|The first of two bombs explodes aboard Puritan.|
|Post-test inspection noted Puritan's armor cracked.|
The Navy moved Puritan to the Middle Ground (a place of shallow water in Hampton Roads, just south of Newport News) in early November 1910. Unlike his fellow officers, Captain Austin Knight believed in Isham’s invention, and even agreed to set off the bombs while on board the ship. One of the rising stars in the Navy, Knight had already published a standard text on seamanship and was serving as the Navy's inspector of special ordnance at the time of the test. He would not be alone on the ship. For reasons not known, the ship’s mascots, a cat and several chickens, were kept on board.
With the ship now sinking, Knight made an emergency distress call to the Norfolk Navy Yard to send tugs. The tugs, however, arrived too late and Puritan sank. Fortunately, since the test took place on the Middle Ground, Puritan did not sink completely underwater. While the ship was swamped and the armor cracked, the newspapers happily reported that the ship’s mascots were in fine shape.
|The second bomb caused several cracks in Puritan's hull and|
the ship began to take on water. Navy Yard tugs arrived too
late to save the ship before she went down.
Salvage teams eventually raised Puritan and took her to the Navy Yard for repairs. Knight went on to a distinguished Naval career and retired as commander-in-chief of the Asiatic Squadron. As for Isham, he continued to press for the Navy to adopt his invention until his death in the 1920s.
Four days after Isham's bombs rocked Hampton Roads, the cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-2) anchored a few miles east of Puritan to conduct the most revolutionary test of them all: flying a plane off of a ship.
Editorial Note: Thanks to Sarah Gath for correcting Mr. Isham's name.