Built in 1875 by the London and Glasgow Company
Length 333 ft Breadth 33 ft Depth 24.1 ft Gross tonnage 2000
Launched as the Branksome and then renamed Panama. Owned by the Compania Transatlantica Espanola and operated beteen the West Indies, Cuba and Spain. Captured by the US cruiser Mangrove during the Spanish-American War. Used by the Army as a troop transport and then converted for cable work by the Morse Shipyard, Brooklyn.
The first and last cable expedition undertaken by Hooker was to lay cables in the Philippines. After leaving New York the ship had to call in at Gibraltar for boiler repairs, then sailed through the Suez Canal and on to the Philippines. During the laying of the cable, Hooker ran aground on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay and became a total loss. The work was completed by CS Burnside.
Newspaper accounts of the time give the full story:
Aurora Daily Express - Apr 5, 1899.
ARMY’S FIRST CABLE SHIP.
Transport Hooker Fitting Out For Service In the Philippine.
The United States transport Hooker, which was formerly the Ceballos liner Panama, is being fitted out at the Morse Iron works, in Brooklyn, as a cable laying ship for use in the Philippines. The work is in charge of Lieutenant Colonel Manfield of the volunteer signal corps and has been under way more than a month. In a few weeks, it is expected, the Hooker will be ready to sail. General Greely, who has taken a great personal interest in the fitting out of the Hooker, visited her a few days ago.
The Hooker is the army’s first cable ship. She will lay cables between various points in the Philippines, so that General Otis may keep constantly in touch with all parts of his command. The changes made in the Hooker necessitated the tearing up of much of her deck and building of cable tanks in her bold, one forward, one aft and a big one amidships. Three drums will be necessary to take up the cable and pay it out into the water.
The ship will take out a full equipment of cable cutting and repairing machinery. Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell will be in command of the cable laying part of the expedition. Captain Hanlon will be the sailing master. E.W. Stevenson, a cable expert, is putting the new machinery into the ship. It is said that the Hooker will return home after completing her work in the Philippines and go into the transport service. Great Britain, it is said, has ten cable ships in eastern waters.
The Hooker, when she was the Panama, was captured by the lighthouse tender Mangrove. The Panama left New York for Havana just about the time of the declaration of war to run the Havana blockade. After that the Mangrove became a naval cable ship and was of great service in cutting Spanish communications.—New York Sun.
Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 28, 1899
WILL LAY THE CABLES
To Connect All the Principal Islands of the Philippines.
NEW YORK, April 28.—The United States cable chip Hooker is being fitted to sail for Manila on Monday. When the Hooker arrives there work will be started immediately laying the 250 miles of cable which is on board.
By means of this cable all the principal islands in the Philippine group will be connected and the administration of the islands will be much facilitated for the officers in command.
Although the Hooker is not a large ship the government has spent $120,000 in repairs and the valuable machinery on board has brought the expense up to a large figure. The cable alone cost about $100,000.
The Hooker is the old Spanish prize Panama, the second ship to be taken in the war with Spain. She still bears many reminders of the Spaniards in the decorations of her cabin. Only one design was removed and that was a handsomely executed Spanish coat of arms. The Hooker has been entirely fitted over from stem to stern and is said to be a model cable ship. She is 325 feet long and 35 feet beam. Her tonnage is 2035.
On her stern are mounted 6-pounder rifles and in the magazine is a large amount of ammunition. She also carries magazine guns.
It is calculated that the trip to Manila will take 75 days. The Hooker is a slow boat and she is so heavy laden that her speed will not be over 10 knots an hour.
Lieutenant Colonel John E. Maxfield, of the United States volunteer signal carps, will be in command of the expedition. The larger part of his signal corps has been sent ahead by way of San Francisco. The second in command is Lieutenant Clark, of the signal corps. The master of the Hooker is Captain Stephen J. Hanley. His first officer, Henry Winters, is a well known cable expert. Lieutenant J.B. Madden, acting assistant quartermaster, U.S.A., is to be quartermaster of the boat. As the Hooker is such a slow boat, the war department will not send many officers to the Philippines on her. Major Black, U.S.A., will he taken on board at Gibraltar and complete his journey.
Spokane Daily Chronicle - Aug 15, 1899
HOOKER IS GROUNDED.
MANILA, Aug. 15.—The warships Baltimore and Concord have made an unsuccessful attempt to tow off the United States cable steamer Hooker, which is grounded in the channel off Corregidor Island. It is now believed impossible to float the Hooker.
Spokane Daily Chronicle - Aug 19, 1899
THE HOOKER GROUNDED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT.
Investigating Board Finds the Navigating Officer Was Careless.
MANILA, Aug. 19.—The board appointed to examine into the causes of the grounding of the United States cable ship Hooker, which recently went ashore near the mouth of Corregidor harbor, finds the accident occurred in daylight on a reef shown on the chart and that there were evidences of carelessness on the part of the navigator of the vessel.
If no storm intervenes, hopes are entertained that the vessel may be hauled off and repaired. Her hull was badly torn by the coral reef on which she was struck.
The Evening News - Aug 23, 1899
TYPHOON RAGING AT MANILA.
Cable Ship Hooker Is Being Battered to Pieces.
Manila, Aug. 23.-10:50 a.m.—The typhoon that has been raging for the last two days has kept the United States transports Zealandia and Valencia, with the Montana troops on board, in the harbor.
The United States cableship Hooker, formerly the Panama, which grounded off Corregidor Island about a fortnight ago, will probably be knocked to
pieces. A hundred miles of cable and $10,000 worth of instruments are on board the steamer. Fifty miles of cable have already been thrown overboard. The Hooker is grinding to pieces on the rocks.