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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

CS Restorer
by Dirk van Oudenol

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Home and Back to Work

From Honolulu the ship had a leisurely cruise back to Esquimalt, arriving on 29/7/1947. At this
point it should be mentioned advanced age required Restorer's boiler pressure to be reduced from 185 psig to 168 psig, and the engine maximum speed from 85 rpm to 68 rpm. This gave a cruising speed reduced from 18 knots to 13 ½ knots. At the start of the trip, the main engine rpm counters were zeroed, and at the end of the trip both registered well over 7,000,000 revolutions. With 8' per revolution, simple arithmetic reveals the distance the piston rings traveled , and the amount of wear involved. The engineers and oilers did more engine maintenance before the crew was paid off. Payoff was in U.S. cash, much of which was issued on the Gold Standard, and the song at the top of the hit parade was Russ Morgan singing "I'm Looking Over A Four Leafed Clover". How times have changed.

Coasting Trip

From 4/9/1947 to 30/9/1947, Restorer traveled to Seattle to be drydocked at the Todd Shipyard, then to load cable. Then it was back to Esquimalt, where the water cooler problem was fixed.

Back To The Far East

On 1/10/1947, the Restorer left Esquimalt and headed directly for the Marianas Trench east of Guam, to do some serious cable work at depths over 36,000 feet. We have all heard stories of how ships crossing the Equator celebrate the occasion, and may give a certificate to mark the experience. This writer has a card for the International Date Line, welcoming me into the Realm of the Golden Dragon (the Far East). It is signed by Capt. J. H. Connelly of the Restorer. After a brief stop at Agana Harbor, Guam, for fuel and supplies, it was on to Manila where plans changed. The idea was to relay the shore ends into, and out of, Manila. The very poor condition of the deepsea cable caused us to splice new intermediate, and onto that, new deepsea cable, and start heading out to sea. We passed Corregidor and turned north, pulling in over one bow sheave the old cable laid 60 years earlier in 1887 by C.S. Sherard Osborn, and over another bow sheave, we paid out new cable. Eventually, when only a few miles out of Hong Kong, the Restorer ran out of cable, spliced into the remaining old cable to Hong Kong, and hoped for the best.

Click on image for larger view
Click on image for larger view
Copyright © Dirk van Oudenol
Crossing International Dateline, 19/10/1947

Copyright © Dirk van Oudenol
C.S. Pacific & C.S. Restorer, Singapore, Nov. 1947

Singapore and Royal Wedding

We then headed for Singapore, and while en route our radio operator picked up an s.o.s. from a ship not too far away that was being attacked by South China Sea Pirates. We arrived just in time for the celebration of the marriage of the then Princess Elizabeth, and tied up alongside the C.S. Pacific at the one ship cable dock in Keppel Harbour. This was like old times, as the first time these ships did this was 44 years earlier at the same dock. Although the Pacific was one year newer than Restorer, it was a technical antique. Its natural draft boilers still burned coal and the ship could carry only enough for 11 days steaming. The main engines were a very antiquated design, and had grease cup lubrication on the main bearings. The 'piece of cake' so to speak was the highly polished sunset gun. Yes, that ship actually had a bronze muzzle loading cannon of perhaps about 1 ½ inches bore, mounted on the stern. It was fired at sunset every day. The crew of the Pacific told us of a recent incident of theirs, where, when grappling for cable they pulled up a Japanese zero fighter with the remains of the pilot still inside.

The parade held for the festive occasion was unforgettable, and definitely set the standard for big parades. The parade was headed by entire regiments of East Indian Cavalry in full dress uniform, and the Chinese dragon section was two miles long. The entire parade was nine miles long and took a full two hours to pass a given point. Overhead, there were squadrons of Spitfires, and what looked like Sunderland flying boats. That evening, those of us who were interested had a very fine dinner at Raffles Hotel. After, we entered the ballroom that had a cover charge of $1.40 in Straits Dollars.

Another Typhoon and back to Work

The Restorer took on a full cargo of cable and grappling line, than headed for Guam and more cable work. While traveling from the Strait of San Bernardino to Guam, normally a 5 day trip, Restorer's knack for attracting typhoons came up again, and we went directly through the eye of the typhoon. The 'eye' is quite a sight, with the sea almost dead calm and with a solid wall of heavy mist violently swirling around it. At one point, the ship was going ½ knot astern, even though the engines were making maximum safe speed ahead. This leg of the trip took 11 days.

While working cable near Guam, there was a serious accident. When laying cable in deep water one of the cast steel gears in the cable engine mechanism suffered a clean break into two pieces. The weight of the cable caused it to pay out rapidly as the unrestrained cable drum raced. The cable engine operator reacted quickly, and by the time the payout was stopped the water cooled oak blocks on the brake drum were smoking. During this time, several of the deck crew in the cable tank were violently thrown against the wall, but none were actually injured. Later, the gear was welded and put back. Then it was on to Midway and Honolulu, where the ship arrived on 23/12/1947.

Forgettable Incidents

There were two incidents at Honolulu. A small job was done on the shore ends at Pearl Harbor. At this time, the engine steam controls were being adjusted to get greater efficiency, and it was just coincidence they were in a position to give speed. As it was only about a six mile run to Honolulu, it didn't seem worthwhile to make further adjustments at this time. As the ship approached the harbor entrance, it was doing 18 knots full ahead. Suddenly someone on the bridge noticed we were heading directly for the coral reef near the harbor entrance. The bridge rang an emergency full astern on both engines, and they got it. The reversing gear on both engines was operated, without bothering to first stop the engines. As the gear passed the mid point, the entire ship shook like the proverbial concrete mixer as it went from 18 knots full ahead to full astern. Moments later, a very shaken Captain personally phoned the engine room and thanked us for our alertness.

When tying up, tidal conditions caused Restorer to hit the dock sufficiently hard that a large sheet of several layers of paint came off the hull and landed on the dock. Christmas Day was spent surfboarding at Waikiki, while on full pay. Then it was back to the ship for a very fine Christmas Dinner. As stated earlier in this article, there are times when life gets a bit rough. When leaving on 26/12/1947, the ship was seen off by the CPCC Superintendent who angrily called out as we were leaving the dock that we were not to come back until the ship was properly painted, and that in its present condition, it was a disgrace to the American flag!

It was then back to Fanning Island for more cable work, then a direct trip home to Esquimalt, where the ship tied up on 26/1/1948. The homecoming was brief, as Restorer was off again in 5 days.

The Marianas Trench

On 1/2/48, Restorer left to repair a break in the cable in the Marianas Trench. Pleasant weather
for a change gave the deck crew a chance to holystone (a soft sandstone) the fine teak deck of the old ship, and those not on duty the opportunity to "fish" over the ship's side. We didn't get any actual fish, but did get barracuda and mud sharks, and brought them on board. Try to imagine how one deals with a writhing barracuda or brings a heavy mud shark on board. You have to know what you are doing.

Continued good weather gave us the chance to practice real lifeboat drill, out on the open ocean, far from normal shipping lanes. When a crew was assigned a boat, life vests were put on, a boat was lowered, and then the crew manned the oars and rowed out quite some distance from the cable ship. We then rowed completely around the Restorer before returning to the ship and securing the lifeboat.

Imagine our surprise, when grappling for the cable, as we brought up a near new Hyster fork lift! That's pinpoint navigating it would be hard to match. It seems the U. S. Navy was in the habit of dumping huge steel barge loads of war surplus at sea, and dumped one on the cable. We saw such a barge being loaded, complete with a big Cat to push the stuff overboard.

Burst Boiler Tube

It was during this trip that this writer got tagged to do a most unpleasant but very necessary job, as a tube in one of the old Scotch Marine Boilers burst. The oil burner assembly for that furnace was unlatched and swung aside, and the smoke box door for that bank of fire tubes was raised. A long 2x12 plank was shoved to the back end of the furnace, I was doused with water and put on heavy asbestos gloves, had a couple of water soaked burlap sacks draped over my head and backside, and crawled to the back of the furnace where I could stand up. While doing this, others shoved a long preformed steel rod with threaded ends through the tube, with a heavy steel washer large enough to cover a tube end and a nut, on their end. Remember, this was done with the other two furnaces for that boiler still operating, and 168 psig steam on the boiler. When I was able, I placed the washer for my end of the rod over the threaded end and spun on the nut, gave a hand sign and those at the other end tightened their nut until the steam stopped leaking. I got out of there fast, and the oil burner was quickly back in use.

This first leg of the trip was 42 days at sea, followed by 5 days in Agana, Guam, for fuel and supplies. Then it was another 41 days at sea for more cable work, followed by a homeward bound voyage arriving on 29/4/1948. This time the ship tied up at the Ogden Point Docks in Victoria.

Much Needed Paint Job

A battery of pneumatic chipping guns was rented for the deck crew to prepare the hull for proper painting. When they started, huge chunks of many layers of paint flew in all directions. On one randomly picked up chunk, it was possible to clearly count 22 layers of paint, dating back to when the ship was new. There were various shades of dark green in the early years, white in the middle years, and various shades of light and medium gray in the late years.

Burial at Sea

Restorer's next trip saw the burial at sea of the beloved by all sanguine Purser Sid Pearce. Early one morning and for the rest of the day, the ship flew a new Stars & Stripes from the stb. yard arm at half mast. While Captain J. H. Connelly read the Burial at Sea Service, the ship moved in a tight circle at slow speed. After the body was consigned to the deep, there was a brief period of silence, then the ship resumed course and speed. Tradition was observed to the end.

Beginning of the End

The next trip for Restorer was 14/8/1948 to 15/12/1948, and effectively sealed its fate. It was between Victoria, the Marianas Trench, Guam, the Marianas Trench, and back to Victoria. The grim reality of prolonged cable work in the Marianas Trench for an ageing, worn out, and undersized for the job cable ship quickly became evident. Working cable in The Trench has requirements few old cable ships could supply. The depth is over 36,000 feet, which means 25% more length, of 45,000 feet has to be paid out in grappling line or cable. This also means the weight of 90,000 feet of (old) cable is bent over the hook when being brought up. Repeated grapples wear out the grappling line, and a break not only means a loss of many thousands of feet of line, but also the grappling hook.

When the grappling line was being paid out, it was done at a steady rate the registered 2 tons on the dynamometer, and took 2 hours to reach the ocean floor. Unsuccessful grapples meant a loss of time, while cable work went on 24 hours a day. This put an added load on the galley crew, as meals had to be available 24 hours a day. When the grapple was successful, it took 14 hours to bring it up with 10 tons on the dynamometer. All too often there would be a break in the cable just as the grappling hook was between the water surface and the bow sheaves. Then two cables had to be grappled for, requiring the first one to be buoyed off, while the second cable was sought. Some might be interested in the cable engine specifications. There were two twin cylinder vertical engines, with 8" bore and 8" stroke, and 600 rpm, taking steam at boiler pressure the full length of the stroke. Suitable gearing permitted one or both engines to be connected to either drum.

Interesting Incidents

On one grapple the cable was brought up with several feet covered in large chemical nodules, due to the cable having been near a thermal vent in the ocean floor. A nodule was briefly checked and found to have an internal temperature of 35 deg. F. On another occasion while laying cable, a relic of WW II, a rusty barnacle encrusted mine, floated by within easy sight. An emergency call was sent out about this menace to navigation. The Marines didn't let us down, as they promptly sent out a Corsair fighter from Wake. We watched while the plane machine gunned the mine until it exploded. The plane made a low level pass past the Restorer, then returned to base.

After one successful grapple, the cable was buoyed off with a largest size buoy (necessary due to the weight of so much cable). The buoy was newly painted, and from its mast flew a new CPCC company flag. When we came back over a month later, the bleached flag was in tatters, and that portion of the buoy below water was heavily encrusted with barnacles.

On one occasion when laying cable in the Marianas Trench, a major typhoon came up and changed course in our direction. An emergency message was sent out to all shipping to head for port. We literally chopped the cable with one blow of an axe, and made maximum safe speed for Agana, Guam. While enroute to Agana, Restorer handily passed a struggling destroyer escort. The sight of the d. e. brought back memories of being in that terrible typhoon near Midway in March of 1947. The U. S. Navy was conducting an exercise in the area and the harbor was plugged with warships. The Restorer dropped anchor almost directly under the stern of the carrier USS Antietam.

The normal cable laying speed for Restorer was 3 knots, but desperation at the end saw cable being laid at 9 knots in a light swell. Eventually, there was no more cable, and a gap of several miles was left in the line. Restorer went home, arriving in Victoria on 14/12/1948.

The C.S. John W. Mackay was chartered out of Halifax to finish the job.

Main Menu
| Home | Contact Email | Prologue | 1901 - 1904 | Joint Reports 1903 - 04 | Early Operations | First World War | Peace | Second World War | 3rd Naval Armed Guard Report | Winter Cable Laying | 11th Naval Armed Guard Report | Peace Again | Home And Back To Work | C.S. Restorer's Final Days Part 1 | C.S. Restorer's Final Days Part 2 | Services Rendered by C.S. Restorer | The End For C.S. Restorer|

Copyright © 2006 Dirk van Oudenol

Last revised: 19 February, 2016

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