• U.S.

Science: Deep Dredge

3 minute read
TIME

John Cosgrove Williams is a short, chunky, grizzled engineer who talks a lot about God’s Infinite Plan and the Balance of Nature. Born 50 years ago in England, son and grandson of engineers, he took an engineering degree at Liverpool University, got a job with a London firm for which he built railroads, bridges and power plants in the East Indies. In 1909 he emigrated to California as a free-lance technologist. During the War he designed ships in Seattle.

Engineer Williams looks to the sea as the Mother of Life, as a great reservoir of mineral wealth and potential power. The influenza epidemic during the War gave him an idea that, since all living things came originally from the sea, he might find the source of the fatal influenza germs in the waters of the Pacific.

When he started to collect samples of sea water, he ran up against the problem of designing a bucket that would close tightly at considerable depths. This problem became so interesting that he forgot the medicinal aspects of his research, spent 20 years working out a practical deep-sea dredge. Few months ago he announced he was successful.

Naval officers and engineers of the Coast & Geodetic Survey watched Inventor Williams test his apparatus. The dredge was lowered through 1,000 feet of water where the jaws closed by hydraulic operation, bringing up large quantities of the bottom material. The witnesses had some difficulty understanding the hydraulic principle, even when the dredge was disassembled before their eyes, but they had no fault to find with its practical results.

According to Engineer Williams’ explanation, the dredge is lowered with jaws held open by counterweights. When a weight suspended on a chain beneath the dredge strikes the sea floor, slackening of the chain trips a valve-and-baffle-plate combination which admits outside water under high pressure (433 lbs. per sq. in. at 1,000 ft.) to a cylinder where it exerts a powerful push on a piston. Through a combination of levers, the piston movement closes the jaws of the dredge.

John Cosgrove Williams plans to build 20 ten-ton dredges for hunting undersea gold. Last week the first of these was completed. U. S. Government charts show the presence of gold in considerable quantities close to the surface of the sea-bottom off the Alaskan coast. Williams owns some shore land 18 miles south of Juneau, claims that bottom samples off this land assay $10 worth of gold per ton. He has no fear of competition because his dredge is protected by basic world patents.

Professor Börn Helland-Hansen, director of the Geophysical Institute of Bergen (Norway), saw the Williams dredge in action last week, commented: “Never have I seen a dredge which can bring up such quantities of material from the depths. It will be a distinct aid to scientific research as well as commercial gold mining.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com