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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Sea Duty

by
Yates Stirling

published by
G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York
1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p30  Chapter III

Commissioned


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I was now an ensign, the lowest ranking commissioned officer, and feeling most important. I shared a fairly large stateroom in the very swanky steerage with Cadet David Sellers. The New York was commanded by Captain Robley D. Evans, "Fighting Bob," a very well-known naval man and a Civil War hero. He was a classmate of my father's at the Naval Academy many years before.

A few weeks later Admiral Meade hoisted his flag in the ship. When the written order for me to join the staff was handed me by the Captain, he made me sit in his cabin and listen to what he had to say on the subject. His words touched me deeply, for I saw he was really interested in me because I was the son of a classmate and a lifelong friend. He was most serious and positive. He wanted me to go and tell the Admiral frankly that it was best for me to refuse and stay on as an officer of the ship. He said he even had a mind to go to the Admiral himself in my behalf. Captain Bob claimed that I would lose touch with my profession. That at my age, when I needed to learn was how to handle men; how to discipline them and discipline myself. He said I would be losing valuable time which I needed to learn the duties of a naval officer and that on the staff I would be only a super‑yeoman, a clerk for the Admiral and the higher officers of the staff.

I fear I was intrigued too much by what appeared to be a very glamorous job, besides which I had boasted of going on the staff  p31 to all my messmates. I did not accept Captain Bob's advice, which I afterward regretted. I was entirely too young and inexperienced to be on the staff. It filled me with the idea that I was of importance, which I certainly was not. My first task was to go through an unabridged Webster's dictionary to pick out and tabulate all words that I thought might be useful in signaling. The flag lieutenant was writing a new signal book, and my part was to arrange the dictionary, a signal number for each word. It was a monotonous task, and I felt most incompetent for it. Somehow I finished it, and for a long time after I hated the sight of a dictionary. I was also signal officer on the flag bridge. This I liked and soon made myself most proficient in signaling.

That winter we made, with the squadron, a long cruise in the West Indies, stopping in many ports, among them St. Thomas, Santa Cruz, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Barbadoes, and Trinidad. The Admiral was most kind and insisted I should accompany him and the flag lieutenant to all the entertainments. I enjoyed that part and met many people and received many invitations to tennis, teas, and parties. In those days the Navy played a lot more than it does today, or maybe I am wrong and am looking through old‑age glasses.

At Trinidad we had to anchor about five miles from the town, Port of Spain. The day after we arrived we saw from the ship a large fire raging in the city. The Admiral sent me ashore in his barge to offer our aid to the governor. I landed and inquired for the governor, Lord Broome, and was told by a staff army officer that I would find him at Government House. I was too stupid to realize that he would most likely be at the scene of the fire. I drove to Government House, about a mile out of the city. The flunky who admitted me said the Governor was out but Lady Broome would see me. I had met her the day before when I had called with the Admiral. I began to fire at her rapid questions as to where I could find the Governor. Her reply was: "At the fire of course, but will you have a cup of tea?" I fear I was not entirely polite in the matter of my refusal of tea and my hasty departure. I finally located the Governor, and he accepted the proffered help at once. I raced to the landing, only to meet the landing party from our squadron disembarking from boats at the landing stages. Commander William Swift was in charge. I gave him the Governor's message. He said the Admiral had decided not  p32 to wait an answer from shore and for me to join the New York's landing party.

Our Navy and the British Navy in port saved the town from total destruction and stopped the looting that had already begun when we landed. We threw a cordon of marines around the fire area with loaded rifles. It was a very bad fire, and the water supply failed. As a last resort a fire break was made by blowing up buildings. Some of our tars tried to save a big department store but finally were driven out by the smoke and fire. They could not resist picking up useless things that soon would be consumed by the flames. They came out of the store wearing gaudy sweaters and sport hats with gay handkerchiefs tied around their necks, cowboy fashion, and all carried canes. They were New York men and "Willy" Swift, our commander, was furious with me for permitting it. I did not see any harm in it. I had a few useless things tucked away myself.

One of our stops was at La Guaira, Venezuela, where I met my Waterloo. The Admiral and staff, including me, went by train to Caracas, the capital, three thousand feet above sea level, with a most delightful climate compared to hot La Guaira. We carried along our traveling bags with our special full-dress uniforms, for we were going to call on the President of Venezuela. The United States Minister met the Admiral at the depot, and we were put up at the best hotel. The Minister and the Admiral did not get on together, and, knowing Dick Meade, I foresaw trouble. The next day we started on our round of calls. Our Admiral was most dignified and was in my eyes a great credit to our country. He spoke French and Spanish perfectly and got madder and madder when the Minister, who had not mastered either language, insisted upon butting in. Also I saw that the Minister was being too familiar with the proud Dick Meade. Instead of spending a second night as we all had anticipated, at least I had, the Admiral decided to return that afternoon on a special train. He came through the café at the hotel where the staff were refreshing themselves after an arduous day and said he was leaving but if any of the staff wished to stay longer it was agreeable to him. I was at the table with the rest and took the permission to include me, but I was wrong. The staff all decided not to stay. In my mind they were all old fogies anyway and could not appreciate the joys of Caracas at night. I stayed overnight with a classmate, Ensign F. R. Payne, from the Cincinnati,  p33 one of our squadron, and we dined and went to a ball with some Venezuelan friends we had known in Washington, where their father was a diplomat. We did not dare go to bed for fear we would not be awakened; so at daylight we went to the depot and made friends with an American engineer, who took us down to La Guaira in the cab of his engine. His engine was only used on the up grade. I reached the ship about 8 A.M., and, having been up all night, I took to my bunk. About nine o'clock I was in demand to take the Admiral's barge ashore to fetch the Minister to call on the Admiral. For some reason the flag lieutenant, Lieutenant A. P. Niblack, took for granted that I was not aboard (I should have reported to him when I returned) and went for the Minister himself. I think by this time Niblack thought, as Bob Evans did, that I was entirely too young and inexperienced to be given so much latitude as I had on the staff. I needed more watching and a little responsibility knocked into me. I was not surprised when Captain Evans sent for me to come to the quarterdeck. He had a twinkle in his blue eyes.

"Youngster," he said, "what have you to say for overstaying in Caracas?"

I claimed that I had the Admiral's permission, whereupon he sent for a member of the staff I mentioned and found I was telling the truth.

Then he said: "You darned little fool, that wasn't meant for you. You should have returned with the Admiral. He has dropped you from the staff. Report to the Executive Officer for assignment."

I did, and I never regretted it, although my new duties were none too easy. I was put on watch on the forecastle with two cadets; a watch in three and the relief doing boat duty. It was hard work and none of us got much sleep. Both cadets soon "pulled" the sick list and I, an ensign, continued to stand the watch with two "dummies" and did all the boat duty there was to do. That is I took charge of every running boat that was sent ashore.

One of the deck officers of the New York was Lieutenant H. C. Poundstone, familiarly "Billie" to us. He was most meticulous when officer of the deck. He overlooked nothing. In spite of all his zeal and faultfinding of us youngsters, we all swore by him. When I was fired from the Admiral's staff and assigned as junior deck and boat officer, I had a number of run‑ins with  p34 Billie and was determined, somehow, to even up the score. I discovered in the Navy Regulations, the young navy man's bible, an article that said, all commissioned officers leaving the ship on duty, in uniform, of course, would be given side honors. That is side boys, the number depending upon the officer's rank, and the side piped by the boatswain's mate. Then the article went on to say that the Captain could dispense with side honors extract when side arms (swords) were worn. I anticipated much fun with Billie over this.

The next time I was called to take charge of a boat, I buckled on my sword and reported on deck. I stood like a wooden Indian at the gangway. Poundstone gave me my instructions, the usual routine stuff about taking charge of the boat and making the regular trip. The passengers were all in the boat. Billie looked at me inquiringly and then said: "Well, what are you waiting for?" I said quietly:

"Mr. Poundstone, whether you realize it or not, I'm a commissioned officer and am entitled to two side boys, as I'm wearing my sword."

His face always was red; now it was purple. Some of the passengers waiting in the boat were of high rank and were getting impatient. Poundstone looked daggers at me, then he laughed and exclaimed: "You won't get them from me. You're just a boat officer."

I accepted temporary defeat and went down the ladder to the boat. When I returned from my trip, I asked permission to see the Captain and obtained it.

I found Captain Bob Evans at his desk in his cabin. I handed him the Navy Regulations book, opened at the article in question on side honors, and said:

"Will you interpret the meaning of that for me, Sir?"

He looked surprised but read it, then glanced up at me. I said:

"Doesn't it mean that when a commissioned officer leaves the ship wearing his sword even the Captain cannot dispense with side boys?"

"It does," he replied. Apparently he was in the dark as to the purpose of my question. He glanced at me quizzically and waited.

"Lieutenant Poundstone," I said nervously, for the enormity of my nerve in bearding the Captain in his den suddenly struck me, "refuses to give me side boys when I'm boat officer, and I'm an ensign."

 p35  Captain Bob screwed up his face in a sardonic grin. Then taking my regulation book, which he was still holding in his hand, he threw it with a careful aim through the open door of the cabin. It landed at the feet of the startled orderly who picked it up.

"Young man; follow the book," Bob exclaimed angrily; and I did. I never got my side boys but I enjoyed the experience and took good-humoredly the fun poked at me by my messmates because of my failure in putting one over on Billie Poundstone.

I became junior officer of the first division and had an eight-inch turret to drill. Jack O'Neil was my boatswain's mate. He was an uproariously funny Irishman and a great comfort to have around. I learned much about sailors from O'Neil. He was an excellent leader of men and had a large following among the younger men of the division, who hung on his words as if he were an oracle. His one failing was rum, and in the end that habit almost ruined him. I did my best to shield him, but when I left the ship a year later he fell into less kindly hands and was court-martialed from drunkenness and disrated. I used O'Neil as a character in five of my boys' books, the United States Midshipman series. Several years later I found him among a draft of men for the Badger, on board which ship I was then serving. He was wearing no rating mark, although his rate on the list was coxswain. He told me he had sworn he would not wear a rating badge until he had got back his rate as boatswain's mate. I persuaded the executive officer to rate him to that for my division, and it seemed like old times again having O'Neil; but he could not long stand prosperity and was found drunk while the ship was coaling in Callao, Peru. In spite of my urgent intercession with the captain of the ship, Jim Miller, he again was court-martialed and disrated. Finally he dropped liquor, and when I last saw him, some time before the World War, he had become a boatswain, a warrant officer, and was doing marvelous work in recruiting. He had a glib tongue, like a circus barker, and a ready Irish wit. He died before we entered the war. I have always remembered Mrs. O'Neil's son Johnny, as he always called himself, with the greatest affection.

I see now that Admiral Meade had what is now called by our psychologists a persecution complex. When the squadron returned to New York, Admiral Meade was ordered to release the New York as his flagship and hoist his flag in the Cincinnati. The New  p36 York was to be sent to the naval review at Kiel, Germany, to celebrate the opening of the Kiel Canal between the North Sea and the Baltic. Meade took this action as a personal slight to him and complained that the Cincinnati was not a dignified flagship for an admiral. The New York was our latest ship, and it was logical that she be selected to represent the United States in this great review of foreign ships at Kiel. In a sense Admiral Meade might have had a grievance in not being sent in the ship, because he was outstandingly representative and would have been a credit to the Navy and our country. He was a fluent linguist and came of a long line of distinguished Americans, and besides was well equipped in social amenities so important for the part an admiral would have to play in Europe among foreigners of the highest ranks. Meade was none too popular in the Navy Department among the high-ranking officers because of his attitude of superiority. I think that Admiral F. M. Ramsey, the Chief of Bureau of Navigation, a classmate at the Naval Academy, was a friend and through his powerful influence obtained for Meade his assignment in the coveted position he was then occupying. After hauling down his flag in the New York, Admiral Meade asked to be retired and died only a few years later, I think of a broken heart, because of this obsession of persecution.

On our arrival at Kiel, Admiral W. A. Kirkland, who commanded our European Squadron with his flag in the San Francisco, made his headquarters in the New York. The contrast between Meade and Kirkland was most striking. Meade gave the appearance of a highly polished, suave, and cultured diplomat. Kirkland, on the contrary, was of the traditional sailor type — voice like a foghorn, and reeking of the salt of the sea. He had the reputation of being a fine sailorman. He was in no sense the drawing-room type.

Ships from the principal navies of the world were anchored in the commodious harbor of Kiel. It was a grand display of naval strength and variety. Almost all types of warships were represented. The entire German navy at the time was anchored there. Their ships reminded me of the Germans themselves. Looking at them one would know they were German ships. Their outlines seemed bluff, with few graceful lines, very austere and distinctly military in appearance. To me, German naval men have seemed too precise and unbending, more like soldiers than sailors. The fluidity and flexibility of the sea was not in their make‑up. They  p37 did everything like clockwork. The British, on the contrary, seemed in the manner born, as it were, to the sea. They were easygoing in their way of doing things, and yet one could see, with all their casualness, that they were competent sailormen and knew they were. That superior manner angered the Germans, but in my opinion it was that same feeling of superiority on the sea of the British officer and tar that gave them the victory at the battle of Jutland and everywhere else on the sea during the World War.

We had the Kaiser on board several times. He was most interested in the New York for she was our latest warship and had in her all the most modern improvements. The eight-inch turrets were steam driven, a new departure in turret machinery. There were lavish entertainments ashore, to many of which I went. There was a parade of warships of all powers through the canal when it was officially opened. The little Bennington represented our country in that because the canal at that time was too shallow to admit the New York.

One day I was on the boat landing at the German Naval Academy, in charge of one of our steam launches. I was waiting for our officers wishing to return to the ship. I was just on the point of shoving off when a distinguished-looking man, with a graying pointed beard, dressed in a black frock coat and high silk hat, came hurriedly out on the dock. He said:

"I have a party of about ten who are most anxious to get to their yacht at once in order to dress for the ball tonight. The yacht is anchored beyond the warships. Can you take us? I see you are an American."

He noted my bewilderment and hesitation. I could not on my own initiative act as a ferry for strangers. "Maybe it would help you," he add, "if I told you of whom my party consisted." I replied that it might, but rather dubiously. He said:

"The party consists of Mr. Bayard, American Ambassador to the Court of St. James. General Lord Wolsey, Commander in Chief of the British Army, Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, Commander in Chief of the British Fleet, Sir Robert Peele, Speaker of the House of Commons, and other prominent British diplomats, and as for me, I am ex‑Mayor Hewitt of New York."

I was too dumbfounded to do more than wave him to the boat, and I ferried him out to the Admiralty yacht. We stopped on board the New York on the way out so I could report where I  p38 was headed. Bob Evans opened champagne, and I could see that Bob even then was a national character and all hung on his words. He had a marvelous personality.

During the visit of the Kaiser to the New York, after manning the rail in honor of royalty, the crew were drawn up for the Kaiser's inspection. It was thorough. The Kaiser walked along the ranks scrutinizing the face of every man. Captain Evans and several German admirals accompanied him, and I, as Bob's aide, tagged along — feeling most important. The Kaiser stopped frequently, asking the man in front of him his name.

Each time, the man selected by the Kaiser's pointing finger would reply, Schmidt, Schultz, Heinrich, or some other German name. The Kaiser did not miss his guess once. I could see that Bob was getting madder by the minute. When the inspection was over and the Kaiser and his party arrived back on the quarterdeck, the Kaiser said pleasantly enough but in a tone of condescension: "Captain Evans, you have a fine ship and a fine crew, but I notice they are mostly Germans."

Bob did not reply, only called his orderly and gave him a hurried message in an aside. We all waited almost in silence. The Kaiser looked a question several times, but Bob just signaled him to hold his patience. In a few minutes one of our chief boatswain's mates, a strikingly handsome and well-set‑up sailorman, dressed in the nattiest uniform with gold-embroidered chevrons and eagle on his sleeve, cap set at a rakish angle, showing a slight graying at the temples, stepped to the captain's side, saluting smartly. Bob returned the man's salute then turned to the impatient Kaiser.

"Your Majesty," Bob said very gravely, "I want you to know Chief Boatswain's Mate Abel Davis, a full-blooded Gay Head Indian, the only American on board my ship."a

The Kaiser smiled, rather sheepishly, I thought, and patted Bob on the shoulder. "That is good," he said, "I must remember that."

Admiral "Red Bill" Kirkland gave the Kaiser a dinner in his cabin a few days later. The Kaiser arrived with all his important admirals. The celebrated von Tirpitz, I am sure, was among them.

Lieutenant "Billy" Roper had the deck that night and called for me to relieve him so he could smoke a cigar in his stater. I was the junior officer of the watch. He cautioned me to be on my guard because: "With that crazy Kaiser dining with Red Bill  p39 and Bob anything can happen." After Roper had turned the deck over to me, I figured out that the best place for me would be right at the Admiral's skylight, where I would be wise all the time to what was happening, for I could look down on their heads and hear everything that was said. All seemed to be getting very sociable and happy.

Red Bill Kirkland had just drunk a toast to the Kaiser, and it made my Scotch blood boil to hear the crash of expensive cut‑glass wine tumblers being thrown down by the fat German admirals. Then I heard our Admiral say in his foghorn voice: "Your Majesty, if my wife were outside that door now and knew that I had drunk a toast to the Emperor of Germany, she'd have a fit, and I wouldn't blame her." This was received by a burst of gleeful laughter, showing that the champagne was not going to waste. Shortly after that I heard Bob Evans, not to be outdone, say:

"Is there anything else your Majesty would like to see done in my ship? I'll give you anything you ask for." The Kaiser seemed to demur, but Bob was insistent. He did not want Red Bill to steal the spotlight. The Kaiser apparently agreed, and I saw Bob's hand raised to the hanging bell to call his orderly. Then I heard him tell the orderly: "Tell the officer of the deck to go to General Quarters."

Of course I did not allow sufficient time for the orderly to reach me. I rang the alarm bells myself, and the buglers standing by were sounding the call. The orderly stood aghast with his mouth open, trying to deliver the Captain's message. He could not understand how I already had it.

I had to wait for Roper to relieve me, and then I had to rush below for my sword. As I raced forward after obtaining it, I just managed to stop myself in time from running pell mell into the Kaiser. I tremble at what might have been the result if I had spilled his august person. I am sure his admirals would have knifed me with their dagger swords, worn by the German naval officers in the evening. Prince Henry, the Kaiser's brother, insisted upon coming into my turret and handling the valves to train the turret. He only managed to jump the, so‑called, automatic stop and jam the guns against the casemate.

My recollection of the German women at the great balls was that they were all poor dancers. I had met an American girl who was a perfect dancer and spent a large part of my time with her.  p40 We must have looked well together on the floor. While dancing with the American girl at Prince Henry's ball at the Naval School, a young German adjutant tapped me on the arm and said in English: "Princess Irene commands you to dance with her; I shall escort your lady." It was a new sensation, and I was on the point of begging off, but the girl insisted, taking the adjutant's arm. I went over to the Princess and asked her to dance just as I would anyone else. Then we started, and, lo and behold, everyone stopped dancing. We had the floor to ourselves. She was not a bad dancer for a German, and of course I have boasted of the incident ever since as proof that in my youth I was a fine dancer.

On returning home from Kiel, we made several short stops. One was at Copenhagen, Denmark. The steerage all had a wonderful time in the famous public gardens, a sort of modest Coney Island, where the most beautiful blond maidens jump out at the unwary from every bush. Then we anchored at Southampton, England.

Two shipmates and I decided we would take a week's leave in London. We each had in our pockets just $50, ten pounds sterling. That had to last a week and it did. We took in everything: the Tower, London Bridge, Bond Street, Trafalgar Square, Waterloo Station, Hyde Park, the Mall, and many other places I had read about. I really believe our one interest was to be able to say when we had got hom: "Yes, I saw that." We actually did the British Museum in two hours. I think the phlegmatic English thought we were insane to see us fairly running down each aisle. We did stop at the Egyptian mummies; who would not?

On our very last day, after deducting the cost of our rooms at the hotel, our pockets were nearly empty. We could not eat. We might have returned to the ship, but we did not wish to acknowledge defeat. Then I remembered that I had met a member of parliament, a Mr. Godfrey Benson, at a wedding at my sister's father-in‑law's house in New York and had entertained him on board the New York at the Navy Yard. He had given me his card and said if I ever got to London to be sure and look him up. I had the card in my pocketbook. He was a professor at Oxford and a great highbrow. Fortunately it was visitor's day at the House of Parliament. I sent in my card, and we received word at once to go into the visitors' gallery and wait. The Irish question was up, and we found the speeches most interesting, if  p41 not instructive. I do not think any of us knew what it was all about. Soon Mr. Benson appeared, and I introduced him to my friends, Cadets Emory Winship and David Sellers. He went right to the point. "You will all dine with me tonight and go to the theater." He picked us up in a taxi, or a hansom cab rather, at the Hotel Victoria at seven o'clock, and we dined at the famous Brooks' Club. We hung our overcoats on a long line of hooks outside the dining room, I remember. The dinner was delicious, and the drinks were plentiful. After dining, we went to the library. There we were shown a betting book several hundred years old, and Benson pointed out a record of a bet that he thought would interest an American. It read: "Charles Fox (British Prime Minister) bets Mr. Sheridan (the famous playwright) that in 1786 the American colonies would have six Ships of the Line." The record was then marked: "Lost by Mr. Fox." America had decided rather than build Ships of the Line to build fast frigates able to keep out of the way of Britain's more numerous Ships of the Line.

When we were ready to leave the club and picked up our overcoats from the long line of others, I shall never forget Winship's awed face. The whole row of coats was marked with small cards bearing the owner's name. Every one was a lord: an earl or a baron. We were in high society! At the theater we saw Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, which was a rare treat. I do not believe that Benson realized what a good samaritan he had been.

When the New York returned home, I was detached and crossed the continent to joint Thetis at the Navy Yard, Mare Island, California. I arrived on board with a mastiff puppy I had bought on the way and fifty cents. I was at once told I could not keep the dog on board ship, so I gave it to Naval Constructor Elliot Snow for his son. The Thetis had been an old whaler converted to a surveying ship. She carried both steam and sail. In the next year I was surveying Magdalena Bay, Mexico. I believe at that time the United States had its eyes on Lower California, where this great bay is located. It would make a fine base for a war fleet. Japan has been said also to have had an eye on this bay. It would be a natural selection as a base for Japan in a war with the United States, and, in case of emergency today, I feel sure we would seize it to keep it from being used by an enemy.

For once I could get all the hunting and fishing anyone could wish. The country abounded with game: deer, mountain lion,  p42 quail, and numerous beach birds. The waters were filled with game fish. I never was without a rifle, a shotgun, and fishing tackle. I had several deer to my credit and many rattlesnakes. Whenever we cleared for a camp we found rattlesnakes. The country seemed alive with them, yet no one was ever bit. My share in the work was divided between the ship, doing the offshore hydrographic work or soundings, and with the parties ashore, erecting and occupying signals, measuring base lines, and helping the observation party with their calculations. The work was most absorbing and helped me to be of use in similar work later on in my career.

For several weeks I was in camp with Lieutenant Francis Boughter as my sole companion, surveying an arm of the great bay. One incident is most vivid. I started out from camp on foot one Sunday to hunt deer. My intention was to reach the ranch from which we hired mules and spend the night, riding back the next day. I should have reached the ranch by noon but the country is so alike and so covered with giant cactus trees that I soon realized I was lost. I carried a canteen of water, but that was soon gone. That night I built a fire but nearly froze in only a light shirt, for the days are scorching. I dreamed of cold steins of beer. About four o'clock the next afternoon I came across some cattle and also got a shot at a deer which I missed. The cattle had been wallowing in a dry water hole. There was a very small puddle of water, as white as milk, of the consistency of cream, and full of black water bugs. I drank it none the less and put a little in my canteen. Then I saw a few horses and followed them. They led me to the ranch house. It was deep in an arroyo with a lake of crystal clear water beside it. I spent the night, drinking quarts of cool milk, and rode back on a horse the next morning.

After taking part in surveying work for one season, I was sent as a watch officer to the Fish Commission ship Albatross, manned by the Navy but engaged in scientific work in Alaska. On board this small vessel I made two summer cruises into Alaskan waters.

On the first cruise we had on board a commission to investigate the conditions in Alaskan waters of pelagic sealing. The object being to draw up rules to stop the rapid destruction of the fur seal herds. This first cruise took us into the Behring Sea as far west as the Kurile Islands and then to Japan.

The second summer we were occupied with the study of the  p43 Alaska salmon fisheries and arranging for the provision of hatcheries in order to prevent the various salmon streams from becoming depleted of their valuable fish.

These cruises were interesting to me, especially from the standpoint of piloting in most difficult waters and with indifferent charts. On the second cruise we engaged the services of an Alaskan pilot. It turned out that he was losing his eyesight because of age. He carried several notebooks full of detailed directions which he referred to frequently. I soon discovered that he was using my young eyes to help him, and from that time I spent most of my time, when off watch, on the bridge to assist him. He was too proud to acknowledge this serious defect, and I do not think the captain knew how dangerous it was to trust the piloting to him.

In the fall of 1897, on the ship's return from Alaska, I was ordered East to the Newport News Shipbuilding Company's plant as assistant inspector of electrical work on the battleships Kearsarge and Kentucky, building at the dockyard. This was my first shore duty, but because of the coming of the Spanish war it lasted only a short time.


Thayer's Note:

a The Captain chose well: in the early seventeenth century the Gay Head or Aquinnah tribe, a subtribe of the Wampanoag, were on hand to greet the first English colonists arriving in what is now Massachusetts: more American there could not have been on board his ship. More information is available at their tribal website, The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head. As an American I am reminded, with equal pride, of Jesse Owens a few years later at Hitler's Olympics.


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