The automobile Whitehead torpedo was a torpedo invented about 1864, and steadily improved since. It was cigar-shaped, made of steel or phosphor bronze, 18 to 20 feet or more in length, and 14 or 18 inches in greatest diameter. The explosive head contained a charge of over 100 lbs of wet gun-cotton, ready to be exploded when by impact with a vessel the pointed striker was driven in against the detonating charge of fulminate of mercury. Behind the explosive head there was the air-chamber, containing compressed air for driving the torpedo engine. Farther aft there was the 'balance chamber', containing an apparatus for keeping the torpedo at a fairly uniform depth, through the action of a swinging weight made to work horizontal rudders at the tail. In the 'buoyancy chamber' there was an ingenious steering apparatus for causing the torpedo to keep in a straight line for a great distance, depending on the principle of the gyroscope. The aftmost part of the torpedo was the tail, with vertical and horizontal rudders, and two screw propellers operated by the air-engine.
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A torpedo is a cylindrical or cigar-shaped vessel carrying a charge of high explosive and used as a weapon in naval warfare. Torpedoes were used during the American Civil War, but the modern torpedo was invented in 1864 as the Whitehead torpedo. Torpedoes and are effectively a small submarine comprised of three sections: the warhead, the firing mechanism and the engine equipment. Torpedoes suffer at long range from their relatively slow rate of travel which allows a target to take evasive action should the torpedo be observed.
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