gas," he told himself. "The carbon can be combined with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and pumped off into the ocean!"
How well did the spectromarine selector work?The Spectromarine Selector worked very well, as the following passage demonstrates:
With his checkout completed, Tom started the traction motor. The organ rolled forward on its caterpillar treads until Tom brought it to rest, facing a group of statues. They stood in a row before a lofty porticoed building.
"Suppose we see what these statues look like underneath all that gunk," Tom said.
Switching on the infrared unit, he moved a level which started the localator vacuum producer. He aimed the intake at the nearest statue and instantly it began to whisk of the slimy coating.
"Like a giant razor in action," Bud remarked.
Tom grinned, as he fingered the S-Co controls which changed the molecules of the organic waste into easily stored compounds.
The watchers gasped as the slimy statue was gradually transformed into a glittering gold animal god! The human face had a hawk's beak and folded wings on a catlike body. As Tom proceeded, other statues turned out to be crouching lions of jaguars with men's features. One depicted a huge serpent coiled around a goddess.
"They're solid gold!" Fraser gasped.
"They may have just a golden shell over some other material," Tom said cautiously, after getting out of the cab to examine the statues more closely.
At first the machine suffered from one problem: it didn't work very fast. Tom fixed this problem by inventing a molecular catalyst that doubled the cleaning speed of the Spectromarine Selector. No details on this catalyst were given, but it seemed to work very well; once it was in place, Tom Swift didn't do anything else to speed up or enhance his machine.
How feasible is it to build a Spectromarine Selector?The Spectromarine Selector, as a whole, is not a difficult device to build. Many of its parts -- especially the part that recombines various molecules to form various substances -- are relatively easy to construct.
Unfortunately, however, the Spectromarine Selector does one thing that, in real life, is impossible to do: it, via a device called a Localator Vacuum Producer, can create a vacuum around a distant object. This Localator Vacuum Producer works incredibly well -- it works so well, in fact, that it enabled the Spectromarine Selector to change the molecular structure of the Tomasite dome covering Aurum City, despite the fact that the dome was dozens of yards away from the machine!
But how in the world could it create on-the-spot vacuums? The only way that I know of to create a vacuum is to use some kind of pump to pump the air out. The Spectromarine Selector, however, obviously doesn't do that -- if it did, there's no way it could have affected the dome covering Aurum City. This vacuum issue is a key point, since the whole invention hangs on the behavior of water in a vacuum. Without the vacuum, that the device simply would not work.
However, that's not to say that a Spectromarine Selector-type invention is impossible. Such a device actually does exist! In the August 1998 issue of Mechanical Engineering, there is an article covering a French-built machine called the Lama. (The word Lama, by the way, is short forLaser Manuportable Por Le Nettoyage des Facades et des Monuments Historique, which roughly translates into "portable laser for cleaning historic monuments").
The Lama sounds very similar to the Spectromarine Selector. According to the article, the Lama basically works by vaporizing the dirt with a low-intensity laser beam:
The light energy, a maximum of 500 millijoules, delivered by the laser beam to the handpiece, is absorbed by the generally dark-colored stains on the stone being treated. This vaporizes the stains into a rapidly expanding plasma. The resulting shock wave removes the remainder of the stain by mechanical action.
Engineers designed the Lama to produce very short-duration laser pulses of eight nanoseconds, which prevents the heat of the laser from diffusing into the substrate and damaging itÖ.
The Lama system, like the Spectromarine Selector, can clean a variety of surfaces and deal with different kinds of dirt. Moreover, once the dirt is gone, the laser doesn't damage the object it's cleaning. How does it do this? Well, read onÖ
The Lama system has a double threshold that varies, depending on the composition of the stains and the material to be cleaned, as well as its ability to absorb the laser light. Below a lower level of energy intensity, the laser light does not have a cleaning effect on the stains, while above an upper intensity threshold it can cause the surface to deteriorate. In the "working window" between these thresholds, the laser's effects are self-limited; once the stain is destroyed, the continuing laser pulses do not damage the material's surface, thus leaving the protective patina undamaged after cleaning.
It looks like, as far as the Spectromarine Selector goes, modern science has finally caught up with Tom Swift.
How much impact would a Spectromarine Selector have on civilization? The Spectromarine Selector would probably find some pretty important market applications. Tom Swift himself realized this, stating that:
"Öif my invention works, I'll have them made in small sizes for commercial use. They'd be great for cleaning and sterilizing food, soil, buildings and monuments, or what-have-you. And think how handy they'd be for cleaning up after floods!"
I think that he's right. There is great demand for a universal cleaning machine -- especially for one that could enormously speed up cleaning up the aftermath of floods, fires, and hurricanes. Today, for the most part, cleaning is done either by hand (which is a lot of work) or with the aid of expensive and somewhat dangerous chemicals. Having a simple, cheap, mechanical means of cleaning anything would definitely find a huge market.
Take, for example, the swimming pool industry. Anybody who has ever had to clean the bottom of a swimming pool after mismanaging its chlorine levels would probably jump at the chance to buy a simple, little machine that could completely clean a swimming pool within minutes. If the Spectromarine Selector were sold in handsized units, I'm sure that before long every swimming pool owner would have one. (Thanks toJeff Duntemann for pointing this out to me!)
But, hey, cleaning swimming pools isn't all that a hand-sized spectromarine selector is good for. These things would be great for cleaning statues, streets, buildings, bathrooms, silver, dishes, you name it -- if it needs to be cleaned, this thing can clean it. I imagine that an adapted version could even be used in a washing machine.
Would it fundamentally change life as we know it? Probably not -- after all, it's basically only a new kind of cleaner. Still, I imagine that it would find a pretty large market.
Tom Swift, in the course of the Tom Swift Jr. series, built two underwater cities. The first underwater city was built to tap a massive underwater helium well that Tom had stumbled across. Because the only way to tap the helium would be to establish an extensive mining base, Tom Swift had to find a way to build a large city 13,000 feet beneath the ocean's surface.
Tom overcame the problems of building an undersea city by inventing a fantastic device called a repelatron that could repel water. Equipped with this device and a complex atmospheric system, Tom Swift established his first undersea city, which he called hisHelium City.
Soon after building his Helium City, Tom applied all of the knowledge he had gained to building another underwater city one. Many months earlier, Tom Swift had stumbled across a large underwater city apparently built of solid gold. At the time of the discovery Tom Swift had no way of salvaging any of the city, so he left it alone.
Once he had invented his repelatron, however, Tom Swift had a idea: why not establish a series of Hydrodomes over the city of gold, clean up the city, and open it up to the public? Armed with his Hydrodome and his Spectromarine Selector, Tom Swift did just that, as this volume relates.
What are the details of his second underwater city? Read onÖ
How did the city get its name?When the book opens, the underwater city Tom planned to construct didn't have a name. Tom's copilot Bud thought that it should have one, so he suggested one to Tom, as this passage reveals:
"Tom, the ancient underwater layout will need a name, especially after you get things shined up for tourists. How about Aurum City?"
"Aurum City?" put in Chow, who had come forward to see if anyone was hungry. "Where in tarnation did you get that handle?"
"'Aurum means 'gold,'" Bud explained. "One of the six words I remember from high school Latin," he added with a grin.
"Aurum City," the old Westerner repeated musingly, rolling the name over his tongue. "Hmmm. Not bad, Buddy boy. I kind o'like it."
Tom agreed. "Aurum City it is."
Where is the city located?As one might imagine, the exact location of the sunken city is not given. However:
"I understand this sunken city is somewhere near the Cape Verde Islands," put in Lieutenant Cromwell.
How did Tom plan to restore the city?Restoring a city located thousands of feet underwater is an enormous challenge, and the book goes into some detail as to how it was done. There are far too many details to be related here; however, the basic plan can be summed up as follows:
"What's your plan of operation?"
Tom explained that he would create a giant air bubble around the site by means of his force-ray repelatron. He had used the same method in tapping a fabulous undersea bed of helium gas. This tremendous bubble of air, with its ceiling and walls of plastic, had become knows as Tom Swift's deep-sea hydrodome.
"The hydrodome will provide a safe working space underwater," Tom continued. "Then I'll use my new de-organic-izer to--[clean the ruins.]"
What civilization did the ruins belong to?Good question -- I wish I knew! Tom was of the opinion that the ruins belonged to Atlantis, and that his space friends played some kind of role in the building of the city. The clues -- both in this volume and in others -- are tantalizing. In fact, there are so many clues and references that it seems hard to believe that the story stops here. At one time, another volume must have been planned that involved Tom Swift discovering the secret of the underwater spaceship, solving the riddle of the ruins, and maybe even meeting his space friends. However, that other book never materialized. Hopefully, one day, that missing volume will be written and will finally put all of these questions to restÖ
As I said, Tom thought that the ruins belonged to Atlantis:
"This may be one of the greatest archaeological finds in history," Bud remarked.
"But where did it come from? I mean--what civilization was this?" the lieutenant asked.
"We think it may be the lost Atlantis," Tom replied, "but I'm hoping this expedition may turn up some clues that will give us the answer." He went on to explain the legend deciphered by the two government oceanographers who had first helped him locate the sunken city.
These two men had discovered an ancient Peruvian inscription about the original Incas of South America. It told how they had come over he sea from a far-off land which had been engulfed by a terrible earthquake and flood.
"The data given in the inscription pointed to this very spot," Tom ended. "It was also near some peaks shaped like man-made pyramids which I had already spotted in the Atlantic Ridge. But it'll take a lot of work yet, Brian, to piece together an accurate explanation."
Aurum City had been built in a canyon enclosed by beetling rock walls. These parted into a great valley beyond the city's outskirts.
The Sea Hound's beam swept the valley floor s they glided along. Here and there stood crumbling stone huts, overgrown with seaweed and ocean vegetation.
"Wonder who lived here?" Brian mused.
"Probably these were peasant apartment houses," Tom deducted. "In fact, this whole area may once have been a green, verdant valley with flocks of livestock and cultivated fields."
"Just think," Tom went on. "An unknown people settled this valley thousands of years ago. They grew skilled enough in art and architecture to build splendid gold palaces and temples. They must have had good farmers, too, to feed the population. Then one day disaster struck--a flood wiping out the work of centuries. And the whole land sank under the ocean!"
As for what the people might have looked like, Tom was of the opinion that they were a mixture of Oriental and South Sea:
"What type of people could have made them [statues], skipper?" Doc Simpson put in with keen scientific curiosity.
"They look like something like those Mayan statues we saw in Yucatan, don't they?" Bud said.
Tom nodded thoughtfully. "Their form is similar. Bud I'd say their faces are more like a mixture of the Oriental and South Sea sculptures on display in our Shopton Museum."
More specifically, however, Tom thought that his space friends also had a hand in the construction of the ruins:
Bud was thoughtful. "Remember those carvings we spotted on one pyramid during our last trip here?" he remarked to Tom presently.
Tom nodded. "They were pretty well faded and covered over with sea growth. But I'd sure like to know what they mean!"
Tom fell silent a moment, then went on, "You know, But, it's strange that we haven't found other carvings right in Aurum City. Almost every civilization leaves some kind of markings on its public buildings."
Bud's eyes kindled with interest. "Wow! You mean those carvings on the pyramid may have been made by someone else?"
"Just a hunch." Tom smiled. "You're probably thinking the same thing I am. Those carvings did look a bit like space symbols!"
"But how in the world could such creatures have made markings on those pyramids, even before they sank under the ocean?" Brian asked.
"We know they made at least one voyage to Earth centuries ago," Tom replied. "We found their symbols carved on some Mayan ruins in Mexico, telling how their spaceship had crashed. They might have left marks on these Aurum pyramids on some earlier voyage."
Tom added that he hoped to bring his electronic retroscope to Aurum City some time later and try to bring the faded carving into sharper focus.
Tom's opinion that his space friends were involved was pretty much confirmed with the following discovery:
Half buried in the ocean slime below the promontory lay a strange craft. It resembled the sky wheel which Tom Swift had built as his first Outpost in Space!
"A spaceship!" Bud gasped.
What problems did Tom Swift have to overcome in restoring Aurum City?When you build anything as large as a city you are bound to run into problems, and Tom's construction of Aurum city was no exception. Tom Swift ran into a number of hair-raising problems, but, as one would expect, he managed to solve them all. What were those problems?
Tom Swift had a chance to catch the first problem before it happened. However, he couldn't figure out the mystery of the missing wildlife:
"What's going on in that supersonic brain of yours, genius boy?" he asked with a grin.
"A scientific puzzler, Bud," the young inventor replied. "Have you two noticed the absence of sea life on the floor of this city? Of course there's plenty of undersea vegetation," he added, "but no animal forms of marine life."
"That's so," Brian Fraser agreed. "But aren't your repelatron force waves pushing out the fish and other sea creatures?"
Tom shook his head. "No, the machine's turned only to repel sea water. It would have not more effect on fish than it does on us."
"What's the answer then, Professor?" Bud asked.
Tom shrugged. "I can only guess. But maybe there's something here in Aurum City which is poisonous or obnoxious to animal life."
"Meaning us?" Bud asked.
"Not necessarily. Relax, pal!" Tom grinned and patted his friend's arm. "It may be simply that these buildings are giving off a radiation of low intensity."
"What type of radiation?" Brian asked.
"Some form that's invisible to human eyes," Tom replied, "and as harmless to us as sunlight, yet repulsive to marine animals."
"Interesting theory," Brian conceded. "Can you test it?"
Tom mulled over the problem. "Let's try turning off the lights," he suggested. "If there is any radiation present, it may show up as a faint luminescence."
Bud passed the word among the crewmen and Tom walked over to the solar-battery switch box controlling the searchlights. He opened the switch. Instantly the undersea city was plunged into total darkness.
"No glow so far as I can see," Lieutenant Fraser remarked.
Tom sighed. "We can scratch that theory, I guess."
This had consequences. It turned out that Tom Swift was right -- the plants were radioactive. It seems that the alloy that the ancient people used to build the city had the radioactive element thorium in it. This thorium somehow entered the cellular makeup of the plants, and when people came into contact with the plants it resulted in a fierce, burning rash that was apparently incurable.
Tom Swift, with a dubious stroke of ingenuity, had an idea: since the Spectromarine Selector can remove the plant from buildings, why not see if it can remove the plant from skin? Tom tried it, and surpassingly, it worked. After cleaning the rash off of all of the men, Tom Swift ordered that gloves be worn to prevent further outbreaks.
Another problem Tom Swift had was in the repelatron. It seems that, when this book was written, the repelatron was not yet a perfected invention; to keep it working right it needed to be watched over every minute. The people he set over the repelatron, however, were not reliable; one of them goofed off, and as a result everyone came close to being squashed under thousands of feet of water.
How was this problem solved? Simply by adding another man to watch the repelatron, and bringing in a backup repelatron in case something went wrong with the first one.
Another problem Tom had had to do with one man's carelessness:
As Mel swung the machine around, Tom suddenly noticed that someone had left the entrance flap to the plastic dome open.
"Hey!" he called out to a crewman. "Zip up the--"
His warning was too late! The intake tube of the organ pointed straight toward the dome opening!
There was a startling whoosh as the powerful suction machine drew in a torrent of sea water. Queer-looking fish and sea creatures came hurtling into the dome!
They exploded right and left under the sudden release from the deep-ocean pressure! One--an enormous octopus--sent a shower of inky black fluid shooting in all directions!
Cleaning up the mess took a good while, and it taught Tom a lesson in carefulness.
Yet another problem Tom Swift had had to do with a flaw in his Spectromarine Selector:
A long fracture showed in the plastic dome! As they gaped, another crack appeared with a loud report. An instant later a chunk of plastic broke off and came clattering down, narrowly missing a crewman.
"Good grief! The dome's breaking up!" Bud gasped.
Tom was horrified. The enclosure was needed to maintain a stable atmosphere--without it, the osmotic air conditioner would no longer function properly! The atmosphere inside the air bubble would become unbearably humid!
"What's causing the breakup, Tom?" Bud cried, as shouts of alarm rose from all sides. More cracks appeared and another fragment broke off.
"Must be the organ!" Tom guessed, sizing up the situation fast. Breaking into a run, Tom dashed toward Mel Flagler's work crew. He cupped his hands and shouted. "Turn off the de-organic-izer!"
His words were drowned in a sudden fusillade of noise overhead. The dome, weakened by the cracks, was caving in completely! Whole sheets and chunks of the plastic ceiling came raining down in a deadly barrage as the yelling crewmen flattened themselves or ducked for cover.
The breakup continued for several moments. When Tom finally dared raise his head, he saw that little was left of the dome except the slender, shiny framework of magnesium struts.
What caused it? Read on:
"I still can't figure it out," Bud said, walking up to Tom with a puzzled air. "Why should the organ made the dome go to pieces?"
Tom picked up several of the plastic fragments and examined them. "This stuff's gone brittle as glass," he muttered. "Apparently the S-Co unit caused a chemical change in the plastic wherever the intake was carelessly aimed toward the dome. Once an internal strain was set up in the material, it was just a question of time before the whole dome cracked up.
"Oh, fine!" Bud said gloomily. "Does that mean we can't ever use the organ inside an air dome?"
"Depends on whether or not I can correct it," Tom replied. "We'd better stop work, anyhow, till we get a new dome."
After adjusting the air conditioner to compensate as much as possible for the changed conditions, Tom partly disassembled his spectromarine selector. He had the electronic controls of the S-Co unit moved into his laboratory.
How did he solve it?
The problem was not too difficult. The young inventor had already analyzed a piece of the broken plastic under his spectroscope to determine the exact chemical change that had taken place. The selector circuit of the S-Co would need an automatic control to prevent it from acting on any substance having the same carbon-hydrogen-oxygen ratio as Tomasite.
The tedious work would come in the actual rewiring of the electronic assembly. By midnight Tom finished the job and with a yawn turned in.
"Success?" Bud asked the next morning as Tom opened his eyes.
His chum nodded and soon the two were installing the alerted S-Co unit in the organ.
What plans did Tom Swift have for his Aurum City?Tom Swift's plans for the city were simple: he would enclose it with a hydrodome, clean up the city, turn it over to the United States Government, and open it up for tourists and scholars. After some trouble with air domes, Brungarians, and the like, Tom Swift did just what he had planned.
In the beginning of this book the United States government awards Tom Swift Sr. a contract to build a number of rockets. Tom Sr., however, had a problem: he couldn't get his hands on enough of the right alloy to fulfill the contract. Bud, somewhat jokingly, told him that what he needed was to come up with a rocket-age metal, which Bud said could be called Atomeron.
The job of discovering this new alloy naturally fell to Tom Swift Jr., and he did a splendid job of it. He did such a fantastic job, in fact, that Tom Sr. said that he could actually better the rocket contract deadline.
Want to find out the details on the properties, discovery and mining of this fantastic metal? Well, then, read onÖ
What were the terms of the rocket contract, and why was Tom Sr. concerned about meeting them?We are not told how many rockets were to be built. However, we were told that they were due in six months. Six months, to me, seems like a long time; however, Tom Sr. was very concerned about his ability to meet that deadline. Why was he concerned? Well, read on:
ÖMr. Swift shook his head worriedly. "My troubles are just beginning," he told the boys. "The terms call for faster production than I'd anticipated. Frankly, I'm afraid we can't deliver all the rockets on time--in fact, we'll be doing well to turn out half that number!"
"Why not use our facilities at Enterprises?" Tom urged. "Put everyone on the project!"
"It's not manpower," his father explained. "It's a matter of obtaining a prompt supply of the rare metals I need. I hate to fall down on the job when our country needs those rockets so urgently. But I've exhausted every means I know of to get those metals."
With a glum sign, Mr. Swift added, "It look as if the job may have to go to the next lowest bidder."
"What are the rare metals you need, sir?" Bud asked curiously.
"Some of them should be familiar to you, Bud." Mr. Swift smiled. "After all, you and Tom discovered the quarry where they're mined."
"Dad's talking about those so-called rare earths we found in New Guinea," Tom put in. "Remember?"
"Oh sure," Bud recalled. "You mean those metals with the jawbreaking names, like--well, like praseo-something."
Tom grinned. "Praseodymium. Yes, that's one of them, Bud., Anyhow, Dad's been using several of those rare-earth elements to produce the lightweight, high-strength alloy he needs for the air frame of his new rockets."
"Plus a few other rare metals," Mr. Swift added, "including Lunite from the phantom satellite."
The scientist went on to explain that the job of obtaining and combining these metals into a complex alloy had led to many production headaches.
"If only I could find a new metal with the right properties!" Mr. Swift mused wistfully. "Perhaps a metal which I could combine with plain magnesium. That would not only cut down the cost of the rockets but greatly speed up production!"
Bud, of course, had a solution to Tom Sr.'s alloy problems:
"What you need is a real atomic-age jet metal!" Bud quipped. "Let's see. You could call the new alloy 'atom-something.' Atomeron! How about that?"
"Good name." Mr. Swift grinned. "But first I'll have to find the right ingredient."
"Nothing to it, Dad," Tom said jokingly. "Just leave that to Barclay and Swift--Atomic-Age Prospectors, Incorporated!"
"Fine! But make it soon, please. Remember, that whole government contract has to be filled in six months."
Where did Tom find the right alloy?As it turned out, Tom Jr. didn't have any trouble in coming across the right alloy. The underwater city that Tom Swift Jr. had discovered and was in the process of restoring was practically built out of the very alloy Tom Sr. needed:
"Take a look, Bud! This statue isn't solid gold after all!" Tom pointed to the fractured surface of the metal. The piece had an inner core with a strange yellowish sheen. This was overlaid with a shell of gold.
"Tom," said Bud in awe, "I remember your saying the stuff might not be twenty-four-carat when we cleaned off that first building. But what's this metal inside?"
Tom shook his head, puzzled. "An alloy probably. I'll have to analyze it."
Tom Jr. did indeed analyze the metal. The metal proved to be very interesting:
"Ever seen a metal like this before, Dad?"
Mr. Swift examined the sample. A frown creased his brow. Taking out a high-powered, double-lensed pocket magnifier, he studied the surface of fracture.
"Hmmm. This is certainly new to me, Tom. It's an alloy, of course--probably with a gold base, although it seems very lightweight."
"Good guess, Dad." Tom explained that he had had a rough analysis made that morning. "This alloy does contain gold, but also an unusual combination of other elements, including scandium, rubidium, and beryllium."
And was the metal what they were looking for?
When they finished their experiment, Tom Sr. was glowing with enthusiasm. "No question about it," he declared, doffing his lab apron. He began to scour the chemical stains off his hands. "This alloy tops anything I had hoped to find. As a rocket metal, it's even better than our present alloy!"
Mr. Swift's face lit up at the news. "Tom, that's more than I dared hope for! Why, with a supply of this alloy, we could easily fulfill our rocket contract!"
Tom Sr., of course, would need a large quantity of this substance to fulfill his rocket contract. Melting down Aurum City was out of the question; however, Tom Jr. had another idea in mind:
Young Tom was already mentally evaluating their chances of locating the metal's source. "In view of those radioactive traces, Dad, I believe the alloy may come from somewhere near our undersea helium wells," he conjectured.
"[I propose] that we find out where this alloy came from!" Tom's voice took on a fresh note of excitement. "There's no sign of any mine or quarry near Aurum City, Dad, so both this alloy and the gold must have been bought from a distance. What's to prevent us from finding the source?"
How did Tom plan to mine the metal?Working a mine two miles beneath the ocean's surface is a very difficult task. Tom Jr., however, was an old hand at constructing underwater mines.
For the specific task of mining the substance, Tom Jr. invented something he called a selectrol filtration pump:
Mr. Swift agreed. But he shook his head worriedly at the job confronting them. "Even if we find the source," he pointed out, "it will be a stupendous operation to mine at such depths."
Again Tom had a ready answer. "Now with my new selectrol filtration pulp," he said quietly.
Mr. Swift's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Another new invention, son?"
"Actually I worked it out some time ago," Tom replied. "But I laid it aside when we took on this gold-city project."
The new device, Tom explained, was somewhat like a centrifuge used for spinning off cream from milk. "As you know, Dad," he went on, "when it's spun around, the cream--being the lightest part of the milk--is not thrown to the outside of the whirling mixture, and is drained off separately from the rest of the liquid."
"But this method, of course, works only with liquid mixtures," Mr. Swift remarked, "or suspensions which can be separated into a 'heavy' and a 'light' part, and has no effect on chemical solutions. For instance, a centrifuge couldn't remove the dissolved salt from sea water. So how can your invention separate the alloy from the rest of the dissolved ocean matter?"
"By a repelatron radiator at the center of the pump," Tom replied. "This would be tuned to repel only the alloy--in other words, force it to the outside of the sea water which is whirling around the pump casing."
Grabbing a pencil, Tom sketched his device. The spinning pump, or impeller, would be horizontal. A steady flow of sea water would be sucked in at the top and leave through a pipe at the bottom. The desired substance for which the repelatron was tuned--in this case, the alloy--would be piped off into a collection tank at one side.
This, Tom continued, formed only the "first stage" of his selectrol pump. There were also two other impeller stages to make sure that none of the desired substance was lost.
How was the mine located?As Tom Sr. pointed out in the book Tom Swift and his Undersea Search, finding anything underwater is an enormously difficult task. To enhance his chances of finding the underwater mine, Tom Jr. invented an underwater prospector.
The underwater prospector was basically a platform with a small hydrodome attached. The key part of this underwater prospector was Tom's new selectrol filtration pump, which filtered the Atomeron out of the seawater. When Tom started to get a lot of Atomeron out of the seawater, Tom assumed that they were getting closer to the mine; when the level of Atomeron dropped, Tom assumed that they were getting furthur away from the mine.
Once Tom found the general area of the mine, he used an enhanced Damonoscope to pinpoint the mine location.
Tom Swift and his Electronic Retroscope| Tom Swift and the Cosmic Astronauts | Index
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