A really practical water automobile has solved one of the hardest problems incident to the draining of the Everglades of Florida; that of running the survey lines through the vast swamp. The machine, which so far has been given no name, was designed and constructed by Maj. J.O. Wright, chief engineer of the State of Florida. He built it because it was necessary in his business, and today engineers and surveyors running lines through the Everglades are blessing his name as they work in safety from the platform of the strange craft.
So slow and painful was the work of running the lines to mark the great canals designed to grade the Everglades, that Major Wright was sorely puzzled, and on several occasions almost discouraged. Then he put his wits to work, determined not to be beaten by a lot of water and a few million acres of soft, black mud, and as a result the water automobile came into existence.
The machine was not built for beauty, nor for speed, and it glides over the glades and through the water at a rate of only three miles an hour, but it has proven itself effective. It consists of a framework of light steel and oak, 25 ft. long and 8 ft. wide, mounted on three wheels, the two in front being of iron and very wide-rimmed, so as not to cut into the soft mud over which the machine has to pass. The rear wheel is a large wooden roller or drum, designed to crush down the tall saw grass as the craft proceeds. Surrounding the framework, and only a few inches above the ground, is a large air-filled steel cylinder, which keeps the machine afloat while crossing sheets of water. In the “bow” of the craft is a gasoline engine, which transmits power to the front wheels when the machine is crossing surfaces on which the wheels may be driven, or to an ordinary screw propeller, such as used on motorboats, for propulsion through the water. This propeller is under the machine, back of the front wheels, well out of the way when the machine is traveling as a land automobile.
On the framework of the machine is a platform, strong enough to hold a score of men. Here the engineers and the surveyors work, eat and sleep, and awning keeping off the direct rays of the sun. Two men are required for operating the machine, which is doing in a day work that formerly required a week or more.