Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A New Source of Power — Eels!

Get your investments in now!
Could the solution to our energy woes in 2014 been solved in a letter to the New-York Tribune, which was published on July 2, 1906? The newspaper published a letter by one “Fitz Nigel,” who told the readers of exciting new developments in the production of energy. He promised that this new source of power could potentially meet the electricity needs of the entire world.

What is this source of power? Was it ever implemented? According to Fitz Nigel, in the near future (for 1906), the world's energy needs were going to be supplied by electric eels.
Professor Esperando Only Waits Capital to Play Gymnotus Electricus on Market

To the Editor of the Tribune.
Sir: We have just received a letter from our counsel to Venezuela giving details of the recent experiments made in Caracas by Professor Don Quixote de Esperanto, head of the government college.

The electric eel (Gymnotus electricus), as is well known, is a habitat of South American water,s and the Orinoco River contains countless number of the them, and the professor has for many years been convinced that a new source of energy could be obtained from them, and to this end he had 100 averaged sized eels captured and a copper wire put around the neck of each just below the ears, and then connected them with a motor, the eels in the mean time remaining in the river near the shore, but he found in practice that their consort ions and violent flopping about soon tired them out and greatly lessened the electric current, which was intermittent and unsatisfactory. He therefore obtained another hunted, and put them in to a zinc bathtub which he had in his house, and connected it with a motor, and found that they produced about 20 horsepower. In other words each eel gave off about 150 watts of energy (there being 746 watts in one horsepower), and with this supply he ran a grist mill and lighted his house and grounds, the power from each eel being sufficient to supply forty-five 16-candle incandescent lights.

Although the electric eel, like the lightning bug, has long been a puzzle to scientists, Professor Esperando is satisfied that its electric energy ones direct from the sun, as after they have given off a supply for twenty-four hours, and have become limp and apparently lifeless, they again become highly charged with electricity when subjected to its direct ways. He also found out that the energy is better given off when the eels are kept in a close, dark receptacle.

As to the commercial value of the great discovery there can be no question, and the professor will arrive in New York in a few week to confer with prominent capitalists, who purpose forming a gigantic syndicate to control the whole thing, and a preliminary prospectus is now being issued showing the possibilities of the scheme, and as an illustration it shows that an ordinary 20-horsepower automobile can be run for twenty-four hours with but 100 eels in a tank three feet long and one and one-haft feet square, and weighting complete less than two hundred pounds. In fact, it is claimed that the largest ocean steams afloat can be run with 200,000 eels, producing 40,000 horsepower and contained in a tank not larger than 10 by 10 by 15 feet. This plant, of course, will have to be duplicated, so that when the energy in one is exhausted it can be hoisted from the hold to the boat deck so that the light from the sun can impart new energy, it being replaced in the mean time by the other plant.

We may here say that negotiations are on foot between the owners of the new hotel at Broadway and 42nd street for installing a complete eel plant to run the whole place, furnishing power, heat, light and cooking and at the very low cost of $500 a year, or less than one-tenth of the present price for the same service.

Eeleries are to be established throughout the country on main lines of travel so that automobiles can be supplied at slight expense. Hospitals in every city will also have eel pots, as it is now well know that the remedial action of animal electricity is far superior to the mechanical.

We may here say that the prolificness of the eel almost stagger belief, as the spawn of the female contains nearly twenty thousand eggs, and if only half become productive it is simply a matter of arithmetic to figure out the number of eels required to furnish the power wanted for the whole world.
Okay, it’s clearly a joke. In various other issues of the Tribune, Nigel offered up letters to the editor with other (improbable) scientific advancements, but the name seems to be chiefly affixed to light verse. They don’t print stuff like this anymore.

The professor's name in the first paragraph was a dead giveaway. "Don Quixote"? Gotcha. And if the eel-powered hotel at the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street ever existed, I must have missed it on my visits to New York.

And it wasn't even April Fools Day.
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