Their construction required learned calculations; the wood selected had to be of the hardest substance, and their gearing all of brass; they were stretched with levers, tackle-blocks, capstans or tympanums; the direction of the shooting was changed by means of strong pivots; they were moved forward on cylinders, and the most considerable of them, which were brought piece by piece, were set up in front of the enemy.
The obelisk, having been placed on a kind of timber car or sledge, was drawn up by means of ropes and capstans. One edge of the base having been brought to its place on the pedestal, it was raised to a perpendicular position by ropes and pulleys attached to the heads of ten masts, five on each side.
The steam capstans tow considerably larger masses of goods than the horse capstans and also travel somewhat quicker, so that the launch has scarcely sufficient time to drop and raise the anchors and also to make double the journey.
Presently tall columns of steam burst from the 'scape-pipes of both steamers, two guns boom a good-bye, two red-shirted heroes mounted on capstans wave their small flags above the massed crews on the forecastles, two plaintive solos linger on the air a few waiting seconds, two mighty choruses burst forth and here they come!
On the land attachments being cut, the pontoons began to float off; but one of the capstans having given way from excessive strain, the tube was brought home again for the night. By next morning the defective capstan was restored, and all was in readiness for another trial.
The long flat beach, with its little irregular houses, wooden and brick, and its litter of capstans, and great boats, and sheds, and bare upright poles with tackle and blocks, and loose gravelly waste places overgrown with grass and weeds, wore as dull an appearance as any place I ever saw.
It was hard work and slow, that heaving at the capstans hour after hour, with the turbulent sea tossing about the little smacks, few of which were much above seventy tons burden. One or two in the fleet worked their capstans by steam-power an immense relief to the men, besides a saving of time.
The sailor's songs for capstans and falls are of a peculiar kind, having a chorus at the end of each line. The burden is usually sung, by one alone, and, at the chorus, all hands join in, and the louder the noise, the better. With us, the chorus seemed almost to raise the decks of the ship, and might be heard at a great distance, ashore.
Within foure daies iournie they came to a great Riuer: and they made a piragua or ferrie bote, and because of the great current, they made a cable with chaines, which they fastened on both sides of the Riuer; and the ferrie bote went along by it; and the horses swam ouer, being drawne with capstans. Hauing passed the Riuer, in a day and an halfe, they came to a towne called Capachiqui.
At the four corners of the square were placed military bands. Ropes were fastened to the upper part of the column, and worked by capstans. The monument fell with a tremendous crash, causing everything for a few moments to disappear in a blinding cloud of dust.