History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
Captain Basil C. Combe
January 6th. 1895. Sunday. For the last two days I have been kept in bed with a bad cold and throat. I have strict orders not to get up, so have to pass my time away in reading. Whilst having breakfast in bed this morning my Sister brought me a letter, to my great surprise I found it was from Mr. Matthew Gray of the Silvertown Telegraph Company. It was to ask me whether I would be at liberty to accept the post of Chief Officer of their Telegraph S.S. "Dacia" and, if so, to write at once, as she was expected to sail at very short notice. Just fancy! You can imagine my astonishment, as I had never been Chief Officer before and had to be asked whether I would accept this offer. I at once replied, saying that I should be at their service on Tuesday next. Although I was ill in bed I was not going to let that stop me from taking such
an appointment. So the next day, Monday, I got up, packed my chest and all that I thought I should want for a voyage to the West Coast of Africa, as it was there, Mr. Gray said the S.S. "Dacia" would be going.
January 8th. This morning I said good bye to all at home and caught the early morning train up to London. I was by no means well, but I managed to pull myself together, enough to make a start. I arrived in London at noon and from there caught the first train to Silvertown. I went straight to the Submarine Office and saw Mr. Gray. He was exceedingly nice and told me the S.S. "Dacia" would be sailing in about a week, but the reason he wanted me to join at once, was, in order to get things into shipshape condition and get her ready for sea. I went on board from there and had a look around and then came back to London. I went and stayed with my old friend in Hampstead, in the same rooms as I had been before.
January 9th. At 9:30 a.m. I was aboard the S.S. "Dacia", she was laying in the Royal Victoria Docks, the Captain was the same man as I was in the S.S. "Silvertown" with, the 2nd. officer was also an old shipmate, so I was not a complete stranger. Well I had a very busy day, seeing after everything and finding out all that was required, also engaging new men etc.
January 16th. 1895
January 17th. At 6 a.m. all hands were aboard and busily engaged in unmooring the Ship. By 7 a.m. we passed out of the Victoria Dock gates and proceeded down the river. We arrived at Greenhithe at 10:30 a.m. and there let go anchor. In the afternoon we swung the Ship to adjust our compasses.
January 18th. At daylight we hove up our anchor and set on for our voyage to the West Coast of Spain, to repair the Cadiz and Teneriffe cable, which had broken down about 230' (miles) from Cadiz. At Gravesend we discharged our River pilot and took on board our Channel pilot. On passing Dover we slowed the engines down and sent the pilot ashore; then we set on full speed, shaping our course down channel.
January 25th. This morning at daylight we sighted Cadiz right ahead. At 11.0 a.m. we were snugly moored inside Cadiz Bay. As soon as our anchor was down our electricians went ashore to the Cable hut, in which the end of the cable is placed and there commenced to test it, to find out exactly where the cable was broken.
January 26th. The electricians have been testing and working the cable all night, they have now found out the exact position of the fault. They came on board about 10 a.m. and within an hour had got under weigh and were
steering a straight course for the given
position of the fault, which was 235 miles from this port. At 7 a.m. the Captain and I
went ashore to take artificial horizon sights of the
[Editor's note: the symbol used by Combe is navigator's shorthand for "the sun", the line below it meaning shooting the lower limb of the sun. See page 75 below for Combe's detailed explanation of the technique. When the symbol is inverted it means the lower limb of the sun was obscured, perhaps by cloud, and the sight had to be taken using the upper limb. See this page for more information on the artificial horizon]
January 28th. At 5 this evening we found ourselves in position for grappling, so stopped the ship and lowered a mark buoy down to mark the position. We put lights on it before dark and dodged around it all night.
January 29th. At twilight we took some good sets of Stellar observations and verified our position. We then lowered our grapnel and commenced to drag across the line of cable. After having made one long drag, without any results, we hove up the grapnel and started sounding in different positions, as the bottom was somewhat irregular.
February 2nd. For the last five days we have been sounding all around within a radius of 10' (miles) from the buoy, finding in places a considerable difference in depth from that marked on the charts. We have numerous buoys down now, each with different coloured flags on, marking certain places where the bottom is so uneven. Just before dark this evening we lowered one of our boats, and lit up one of the buoys and from it we took our position of the different soundings during the night.
February 3rd. This morning the weather set in thick and commenced to blow from the S.W. with heavy squalls of rain and as the sea
soon got up we were forced to lay by one of the buoys and just keep dodging around it all day and night. The next day we did the same thing as the weather was worse. The barometer began to fall and there was every indication of some bad weather approaching, so we decided to dodge around the buoys all night and at daylight to run for Mazagan. (Morocco Coast)
February 5th. At daylight we set on full speed for Mazagan, taking our departure from the buoys. We had a fair wind, so set all sail. At 11.0 a.m. we sighted land, right ahead, stretching far away on both bows. We ran up close along the coast, until we came across a few huts in a sort of bay. We hauled her out, as there was a large reef, running out about a mile into the sea. We gave this a good wide berth, then hauled in. As soon as we got to leeward of the reef, the sea was quite smooth. Outside there was a heavy sea running. We ran right up into 7 fathoms and then let go anchor and there we lay quite snug and waited till the blow was over. Just on the outside of this reef we saw the wreck of some steamer. She had been there about 5 months. Her back was broken and she was quickly breaking up.
February 8th. We have been laying here since the 5th. The breeze seems to have blown itself out now, so this morning about 8 we hove up our anchor and set out for our buoys again; a run of about 40 miles. At 2.0 p.m.
we sighted one of the buoys from the topsail yard, and by 3 p.m. we were alongside it. We put fresh lights on it and commenced to do some more sounding.
February 9th. Sounded all day. In the evening we dodged around the buoy as there was too much sea for grappling.
February 10th. Dodging around the buoys all day and night. Heavy swell running. We had to dodge about all the next day as it was too rough for grappling.
February 12th. This morning we got the ship into position and lowered the grapnel down and steamed slowly toward the line of cable. At 2 p.m. the strain on the dynamometer went slowly up from 2.5 tons to 5.5 tons, so we stopped the ship and sounded, finding 500 fathoms. The strain was still up to 5.5 tons, so we hove up on the grapnel rope. As soon as the grapnel was off the bottom, the strain went up to 6 tons, so we knew we had hold of the cable. By 2:36 p.m. the bight of the cable was at the bows. The grapnel had a splendid hold of it. We got the cable aboard and tested both ends. As soon as we cut the bight; we found the cable to be perfect towards Teneriffe, but there was a fault in the Cadiz half, about a mile from where we picked it up, so we put a buoy on the Teneriffe end and let it go, then, we picked up a mile of cable towards Cadiz and cut again, finding this time we could get communication easily, so we knew we must have the faulty
cable on board. Well, as soon as the cable was thoroughly tested and found to be in good order; we spliced on a piece of new cable and laid it towards the buoy we had let go on the Teneriffe end and tested it thoroughly. After having picked up this buoy and put him on board again, we lay to, head to the wind, whilst we tested and spliced the two ends of the cable together again. This splicing and testing is a matter of about 4 to 5 hours. After the splice was finished, we threw the whole lot overboard and gave "three cheers", thinking we had been very lucky in finishing the repair so quickly. As soon as the final bight was gone we steamed around our buoys, picking them up, one by one, as we came to them.
February 13th. At 10 a.m., we had picked up all our buoys, having been at work all night, so set on for Cadiz.
February 14th. We arrived at Cadiz and let go anchor in the early hours of the morning. About 10 a.m. the electricians went ashore to make their final tests of the cable, before leaving the port.
February 16th. Awaiting to hear the results of the final tests of the cable. This evening we had a large dinner party on board. A number of ladies and gentlemen came off from the shore. After dinner we had music, singing and dancing, everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves.
February 19th. The electricians have found the
cable tests to be very satisfactory, so now we are able to shape our course homewards again, as our orders are for London. We are to sail at daylight tomorrow morning.
February 20th. At 4:30 a.m. the Pilot boarded us. We hove up anchor and set on for home.
February 22nd. We were now well in the Bay of Biscay, but as we have a strong and increasing N.E.ly breeze; we cannot do much against it. - 4 p.m. the breeze has freshened into a strong N.E.ly gale, with a high confused sea and swell. The old Ship is straining herself terribly, - 8.0 p.m. Strong gale with violent squalls, high confused sea, Ship labouring heavily, speed 3.0 k.p.h. Midnight, fierce gale, Ship not steering, rolling heavily, shipping quantities of water. At 2 a.m. I think we were in the worst of it, one could not stand on his feet. The ship would not steer. We were at the mercy of the wind and waves, everyone got thrown out of his bunk, the seas got down the saloons and flooded our cabins. At last the Captain came on the bridge and gave orders to turn her around and run back again for Cape Finisterre. As soon as she was around we set all the square sail and she then went along as dry as a duck on the water, at about 10.0 k.p.h. This was at 2 a.m. on the 23rd.
February 24th. This is a morning I will never forget, nor, do I think many others will, who were on deck at the time of the occurrence; it was one of the nearest shaves I have ever been into in a case of collision. I will tell you how it
happened. I think I shall be able to express myself more clearly using nautical phraseology. At 4.0 a.m. I relieved the second officer on the bridge, he gave my course he was steering and reported the lights were burning brightly, nothing, he said, was in sight, and Mack A.B. was on the lookout and with this went below. I had a look at the compass to make sure the correct course was being steered, then had a good look around for ships, but could see nothing. At 4:30 a.m. the lookout reported "A light on the port bow Sir", I answered him as usual "all right". I took my glasses, which I always keep on the bridge, and went to the port side of the bridge and saw the mast head light of a steamer three points, i.e. 36 degrees on the port bow, I could not see either of his side lights, so knew he must be at least 4' (miles) away. I then had another look at the compass and walked up and down a bit, knowing that it would be some little time before he got near to us. We were going at the rate of about 9.0 k.p.h. with all sail set, the yards being braced sharp up on the starboard tack to a strong W.N.W.ly breeze, the sea was, although running up from the N.N.W. on our starboard quarter. When I looked at the steamer's light a second time I saw his mast head and green, this telling me he was crossing my bows and by the rules of the road it was his duty to get out of my way; whilst I had to stand on. I sung out to the man at the wheel "mind your steering" I kept my glasses on the mast head and green
to see what he intended to do, whether he intended to cross my bow or port and show his red, on he came, at last he ported and came down on all three lights, then he shut in his green, leaving red to red, which would have taken him well clear of us if he had but stood on at that, but no, he starboarded his helm again, opening out all three lights, and came down straight for us; on seeing the wild way in which he was steering I thought it best to give him a wide berth, so gave the man at the wheel to "Port a point" , "Port it is Sir" he replied at once, this brought our Companion a point more on the bow; as soon as we had come up this point our square sails shivered in the wind; on our friend came, he had by this time shut in hid red and opened his green broad out, he was about 1' (mile) off when he did this; well I hung on to my point to port so as to let him see what I was doing, but he seemed to take no notice; by this time it was getting most uncommonly uncomfortable and I knew if something was not done at once he would be having his stem into our side, so I did not wait a moment longer; I sung out to the helmsman "Hard a Port", "hard off it is Sir" he replied, as soon as he had done it, then the square sails caught a back and the fore and afters were in the wind; as soon as she answered her helm, I sung out "Let go everything and clew up" and "Call all hands", the next
second ropes ends were flying about everywhere and all hands came rushing up in their sleeping gear, the first thing they saw was the great black monster about 0'6 (0.6 miles) off us, still coming down on the green; they all readily assisted in clewing up, the same time as I gave the order to call all hands I went to the engine room telegraph, which is on the bridge and run up "Full Ahead" twice and then "Stand by", they understand by that, there is something wrong, so open her out and give her all she can carry. I rushed along the deck to the chart room after having done this, to call the Captain. I pulled the door open and sung out to him "For God's sake come out", that was enough for him, he came running back to the bridge with me in the pitch dark, of course it was rather a startler for him to see this ugly black brute all but on top of us; I told him as quietly as I could at the time what had occurred and what I had done, he said "Blow the whistle one blast", this indicating "I am altering my course to port"; We blew and blew and exhibited red and blue lights for danger, after having shown the lights, this steamer put his helm hard a port and stopped his engines and not a bit too soon, for I am perfectly certain he was not a ships length off us when our stern swung across his bows, it was pitch dark, we could not see a soul aboard him; well he kept his helm
down and turned around on is heel, broadside to the sea and I am exceedingly glad to say he got far more than he wanted, as he lay in the trough of the sea wallowing in it, we could just see the water rushing out of him as he gave some terrific rolls. As soon as we were clear of him we straightened ourselves up on our course again, we kept our course for about five minutes when the Captain suddenly altered his mind and decided to chase this steamer till daylight to get his name and so be able to report him. We turned at once and ran for him, but he was far too smart for us and ran us out of sight before daylight, all we could see of him was a black funnel and two masts, that was very vague as so many vessels are rigged like that. This was a most uncomfortable time for me on the bridge, as I should have been responsible for every ones life had anything happened, because I had altered my course when I should have kept straight on, but what was one to do with such a steamer as that to deal with. Every one that understands the rule of the road will agree with me in what I did in such a case, but had it been a steamer under command of some one who understood what he was doing, on the bridge, I should never had an occasion to alter my course, but as it was I doubt very much whether any one was there. I expect the officer who was supposed to be on duty was in the galley drinking his coffee, that is where a lot get to, I am sorry to say,
in some of these tramps and that is how it is so many accidents occur. It was a similar case to ours that the "Elbe" was run into, the officer there was found in the galley. The Steamer that ran into her came down with his green and mast head light on her bow and I dare say had they had time in the "Elbe" to do what I did they would have all been saved. - Motto - "Give all vessels a wide berth."
February 25th. At daylight this morning we had Cape Finisterre well in sight. We rounded the Cape about 8 a.m. and steamed up slowly to leeward. A pilot boarded us and took us up a very narrow channel, between some very dangerous sunken rocks. We eventually got into a river and steamed up right away into the Country where there was not a sign of wind, but it was blowing as hard as ever outside. Well we went right up to the end of this river and let go anchor off a small village called Corcubion, where we lay very snugly. The Captain at once telegraphed home, of having put in here through stress of weather.
February 26th. We laid here all day, waiting for orders. Some of the staff went ashore to have a run.
February 27th. This morning we took some coal aboard, in case we should not have enough to take us home.
February 28th. Early this morning we received a telegram from home saying. "Cable broken down. Return to Cadiz at once." Everyone was
very much disgusted at this. Well we hove up as soon as we got steam up and set on for Cadiz. The gale by this time was about finished, but what was left made a fair wind for us.
March 2nd. At 10 this morning we were abreast of the Burlings, passing the Islands about 1-1/2 ' (miles) off. From here we shaped our course direct to Cape St. Vincent. We rounded the Cape in the early morning, altering our Course to about E.S.E. and put her on at extra speed, to make the Port before dark. At 5.0 p.m. we sighted Cadiz Cathedral standing out with the sun shining on its dome, as though it was standing straight out of the water. It was an hour after this before we were able to make out the town. At 7.0 pm we were inside the Bay with both anchors down.
March 5th. At two o'clock this afternoon the electricians returned on board, having located the break in the cable, so as soon as we received out orders and position to steer to; we hove up our anchors and set on at full speed. This was at 8.0 p.m. One of our electricians, with the two permanent operators, had to stay on shore at the cable hut on the beach, so as to be able to look after the cable whilst we were away and reply to us as soon as we picked up the cable and tested it at sea. This is not a very nice occupation for them, as they are not allowed to leave the hut until they get direct orders from us on board the ship at sea. They have to continually watch the "spot". Sometimes they are months there, waiting, waiting, waiting, expecting every minute to see
the spot move; but until we are able to pick the cable up and test it; the spot will never move. These cable huts, as a rule, are at least three or four miles away from any town, village or house; so they see no one except their one native servant who cooks, and runs messages for them.
March 6th. As we had only 30' (miles) to go from Cadiz, to the position where the cable was broken down after getting clear of the sand banks etc. along the coast. At daylight this morning we took star observations to verify our position and then put a mark buoy down, to fix the spot. As soon as this was done, we lowered our grapnel and commenced dragging across the line of cable. We dragged all day, but with no results, so just before night came on we put lights on the buoy and dodged around him all night.
March 7th. At daylight we set on from the buoy for another position further south and there put down another mark buoy. We then commenced dragging again. We dragged all day and all the next day, backwards and forwards, across the line of cable, but could hook nothing but an occasional rock; which would carry away our grapnel, and that means heaving up and replacing it, before we can go on again.
March 9th. At 8 this morning, the weather looked very threatening, with the wind and sea increasing; so we picked up our grapnel and went sounding in certain positions, where we were doubtful of the nature and depth of the bottom. It is impossible to drag in bad weather,
but we can sound in moderate weather, as long as the sea is not too rough. We sounded in several places and then went and had a look at our buoys and saw they were all right. The weather continued to get worse and worse till at last we were not able to sound any longer. At 6.0 p.m. we went to one of the buoys to put lights on him, but when we got there, the sea was running so heavily, we did not consider it safe to lower our boat, so we left it and tried to keep him in sight as long as possible, but we soon lost sight of it. Ay 10.0 p.m. it was blowing a living gale of wind. We were forced to get up full speed, and head the wind and sea. The wind was blowing from the Westward, thus driving us onto a lee-shore. We at first decided to run back to Cadiz, that being our nearest port, but on second thoughts; we came to the conclusion that mouth of the Bay of Cadiz was broad open to all westerly winds and seas and therefore would be no more shelter for us than in the open sea, so decided to stay where we were and ride it out.
March 10th. During all last night, it was blowing as hard as we thought it possible to blow, but no; we were mistaken. At 10 this morning, the wind blew with unabated force and the sea running mountains high. We were steaming at full speed, head to the wind and sea all the time, and just managed to hold our own as we thought, but at noon as it was blowing a hurricane; we were no longer to face it. Although we still kept up our speed
head to wind and sea the Ship gradually commenced to fall off, against her helm and would not steer. We set our after canvas to keep her head up, but no sooner was it set than away it went blown to shreds, only leaving a few rags, scattered about the rigging. We then put tarpaulins in the mizzen rigging, rigging but they did not last long and we were then at the mercy of the wind and waves. The Ship fell right off into the trough of the sea, broadside on. Then the damage began. We commenced to roll our gunwales under. Every one about the deck was washed around everywhere. We had to hang on by our eyebrows. We gave one tremendous roll, just as I was standing by the mizzen rigging; I heard a crash overhead and on looking up; saw the point of the gaff coming straight for my head; so without a moments hesitation I threw myself down flat on the deck and the gaff end just grazed my back and before I knew where I was I was in the lee scuppers, drinking salt water. I picked myself up and jumped into the rigging with the Boatswain and between the two of us, we managed to get a lashing or two passed around the gaff and the rigging. During the time we were in the rigging this gaff was flying from one side to the other. It was hung up like a pendulum and every time it struck the rigging, it caught either the Boatswain's fingers or my feet, and by doing so, nearly threw us out of the rigging, into the water which did not look very tempting. We continued our heavy
rolling, and each roll did some damage. The next thing that went adrift was our gig, which was hung up on davits, on the starboard quarter about 9 feet from the upper rail the old ship took a dive, and then another tremendous roll, and sent a sea over the quarter, smothering the gig. As soon as she cleared herself, we found that instead of a gig being hung 9 ft. above the rail, she was 6 ft. below it. The davits were snapped in half by the sudden strain, and there they lay over the side. All hands were sent aft, and we managed to save the boat, by putting rope lashings all around her, and hanging her to the rail. She was full of water and had her back broken and several planks stove in. The next thing to go was our large No. 1 Cutter, a boat that could hold 55 men, she was hanging in her davits amidships, but swung outboard, in case of emergency. A sea struck her and filled her, carrying away the short hangers and gripes, and drawing the staple of the after fall clean out of the stern sheets. As soon as the ship righted herself and rolled to starboard; the cutter came crashing against the ship's side, being hung up by the forward fall. The next roll she filled again, and the next roll she gave to starboard, crash came the cutter against the ships side, carrying everything before it. The Captain gave orders to cut away the forward fall and clear the wreck. I ran for an axe, but before I had time to get up the davit and
cut away the fall, a sailor got up there; so I handed him the axe and he cut away; down she came, and dropped into the water, but I do not think she floated long as we soon lost sight of her. The next thing to get adrift was our steam launch, a sea struck her and shifted her almost clear out of her bed. All hands were soon on the spot, and what with ropes, wires, hawsers and tackles; we managed to secure her before she did any damage. The last thing of all to go overboard was our livestock. We had six fine big bullocks aboard, some we had just taken on board in Cadiz, well they got adrift and began flying about the decks, quite mad. They were soon knocked off their feet by the rolling of the ship and as soon as they fell, they were helpless. The poor beasts broke their legs and necks, three were washed overboard, the other three were killed and threw overboard. All this happened in the course of a few hours, so you see we were pretty busy. At 8.0 p.m. it was blowing as hard as ever with no signs of a change. The Barometer was still falling. We were helpless to do more than we were doing, and that was keeping her head to the wind and sea as much as possible. We shipped a sea some time after 8.0 p.m., which struck the funnel and stove in the two after plates, in consequence of which we had the steam and smoke flying all over the decks. We had everything secure and well fast by about 10.0 p.m. and then stood by, ready for a moments notice, no one thought
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of going to bed, knowing that it would be a wet bed and possibly a watery grave; because I can positively say, there was not a men on board who ever expected to see daylight again. At 11:30p.m. the man on the lookout reported a light on the starboard quarter; we looked and there saw the masthead and red light of a steamer about a mile off. We watched her closely, then we saw her green and all three lights. She was in the same state as we were, not under control. We blew our whistle to warn her away, but on she came, straight for us. We put a light over the stern, but that had not been there a minute before it was smashed to pieces. We exhibited blue lights and blew the whistle, but she still came on. The Captain sent down to the engine room to put her on, all that was possible, to try and get out of her way. We then managed to cant her head about three points and by doing so we cleared her. I can without exaggerating say that she was not 20 feet off our stern when we crossed her bows. We could plainly see she was a large steamer, she was rolling terribly, even worse than we were, her rails were under water all the time and when she lifted; the water simply rushed out in torrents through her ports and scuppers. We could even hear her machinery racing every time her screw left the water. When she cleared us we never saw her again. Perhaps you readers have heard about the
large Spanish Man of War than went down
with all hands in this same gale. She must have been very close to us when she foundered,
but we never saw her. She left Tangier that afternoon to run to Cadiz and during that
short passage she was doomed and some hundreds of lives were lost. She was sighted by a
steamer in the afternoon and was reported as labouring heavily.
startled by a terrific noise, then a crash over head. On going aft we found the guy for the mizzen derrick had been carries away and there was this long 40 foot. derrick swinging from one side to the other, each time crashing into our starboard surf boat. We got the bight of a rope and made one end fast and threw the loop over the boom end and caught a turn with the other end and kept him quiet in the rigging, till we got a new guy fitted and then we hauled him into his place again.
March 11th. At daylight this morning the wind had shifted into the N.W. and had slightly decreased, but the sea was running terrifically high; instead of the long and continuous westerly sea and swell that we had all day yesterday, we now had a confused Westerly and N.W.ly sea which kept us everlastingly rolling. The Captain not thinking it prudent to battle with the gale any longer, decided to turn her around and make for Gibraltar, as the ship was straining and labouring so heavily and the Chief Engineer began to feel very uneasy about the ships engines, as it was discovered that the port main boiler was commencing to work in its bed; besides that her old timbers began to creak; every time she gave a pitch the propeller would come out of the water and send a shudder throughout the ship, enough to tear the stern out of her. It was 6.0 a.m. when we put the helm hard down to run before it, ever one had strict orders from
the captain to go below and clear the decks, and luckily they did, because no sooner were we off two points from our course than we shipped a sea just abaft the fore rigging, which smothered the old ship fore and aft - where she lay for a few minutes like a half tide rock, all that could be seen about the decks was the picking up machinery and the poor cook who had locked himself in the galley to keep the water out, but it got through his doors and there he was with his head through the skylight, singing out murder and up to his waist in water. It took us about five minutes to get her before it, but when once the sea got abaft the beam the old ship picked herself up again and went spinning before it. The next thing was where were we - we did not know but what we might be running dead on a lee shore, not having had any observation of the sun, moon or stars for so long a time, all that could be done was to put trust in Providence and keep a sharp lookout - this was done - two hands were put on the forecastle and another on the topsail yard - the Captain and all our staff were on the bridge, anxiously scanning the horizon. At 7.0 a.m. the Captain told me to work up the dead reckoning and put her position on the chart, this I did, but it was very rough D.R. as we could not tell whether we had made any headway since the night of the 9th., or whether we had been driven to leeward. The position I placed the
ship was roughly 35' (miles) from the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar and the course straight in was S 72 E. - We steered this and went on one might say almost blindfolded. I took a sounding with the patent sounder whilst going at the rate of over 9.0 kph., expecting to find a depth of over 150 fathoms, but to my surprise I only got 50 fathoms, s.sh. (?) I reported this at once to the Captain, we then came to the conclusion that we were far nearer land than we expected. At 8.0 a.m. the water began to get green and shallow looking, but we could see no land. At 8:15 a.m. the man from the topsail yard reported land right ahead stretching away broad on the on the port bow, on looking with the glasses we could faintly distinguish the loom of land, but as the land was thick and hazy it was hard to make out, we continued our course until we came within 5' (miles) of land and in 20 fathoms of water, we could then make out some conspicuous marks on shore and comparing them with the chart we found we were about 8' (miles) to the northward of Tarifa L.H. (lighthouse), which is at the northern entrance of the straits, instead of being 5' (miles) to the southward of it. We were altogether 30' (miles) out of our position, having been driven to leeward that distance in so short a time. Our minds were greatly relieved when we got cross bearings and fixed our position. We hauled her out and shaped
our course around Cape Tarifa and then ran directly down for Gibraltar Bay. We had a leading wind through the gut, it blew through there as though through a funnel. We sighted Gibraltar Rock right ahead about 11.0 a.m. and steamed for the anchorage, but instead of bringing the ship around broadside to wind and sea again which we should have had to do to anchor there, we let her go on and brought up in 16 fathoms of water, at Algecira, (a town on the opposite side of the bay to Gibraltar) we let go anchor at 1.0 p.m. and lay there the rest of the day. Everyone was so tired and exhausted, they all turned in then and had a jolly good sleep.
March 12th. At daylight this morning the breeze was done and the barometer was up again. We hove up anchor and steamed over to Gibraltar to replace our stock of coals and provisions and repair our damages, sustained during our last few days knocking about. The old ship looked a perfect wreck, her outside was smothered in rust, where she had opened her sore places through heavy straining and the salt water had been in, she looked in fact as though she had been to the bottom for several months and brought up again.
March 15th. At noon today, after having received all necessary repairs etc. we hove up and set on full speed for our buoys again. The weather had completely changed and was now fine, with a comparatively smooth sea.
March 16th. 1895. At 5:30 a.m. we took star observations and found we were within 5' (miles) of our most southern buoy, so steamed for him to see how he had ridden the gale out, we did not see him till we were within a quarter of a mile from him, as the staff and flag had gone by the board, he was just floating about 4 feet above water. We lowered our surf boat and placed a new flag staff and flag on it and left it, making for the other buoys, which we found all in their right places, but all minus flag and staff. After having done this we lowered our grapnel and dragged over new ground. We dragged all the remainder of that day and throughout the night, but caught nothing. We hove up then and sounded again and put down two more buoys and dragged around them, but with the same result.
March 18th. After having dragged for the last two days, over and over nearly the same spot and got nothing, we steamed 10 miles further south and placed a buoy down there. At noon today we had got our grapnel down and commenced steaming across the line of cable, we passed over and over it and got nothing. At 8.0 p.m. we were forced to stop and pick up the grapnel, owing to a heavy southerly swell that was rolling up, the wind was increasing as well, so we slowed down and dodged around the buoy. At midnight the second officer reported that there was a
very strong breeze blowing and the sea was very rough, as soon as the Captain went on deck and cast his weather eye around and looked at the barometer, he sent down word to the Engineer that he wanted all possible steam, as he was going to run for Cadiz, as he expected another hurricane. By 2.0 a.m. we were bowling along with all canvas set, making for Cadiz. We arrived there during the afternoon and got well up the river into a snug anchorage and intended this time to ride it out a little more comfortably than the last one.
March 20th. After having taken all these precautions for the expected gale, we found on turning out this morning that it had all blown over and passed to the northward of us; so we got up steam again and cleared out to sea as soon as possible. When we came to the first buoy we put down, we stopped and lowered the grapnel, to the north this time, of it and tried our luck there; we were about a mile to the eastward of the buoy when the strain rose slowly on the dynamometer; we stopped and commenced to pick up with a strain of 5 to 6 tons; as soon as the grapnel was off the bottom we had a steady 4-1/2 tons, this telling us that we had hold of the cable. We picked it up, cut it and tested, finding that communication towards Cadiz was perfect, but a defect in the other piece, a few miles from us. We buoyed the Cadiz end and picked up towards Teneriffe; we picked up about two miles when the strain went way up to a
10 ton strain and the cable broke, having been foul of some rocks at the bottom. We dragged and dragged for this end but could not find it again. The cable was deeply buried in thick hard yellow clay, so hard that the grapnel would go more than about 6" into it. We then decided to leave that spot somewhere further south along the line of the cable where the bottom was better. We sounded every 1' (mile) but got specimens of the same bottom all the way along for 20' (miles). We placed a buoy down here then sounded around for another 5' (miles) and placed another buoy there. We spent three days sounding before we started to drag. On the third day we lowered away and dragged about for 1' (mile) each side of the supposed line.
March 28th. For the last four days we have been dragging, dragging, dragging but have caught nothing. There is only one place more to try and that is 5' (miles) further south, so we so intended going there this afternoon, if we get nothing before. We have discovered plenty of rocks and that is all, but no cable. We have now made 33 drags for this end, but without result. At 4.0 p.m. we hove up and steamed south again for 5' (miles) and placed a buoy down. At 8.0 p.m. we were 4' (miles) to the westward of the buoy and line of cable and set on at a slow speed to cross the line. At midnight all hands turned in, giving the case up as hopeless; there was just the officer on the bridge and a few men about the decks,
left to watch the dynamometer, no one expected to see the blessed thing move, but happily at 3.0 a.m. punctually there was a slight kick in him, all eyes were eagerly on him, the dragging strain had been 1 ton throughout the night, but now it was 1-1/2 tons, then it dropped again, then it rose to two tons, then it fell, some said it was rocks, some mud, others clay, but none said cable, it rose again 2 tons, 2-1/2 tons, 3, 4, 4, and steady at 4 tons. The excitement was intense, the ship was stopped and all hands called. We gradually hove up, slowly, slowly, slowly, average strain 4 to 5 tons. We got the grapnel off the bottom with a strain at 6 tons, this gave us joy, but we knew we were going to have some trouble with it, because it was an old cable, having been down 13 years and its breaking strain then was 7 tons, so we had to be careful with it, as we had to break it out of the mud; we had a 1000 fathoms of rope and chain out at 3.0 a.m. when we commenced to heave in, at 4.0 a.m. we had still 900 fathoms, we picked up very slowly till we got 500 fathoms in, then the strain went down to 4 tons again, so we picked up faster, anyhow it was not till noon that we sighted the cable. We got him cut and brought both ends aboard and tested them, finding perfect communication towards Teneriffe, so we buoyed that end and left it, picking up on the bad piece towards Cadiz; we picked up nearly all of it, but just before we came to the end it broke, so we left the remaining piece. We sighted our Cadiz cable buoy and set on for Cadiz
to report and to receive orders; also to tell the Spanish Government that the reason for out delay was owing to the cable having been set three miles out of position from where it was laid 13 years ago, by the current and indraft that sets into the straits of Gib.
April 3rd. After having been here (Cadiz) for two days and having received our orders to take several more soundings and lay a new piece of cable in an angle shape between the buoys, we set on this morning to carry the orders out. We made the Cadiz cable buoy in the afternoon and put lights on him, dodging around him all night. In the morning we ran the distance between the Teneriffe cable buoy and the Cadiz cable buoy to make sure what cable would be required. After this we took a number of soundings.
April 4th. 5th. 6th. 7th. We have been doing nothing else but sounding and dodging about, as we have had far too much wind and sea to think about laying cable.
April 8th. This morning the weather is better and the sea smoother, but there is a terrific fog, one can not see any distance, but anyhow as the weather has improved we intend to lay the cable whilst there is a chance. At 11.0 a.m. we had the Cadiz cable buoy aboard and the end of the cable aboard and spliced on the new end of cable in the tank. At 11:30 a.m. we set on laying cable towards our Teneriffe cable buoy. The fog was bad, we could not see 100 yards in front of us, but that
we could not stop for, so on we went, we had 25' (miles) of cable to lay. At 2.0 p.m. we began to think whether we should ever find our other cable buoy, at 2:30 p.m. we had laid 24' (miles) of cable and nothing was to be seen of the buoy, we slowed down and crept along cautiously and before we knew where we were, there was the flag of the buoy flapping merrily, about two ship lengths off us, so that was not a bad shot on our part, was it? We picked him up, tested the cable and spliced the two ends together, throwing the bight overboard, with three cheers, and then set on back to pick up our numerous buoys, that we had dotted about in different directions. We were only able to pick up one that night, so we put lights on the next one and dodged around him. We were all sitting down to dinner that night and drinking success and long life to the cable, in Champagne, when the officer on watch sent a chit down to the Captain, saying there was a large fleet of ships crossing our bows and getting very near some of our buoys, of course everyone went on deck and there we saw what looked like the lights of a town, moving through the water, they crossed our bows about I ½' (miles) away and almost went out of sight, when suddenly we noticed some of them exhibit red flashing lights and white flashes, then one of them turned round and steamed straight for us at full speed. We at once on seeing this, signalled with lights, "Stand Off," "You are
running into danger", but on she came, signalling, "What ship is that", "Do you want any assistance", we signalled, "Tel. S.S. Dacia" and "No assistance required", "Look out for cable buoys". They then slowed down and put on their search light and came close alongside and said. "The Admiral of the Channel Squadron has directed me to ascertain what you are doing etc." We told them everything and warned them away from our buoys. We thanked them, said goodbye and away he went flying to join his fleet again. They were bound to the Straights of Gib. That was not the only ship that came and spoke to us whilst we were on this repair; we were right in the track of steamers coming from the Straits to Cape St. Vincent. A night or two before this we were dragging with our, red white red, telegraph signals hoisted, a steamer hove in sight heading across our bows, as soon as she saw us she thought we were in distress and a lame duck, so she bore down on us and slowed down about a mile off, she then rounded and came cautiously around our stern and then around the bows as though she were smelling us to see what we were. There were large electric lights all about the decks, fore and aft, so I daresay we looked as though we were on fire, at a distance - she came closer and closer, we said nothing whatever, at last their curiosity was satisfied and away they went again. I expect
the officer on watch had seen our lights and mistaken them for 3 red lights and bore down on us on his own account and then called the Captain, or perhaps he did not know the meaning of 2 red and 1 white, that is not at all unlikely, because there are some terrible blockheads at sea. Well the next morning we set to and picked up our buoy we had been dodging around all night; we could just see two of the others from this spot, they were about 3 & 5 miles off - to our astonishment we saw a steamer going at first on one course then deliberately alter her course and steer down for one of our buoys, we watched him to see what he was up to, we were unable to move as we had about 800 fathoms of buoy rope hanging to our bows, well on he went until he came up to the buoy, he made a circle around it and then stopped and lowered his boat, the boat was in the water about 20 minutes, what doing I don't know, but they were trying to cast the buoy adrift from its moorings and were unable to do so and had to leave it. They then hoisted her up again and away they went - just fancy the thieves - they would have picked the buoy up, if they had been able to do so and taken it home and said they picked it up at sea adrift and would have wanted to sell it to us again. We have a patent tumbler for fastening the moorings to the buoys and a very few of those who do not know how to
work it would ever manage to cast it adrift. We have often to leave lamps on buoys for days, not being able to take them off on account of bad weather, it is very often the case when we come back to them, to take them off, we find the lamps and flag clean gone; some ship has come along and seen them and taken then off for their own private use. After we had picked up all our buoys we ran back to Cadiz to make our final tests on the cable.
April 10th. We arrived in Cadiz at 5 this
morning. The Electricians went ashore and between them gave very satisfactory results,
thus finishing the Repairs on the Cadiz - Teneriffe Cable. The Electrician we had left on
shore in the Cable hut all this time came back aboard and was very thankful to get amongst
us again, as he had had a miserable time there. This evening we gave a big dinner aboard
and invited all the talent of Cadiz off. After dinner we had music and singing, everyone
was in the best of spirits to think we had at last got through this tedious repair.
thanked our lucky stars we are not
amongst them, but a nearer approach to a watery grave I don't think I have ever had, or
wish to have again.
April 18th. We arrived at Teneriffe at daylight 6 a.m. and commenced coaling at once. The Captain and myself went ashore, taking with us a chronometer and sextant to ascertain how our chronometer had been going. We took 30 Eastern observations of the and found all four chronometers to have kept their exact rate, at most they were about three tenths of a second out, that is not a quarter of a mile, as 4" (seconds) wrong in chronometer time means 1 mile wrong in distance for every observation taken at sea. We could not wish to have better chronometers aboard. We took in all our coals by 6.0 p.m. and sailed from there again about 8.0 p.m. with orders to sail for a position 50' (miles) from Cape Verde (a Cape on the West Coast of Africa). This was where we had to drag for the cable, the S.A. Cable, although it was broken down further north. We had to pick it up in that spot first and lay it in another
direction, then go North and pick up the other piece and lay that to the spot where the other end is taken to. This seems very vague I daresay to you at present, but if you have the patience to go on reading you will understand what we had to do and what we did.
April 22nd. We arrived in the position given us to steer to, just before noon today, so had a very good chance to verify our position. We found we were about ½' (mile) too far, so steamed back this ½' (mile) and put a mark buoy down. By 3.0 p.m. we had our grapnel down, in 2000 fathoms of water and set on slow ahead to cross the line of cable. We were about 0.5' (mile) over the supposed line when the good old Dynamometer gave a kick and a pull up - the strain rose 2 tons more than it had been and steady at that, so we stopped the ship and hove up, finding that we had got the cable the first drag (a stroke of luck). We cut it and tested both ends, finding direct communication to Fernando, but faulty towards St. Louis, as expected, - we buoyed the St. Louis end - that is to say we lowered the St. Louis end of the cable to the bottom again with a mushroom (a sort of anchor) and rope attached to the end of it, when it got to the bottom we made the rope fast to a buoy and threw it all overboard. That is what we call buoying a cable, so the next time I say, we buoyed the cable, you will not require this explanation. After having buoyed it we spliced on a new cable
to the Fernando end and commenced to lay our cable due East, a direct course for Cape Verde. Our object for doing that was this - We wanted to get communication between the Brazils and Africa as soon as possible, so instead of going away up to St. Louis and leaving this good end in the water whilst we were dragging for the northern end and picking up 120' (miles) of cable we had left unprotected after having cut it; this all had to be done before we could join up again, because we had to lay it close in shore this time on account of there being a volcano, or some underwater disturbance, in the place where it had originally been laid and had broken down twice in the same spot within the course of a year. Instead of doing that we concluded it would be quicker for us to steam straight into Cape Verde, or rather to a position 10' (miles) from the Cape and there buoy the cable. This position would place us right on top of another cable which ran between Cape Verde and St. Louis. Well after buoying the cable we intended to drag for this Cape Verde, or rather Yof Bay Cable, that is where the end is landed at [was ay] Cape Verde, and when we got hold of it to cut and splice up Fernando and St. Louis through the St. Louis and Jof Bay Cable. By doing so communication would be got at once between the two countries, these were our orders, now comes what we did and how we did it. After having spliced on our new cable
to the end we cut from the Fernando Cable we set on laying the cable, we had 40' (miles) of cable to lay, so regulated our speed so as to be at the spot where we wanted to buoy, at daylight, by doing so we were able to get Stellar Observations.
April 23rd. At 5.0 a.m. we stopped the ship and took our observations, finding that we were in the position required, we buoyed the cable. As soon as we finished that, we took several soundings around in different places. We were only 10' (miles) from the shore, but could see nothing of the land, as the beach is very low and the country at the back is nothing more than a low sandy plain. We sounded all that day and night, finding the bottom to be very similar to that which was expected.
April 24th. This morning at daylight we lowered our grapnel and commenced dragging for the Yof Bay and St. Louis Cable. We made 4 short drags on it, but got nothing. The 5th. drag we brought the cable up about 0'.7 (miles) from our Fernando Cable buoy, we cut the cable and sealed up the Yof end and buoyed it, we then spliced on a short piece of cable to the St. Louis end and laid out to our Fernando buoy, we picked it up and spliced up the Fernando Cable to the St. Louis Cable. Before letting go the bight we put a buoy on it, because we have to come and pick it up again. After all this was done, we dodged around the buoy that night and the next morning steamed into Dakar,
that is a French port just to the southward of Cape Verde. We let go anchor off the town and stopped there all day, taking on board provisions etc. The heat was something cruel, there was scarcely a breath of air and what there was blew from the shore and smothered us with a fearful hot sand that blows over the deserts. In the evening the weather became cooler, a nice breeze sprung up from the sea, sending the thermometer down to 60 degrees, when it had been standing at 110 all day in the shade. On seeing this most pleasant change in the temperature, a lot of our fellows decided to go ashore for a run, so I went with them, we went ashore in the gig, there were six of us. We first had to look through the town of Dakar, and as we found this rather dull, we decided to go for a ride through the country. We hired six horses and away we went, there was a lovely stretch of land as flat as a billiard table, this we made good use of and spent our time in racing; none of them looked any the better for their outing. We then went to the Grand Hotel, had a jolly good dinner and returned on board about midnight, all feeling very tired and very sore.
April 26th. At 10 this morning we hove up our anchor and set on at full speed for our buoy on the faulty end of the Fernando Cable, the one we had let go after cutting the cable and splicing on the new, which we have just laid.
At 4.0 p.m. we were up to our buoy and had him aboard in a very short time, we got the end of the cable over the bows and then set on at slow speed, steaming along the line of cable, towards St. Louis, coiling it down into the cable tank as it came in. We had roughly speaking, something over 100 miles to pick up and as we could not pick up more than two miles an hour, we saw that it was going to take us some little time to do it.
April 27th. We picked up all day, having on board at 8.0 p.m. 50 miles. About 6 the next morning the strain began to rise to 7 or 8 tons, this showing that the cable was buried in mud, we stopped the ship and worked her around, trying to break it out of the mud and then picked up slowly again, this time at about ½ a mile an hour, the strain got more and more all the time till at last the cable broke with an 11 ton strain. We had picked up about 70' (miles) all together. We knew it was no good trying to drag for the broken end here, so we steamed away to St. Louis and took several soundings. We came across a very likely spot for dragging, about 15' (miles) from that port, so put a buoy down and then lowered the grapnel. This was late on the 28th.
April 29th. 30th. May 1st. We have been dragging, dragging, dragging, but like St. Peter, we toiled all night and got nothing. We had by this time covered about 5' (miles) of ground dragging.
There was hardly a spot, I think, we missed. After all this we decided to mark this place with buoys and then run back to Dakar, which we did, arriving there around 4.0 a.m. on the 2nd.
May 3rd. We sailed from here again this afternoon and steamed back to our fishing ground, which we had just left, two days ago, to try our luck again. We dragged all day and night and up to about 3.0 p.m. on the 5th. before we hooked anything. At 3.0 p.m. the dynamometer rose to a steady 3 tons, this was enough for us, so we picked up and found we plumbed the grapnel in 1800 fathoms of water. We had the cable and got him to the bows about 8.0 p.m. Our electrical tests gave us good communication to St. Louis, but found the fault to be about 30' (miles) further south, so we sealed up the St. Louis end of the cable and buoyed it, then started to pick up the loose piece towards the broken end.
May 6th. Picking up cable all day at the rate of about 1 mile per hour, cable found to be deeply embedded in mud, the whole way along.
May 7th. At 8.0 a.m. we had picked up 28' (miles) of cable and had another 2' (miles) to pick up before we came to the broken end. There was a slight westerly swell rolling along which made us pitch at times, every time she lifted her nose up the strain would send the dynamometer up to 10 & 11 tons and then it would drop again
to 3 & 4. With a strain at 11 tons the cable would straighten out as hard as a bar of iron, we all stood clear if it in case it should break, and luckily we did, because, not long after that away it went just by the bow sheave, the end flew back aboard, but did no damage. We found after comparing both lengths picked up with what had been laid we were 2' (miles) short, so that was the length we lost and were not able to pick up at all, it is at the bottom yet and likely to stay there. This was just at noon. We got our observations and then set on for the buoy on the end of the St. Louis Cable whence we had started to pick up this last piece of cable. We arrived at the buoy just before dark, and dodged around all night, getting everything ready for splicing on and laying cable next morning.
May 8th. At daylight there was too much wind and sea for laying cable, so we spent the day in steaming between this cable buoy and the cable buoy in the bight of the Fernando - Yof Bay and St. Louis Cable where we were going to lay the new cable instead of taking it away out to sea in 2000 fathoms where it was laid before. The distance between the two cable buoys was only 60' (miles), so we shortened the distance by 40' (miles) by laying it down here. In the evening the weather improved, so we went back to the buoy and spliced on our new cable to the St. Louis end of the cable.
May 9th. At 6.0 this morning we set on slow ahead, laying the cable and steering a direct course for our other cable buoy. At 3:30 p.m. we sighted the buoy dead ahead and at 4:30 p.m. we had him a board and the bight of the cable at the bows, whilst the cable we had just laid was over our stern. We cut the bight of cable and tested both ends finding everything perfect, so we buoyed the St. Louis - Yof Bay Cable and let it go. We then passed the cable we had just laid from aft forward and spliced up. It was not till 3 the next morning then we threw the "Final Bight" overboard. It was then too dark to pick up the two buoys on the ends of the Yof Bay and St. Louis section, so we waited to daylight.
May 10th. At daylight this morning we had both buoys in sight, so we went to the St. Louis end buoy, picked him up and lay to the Yof Bay end of cable buoy, on testing both we found St Louis perfect but a slight but a slight fault on the Yof end. The tests gave the fault to be in the breakers on the beach, so we spliced up here, threw the final bight overboard then steamed away into Dakar to find out the exact position of the slight fault that we discovered before splicing up the two ends at sea. Before going into Dakar we took a few soundings outside and made a survey of the bottom outside for some future use. It was too dark to make the Port when we had finished, so we kept the ship outside Almadia Reef till the morning and then went in.
May 14th. We have been here since the 11th. awaiting results on the final tests, from the electricians. As it takes them half a day on horse-back to get to Yof Bay where the cable end is landed, and this they do at nights, because the sun is far too hot in the day time, it will be easily seen why we have had to wait so long. Well this morning two of the electricians returned, saying the fault was where at first expected, right amongst the breakers, so the Chief Cable Engineer gave orders to land our shore party of cable hands, with spider blocks, old men shovels, and all implements required for landing a new shore end of cable. This was in case we were not able to pick the old one up and repair it. The Captain gave orders then, after all gear was landed, to heave up anchor and proceed to Yof Bay, which is a few miles further north, the other side of Almadia Reef. We hove up anchor and set out and arrived off the village of Yof late in the afternoon. The first thing we did was to steam out 5 miles along the line of cable and let go a mark buoy. We then steamed slowly back again sounding at intervals ½' (mile), having taken sufficient soundings we came to an anchor in 7 fathoms, about ½' (mile) from the beach and laid there all night.
May 15th. This morning at daylight we found a heave swell rolling in from the westward and were unable to do any
dragging. The bay is open to all westerly winds and sea, so we hove up in case we might drag our anchor on to a lee shore, and ran back to Dakar and got snugly under shelter.
May 16th. We hove up this morning and made another attempt for Yof Bay, this time finding the swell considerably less, so we took up our position 2' (miles) from the beach and ½' (mile) to the Northwest of the line of cable and lowered our grapnel, it had barely touched the bottom when up went the strain and away went the grapnel and rope, having caught in some rocks. We replaced it and tried again a little closer in, but with the same result, away went grapnel again. We repeated this 6 times, every time losing a grapnel. After finding it really impossible to drag so near the beach owing to the rocky bottom, we decided to try further out.
May 17th, 18th, 19th. We have been dragging all this time, but have not been able to catch hold of the cable. The bottom was nearly as bad here as it was nearer shore. At noon on the 19th. we went further out and I am glad to say we were successful this time. We picked it up 9' (miles) from the beach, cut it and buoyed the St. Louis end and picked up 4' (miles) of cable towards the cable hut, then it got foul of rocks and carried away. We then went back and took a number of soundings to try and
find a better bottom to lay the new cable on, as we were forced to have to lay a new shore end. We found a nice sandy bottom in the northern part of the bay, so that was the part chosen for the cable to be laid down in. We got everything ready for landing the new shore end of cable. The Cable Engineer told the Captain to take up a position before dark so as they would be able to start at daylight the next morning. Well we had to get as near the beach as was safe, so we steamed slowly in to 6 fathoms of water and let go anchor and then lowered a boat and had it manned with six sailors and one quartermaster who had the hand lead line, when all was ready I jumped into her and took with me my sextant to enable me to get, masthead, vertical and horizontal angles of different peaks and points so as to fix every place. I took a cast of the lead. We were away an hour in the boat taking soundings and then we returned. After having laid these positions down on the chart we found there was water enough for us to get within ½' (mile) of the beach and in 4 fathoms of water, so we hove up anchor and steamed cautiously in and then let go in the exact spot. There we laid all night.
May 20th. Now the work of "Landing a shore end of Cable" began. At daylight we signalled with flags
to the shore party - "Prepare for
landing shore end". They replied - "Will employ native labour". I will
first of all tell you what was done to get things ready on shore and then what was done
aboard and then how it was done.
In less than no time they came to the cable and took it out. The next thing was to get the spider sheaves and the old men ready for the hauling lines from the ship. Old men are solid lumps of wood, like sleepers on the railway, they are buried in the sand and the spider sheaves are lashed to them. When all was ready, signals were made from the shore to that effect. Whilst they had been thus busily engaged we had been getting things ready aboard. We lowered our two life boats, surf boat and steam launch. We coiled down 4 good hauling lines into each life boat and they were towed towards the beach, when they came within a few fathoms of where the rollers were breaking the steam launch let go of them and they let go their anchors, the surf boat followed them up and after they were moored she took the end of one of their lines and went through the surf with it. As soon as the end was ashore the surf boat hauled herself out again towards the life boats, bringing back a small heaving line which they bent on to the hauling line after it had been rove through the two spider sheaves. The steam launch then towed her back to the ship and they gave us the end of the line which we took to the winch and hove in on, as we hove in the life boats paid the rope out of their boats. When we had both ends of the rope aboard we were all ready to heave the cable ashore by bending the cable on to one end and
heaving in on the other. We commenced to heave away and pay out cable about 11:00 a.m. Before we let the end of the cable go overboard we bent a balloon on to it to float it, so as it should not sink, because we should never be able to haul the cable through the sand as it weighs at least 13 tons to the mile. We hove away then and paid out cable, at an interval of every 3 fathoms we bent a balloon onto the cable, this making it exceedingly easy to haul ashore - well everything went on satisfactorily and we managed to get the end ashore and into the cable hut by 2:00 p.m. As soon as they tested it they put it in the trench the old cable had come out of and buried it up. It took us some considerable time to get the balloons off the cable and get all our stores etc. aboard again as they had to come through the surf. It was dark before we got our shore party and stores in, so instead of setting away that night we lay there with anchor down and the cable over the stern, as it was fine weather.
May 21st. At daylight everything was in our favour so we hove up anchor and set on our course laying the cable, this time away clear of all rocks. The cable buoy on the St. Louis end was nine miles from us in a straight line, but we had to go to it in a circle, so had 11' (miles) or more of cable to lay. After we had laid 5' (miles) of cable we sighted the buoy at a distance of 6' (miles) that is a tremendous distance to see a cable buoy, as they are not much more than
12 feet out of the water, taking from the top of the flagstaff to the water's edge, we were up to it by noon, so had an excellent chance of verifying our position. We picked up the buoy on St. Louis end of the cable and found the cable in perfect working order, so we spliced up and threw the final bight overboard. All hands giving "three cheers" as soon as it was away clear. Then of course the men had "grog" and we all went aft and had Champagne and cigars and drank long life to the cable. This ends the repair of the St. Louis and Yof Bay section of cable. We steamed up to our mark buoy we had put down and picked him up. As we had all our hands and electrical stores and provisions aboard we had no occasion to go back to the Coast again, so shaped our course Teneriffe and set on at full speed, as we had to call there for coals and letters.
May 28th. After a 7 day fine weather passage we arrived at Santa Cruz de Teneriffe. Canary Islands at 6 in the evening.
May 29th. Coaling ship all day and taking aboard provisions. The Captain and myself went ashore to take artificial sights of the in the morning and in the afternoon. We found the Chronometers to have kept most excellent time. It is a very easy matter to say "took artificial sights" of but far harder to do. I wonder how many who read this will understand its meaning. Perhaps it may interest
you to know its meaning, but if it does
not, miss it, and go on with the next days chat.
then left us. Now to explain how the thing is done. After having found a suitable place, we stretch the carpet out and sit down, the first thing that is done is to get the artificial horizon in position. The artificial horizon is made by filling this iron tray with quicksilver, this tray is about nine inches long, four inches broad and one inch deep, after it has been placed in a direct line with the sun from where you are it is filled up with quicksilver which is poured in through a small pipe which leads through the bottom of it, and then covered up with a glass triangular cover, this is to keep the wind or dust from the mercury. The next done is to fit the sextant on the stand which is a three legged brass stand, then take the sextant and look through it at the quicksilver and crawl about on your hands and knees until you see the sun reflected in the mercury, then move the glasses of the sextant about till you get the reflected sun in the mercury, then you have two suns, the true and reflected. When you have these, sing out, stand by, and whoever has the Chronometer will place it on a camp stool directly behind you and sit on the other himself and watch the time. When he is ready you look at your two suns through the sextant and you will find one moving away quickly and the other stationary, so you have to keep on screwing away at a certain screw on the sextant till one is well above the other then stop and say to whoever has the Chronometer,
"look out"; as soon as you stop screwing the reflected sun will drop again, so directly the lower edge touches the upper edge of the bottom one you say "stop" as quick as possible. One has really only time to say "st-" as the sun moves so quickly. The officer reads the time by the chronometer to the tenth of a second, the results are noted down and you read the sextant to the second, the results are noted down and the same thing is repeated again as often as you like. This is very tiring for the eyes. One is barely able to take more than 20 observations straight off without a spell. After sufficient have been taken we pack up our traps and go aboard again, to work each problem out separately, which takes several hours. We know the exact time that each observation was taken by the chronometer, and by working what is called "Observations for Time" we find the exact time the chronometer should have shewn, so the difference will give the error on the Chronometer. The stars can be used in the same way exactly and I think for preference. I should prefer then for accuracy. This I hope will give you some idea of what "Artificial sights of the " means. This explanation is plain enough.
May 30th. At 6 this morning we had full steam up, so we hove up anchor and set on full speed, this time for London. At 4.0 p.m. we were abreast of Piton Island, the largest island amongst the Great Salvages Group which are low and sandy.
June 7th. We are nearly across the Bay of Biscay having had a very fair weather passage all the way.
At noon we were 103' (miles) off Ushant, so hope to sight the Light about midnight.
June 8th. At 1:10 a.m. we were abreast of Ushant electric Light, we altered our course then for mid-channel and came booming along with the flood under our counter. At noon we had 470' (miles) to go to Gravesend. The latter part of the day the weather set on foggy, so we altered our course to make the English Coast.
June 9th. At 6.0 a.m. We were off Dungeness, where we stopped the ship and took aboard our pilot and then set on again under the pilot's orders. The sight of a Pilot aboard is great blessing to us, as he takes a great weight off our shoulders. Everyone on board are getting very excited, packing up their clothes and talking as though they had been away for at least two years, they have even gone so far as to look up the time table to see what train they are going to catch.
June 10th. At four o'clock this morning we arrived off Gravesend and let go anchor to await the tide, here we changed our pilots and took aboard the river pilot. At 6.0 a.m. all the electricians, cable engineers and cable hands went ashore to go home, as we did not require them to come up the river with us. All that were left aboard were all the ships crew, or sailors, and firemen and doctor, who had to stay until the ship was fast in case of any accident. At 11.0 a.m. we hove up anchor and went up the river with the flood. At noon we passed the old "Worcester" and dipped our Ensign to her to show
there were some old Worcester fellows aboard. At 3.0 p.m. we arrives off the Silvertown works where we found the S.S. "Buccaneer" moored, we steamed up along side her and commenced picking up our head and stern mooring chains, this was a long job as it took us till 7.0 p.m. before we were finished. At 7.0 p.m. I called all hands aft and gave them each a glass of grog, discharging each one as he had his rum.
June 11th. I stayed aboard all night to look after the Chronometers and see that things were all right aboard. This afternoon at 2. all hands went up to the Tidal Basin Shipping Office and were paid off. I went away up to Hampstead and found my old friend Duncan Henderson waiting for me, with everything ready, and we both sat down to a good square feed and talked of all that had happened, talk! why we sat up till one o'clock in the morning and then did not want to turn in.
June 13th. From June 11th. till now I have been going through the same routine day after day, coming down aboard every day and leaving again at 5 o'clock every night, but now that things have settled down on board and are quiet I have decided to run home for a holiday, well I went home this afternoon and spent my holidays.
June 28th. I have been at home all this time and do not remember when it was I enjoyed my holidays so much as I have done this time. I came up by the late train from home and
arrived at Hampstead about 11.0 p.m. Dunc. was waiting for me, we had supper together then turned in. My routine and duty now is to go aboard every morning at 10. and see what work is to be done and set them all busy and leave again at 5 p.m. We have a lot of repairs to do on board, so keep them at it. We are now putting a new funnel in the ship, because, if you remember we stove it in last voyage on the 10th. March. Every day we hope to hear that there is some cable or the other that requires repairing, or to be laid, so we live in the hopes day after day.
From the above date to when my next voyage begins, I don't think anything worth noting occurred. This is not a daily log, but one of events, so I do not note what I do in the evenings on shore whilst by the ship in port. It may be taken for granted that I thoroughly enjoy myself.
Sadly, Dacia was sunk by enemy
action at Madeira on 3 December 1916,
Dacia was featured on a
Jamaican stamp in 1970,
Copyright © 2003 Roger Barclay
Last revised: 22 November 2005
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Last revised: 5 August, 2012