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From The Darkness And The Depths
by [?]

I had known him for a painter of renown–a master of his art, whose pictures, which sold for high prices, adorned museums, the parlors of the rich, and, when on exhibition, were hung low and conspicuous. Also, I knew him for an expert photographer–an “art photographer,” as they say, one who dealt with this branch of industry as a fad, an amusement, and who produced pictures that in composition, lights, and shades rivaled his productions with the brush.

His cameras were the best that the market could supply, yet he was able, from his knowledge of optics and chemistry, to improve them for his own uses far beyond the ability of the makers. His studio was filled with examples of his work, and his mind was stocked with information and opinions on all subjects ranging from international policies to the servant-girl problem.

He was a man of the world, gentlemanly and successful, about sixty years old, kindly and gracious of manner, and out of this kindliness and graciousness had granted me the compliment of his friendship, and access to his studio whenever I felt like calling upon him.

Yet it never occurred to me that the wonderful and technically correct marines hanging on his walls were due to anything but the artist’s conscientious study of his subject, and only his casual mispronounciation of the word “leeward,” which landsmen pronounce as spelled, but which rolls off the tongue of a sailor, be he former dock rat or naval officer, as “looward,” and his giving the long sounds to the vowels of the words “patent” and “tackle,” that induced me to ask if he had ever been to sea.

“Why, yes,” he answered. “Until I was thirty I had no higher ambition than to become a skipper of some craft; but I never achieved it. The best I did was to sign first mate for one voyage–and that one was my last. It was on that voyage that I learned something of the mysterious properties of light, and it made me a photographer, then an artist. You are wrong when you say that a searchlight cannot penetrate fog.”

“But it has been tried,” I remonstrated.

“With ordinary light. Yes, of course, subject to refraction, reflection, and absorption by the millions of minute globules of water it encounters.”

We had been discussing the wreck of the Titanic, the most terrible marine disaster of history, the blunders of construction and management, and the later proposed improvements as to the lowering of boats and the location of ice in a fog.

Among these considerations was also the plan of carrying a powerful searchlight whose beam would illumine the path of a twenty-knot liner and render objects visible in time to avoid them. In regard to this I had contended that a searchlight could not penetrate fog, and if it could, would do as much harm as good by blinding and confusing the watch officers and lookouts on other craft.

“But what other kind of light can be used?” I asked, in answer to his mention of ordinary light.

“Invisible light,” he answered. “I do not mean the Roentgen ray, nor the emanation from radium, both of which are invisible, but neither of which is light, in that neither can be reflected nor refracted. Both will penetrate many different kinds of matter, but it needs reflection or refraction to make visible an object on which it impinges. Understand?”

“Hardly,” I answered dubiously. “What kind of visible light is there, if not radium or the Roentgen ray? You can photograph with either, can’t you?”

“Yes, but to see what you have photographed you must develop the film. And there is no time for that aboard a fast steamer running through the ice and the fog. No, it is mere theory, but I have an idea that the ultraviolet light–the actinic rays beyond the violet end of the spectrum, you know–will penetrate fog to a great distance, and in spite of its higher refractive power, which would distort and magnify an object, it is better than nothing.”