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of the vessels Evelyn and Carib. Both of the vessels were sunk by mines. The British gave no false directions as reported. Both of the vessels simply ran on mine field.
Consul Fee to the Secretary of State.
Bremen, March 4, 1915. SIR: I have the honor to enclose herewith the reports under oath of the captain and the officers of the American steamer Carib, of New York, which sank with the cargo of 4,600 bales of cotton bound for Bremen from a mine explosion on the 22d of February, 1915, in a northwesterly direction a short distance from the position of the Norderney light in the North Sea.
These statements consist of the sworn affidavit of Captain Cole, first, third, and second officers, and the three engineers of the S. S. Carib.
Nothing was saved from the lost steamer; not even the ship papers. The crew in their haste to save themselves from the sinking vessel left with very scanty clothing, and on landing had to be furnished with an entire new outfit of new cloth.
The master with the aid of his officers made up the crew list, which is attached to this statement.
These reports were taken before and certified to by Mr. Buck, our consular agent at Bremerhaven, under my direction.
Sworn duplicates of these reports have been forwarded to the Embassy at Berlin.
On Tuesday, the 2d of this month, I forwarded Captain Edgar Cole and 24 members of the crew, including the officers of the S. S. Carib, together with the Dutch pilot, to Rotterdam for transportation home by American S. S. Southerner to the order of Furness Steamship Co., agents of the owners of the Carib, who met all expenses of transportation to Rotterdam, the maintenance and clothing of the crew, while at Bremen. I have, etc.,
WILLIAM THOMAS FEE.
Sworn Statement of Master of S. S. “Carib.”
My name is Edgar L. Cole.
I have been master of several vessels and for many years for this same company, the Clyde Steamship Company, of New York.
I have never before made a trip to the Continent or to Germany. The net tonnage of the steamer is 1,285.
We finished loading at Charleston, South Carolina, on the 26th of January, 1915, and January 27th cleared from that port for Bremen with 4,600 bales of cotton. We also had 200 tons of pig iron for ballast in the bottom of the ship in different holds.
We had about 550 tons of coal when we left.
I first knew we were going to Bremen about 8 or 10 days before sailing. We did extensive repairs to get the ship ready for this voyage.
I had special instructions before sailing to go via the English Channel and take a pilot at Dover, who would conduct us through the Channel to the Sunk Lightship.
These instructions were given me by our agents in Charleston, Mr. Whitsit, acting for Strachan & Co., our charterers.
Both the owners and charterers believed that the Channel route would be the safest, as the English government claimed it would allow all American vessels going to Germany with cotton free passage. It was also represented that parts of the northern route were mined. One of our ships which went by the northern route, the Denver, had been captured and taken into Kirkwall, and on account of this these instructions to go via the Channel were issued.
I had no other special instructions from the United States.
I was equipped with United States Hydrographic charts, I think for December, but it might have been January. I also had Hydrographic bulletins, I think for December and not for January, but I am not sure about that.
I did not notice on these publications a note that vessels proceeding via the Channel should steer for Lister Deep.
I did not use the Hydrographic chart a great deal, but used mostly a modern Atlantic chart which I had bought.
I did not look for any other route, as I had orders to proceed to the Hook of Holland and procure a German pilot, and the charterers informed me that Nicolaus Haye and Company, Bremen, would have a pilot ready for me when I reached the Hook.
No one advised me of the route via Farn Island, Lindesnaes, and Lister Deep.
I received a uniformed Trinity House pilot at Nab Lightship, February 27th, and we went to the Downs that evening and anchored at 9.30 p. m.
We stayed there until the 19th before we received our clearance papers.
We had a very heavy southeast storm there and the English boarding officer was unable to board us earlier. He came on board at 5 a. m. the 19th, and at 8 p. m. he gave us our clearance papers. We proceeded the following morning at 6 a. m. The pilot remained with us as far as Sunk Lightship.
The pilot told me at Downs that I could proceed either by way of Yarmouth (the Farn Island route) or via Galloper Buoy. He said that if we were going to the Hook of Holland the latter route would be the best, as Holland-American steamers were constantly going back and forth in that track. He said he was willing to go either way.
The boarding officer gave me no advice as to which route to take, but after he learned I was going to the Hook of Holland he gave me a true east course via Galloper Buoy to Schouvenbank Lightship and thence to the Maas. He showed me on the chart what he supposed to be the southern limit of the German mines and the northern limit of the English mines.
We anchored at or near North Hinder Lightship at 5 p. m. on the 19th, on account of danger from floating mines.
We proceeded on the morning of the 20th at 7.30. Between 8 and 10 o'clock that morning we passed 14 floating mines en route to Schouvenbank Lightship. I saw these 14 mines myself. They were not in one line or in one group; first I saw some on the starboard side and then some on the port side, and so on.
I thought they were new mines, because they were not rusty.
I was within 25 or 30 yards of some, and could see them well with the naked eye. In fact, we had to change our course for some of them which were dead ahead. I also saw some with marine glasses.
The mines were about four feet in diameter and round like a buoy. The mines seemed to be free and not anchored, and bounced up and down with the waves just like buoys. They all seemed to have studs on top, and I do not remember having seen any smooth ones. A long thin bar seemed to extend across the top of each mine, over the sides, and balanced on a pivot in the middle. Several of the mines were marked on the side with the letter “H." No other letters were to be
I never stopped running on account of mines after leaving North Hinder. We were running full speed on the 19th, about 9 knots.
We arrived at Maas Lightship at 1.30 p. m. on the 20th, and I saw the Dutch torpedo boats. They came close to me and asked what I wanted, and I told them I wanted a pilot to take me to the Weser.
They replied that I would have to run into the Hook of Holland to get a pilot, as the pilot boat lies there.
We sailed into the Hook of Holland and anchored near the gas buoy and the Dutch pilot boat sent a pilot aboard the ship. We had the pilot flag up and they evidently thought we were bound for Rotterdam.
In talking with the pilot, he said I could get no pilot there to take me to the Weser, but said I might be able to get a pilot if I went ashore and telegraphed to Bremen for one. They took me ashore at the Hook, and there I met the chief officer of S. S. Ocmulgee, who told me that he had come ashore and had telephoned to the Furness Shipping Company of Rotterdam for a pilot, and they had sent one to the Ocmulgee and they were just going aboard the ship to sail. They had told Furness Company that the Carib was there and also wanted a pilot, but I could not get one that day. I called up the Furness Company and he told me to call up the company by telephone at 9 o'clock the next morning. I called him as agreed next morning, and he said the pilot would be at the Hook of Holland at 1 p. m.
The Furness Shipping Company, I think the manager of the company, suggested that I might follow the Ocmulgee without a pilot, but I said I would not do that, but would wait at the Hook until I secured a pilot.
We secured the pilot at 1 p. m. February 21st, and sailed about
4.15 p. m.
I did not question the pilot as to his ability or references, because the Furness Shipping Company had recommended him to me and had engaged him for me, and before I left the United States I had instructions that the Furness Company would attend to affairs for me in Holland.
The pilot told me he was a North Sea pilot and had been sent by the Furness Shipping Company. He was sober when he came on board and remained so the entire time.
I discussed with him the course we should pursue to the Weser, and he mentioned, what I already knew, that the lightships were gone. He claimed to have been master and mate on many vessels and to have sailed German waters often. He never told me that he had never piloted any American vessel to the Weser.
We were going to steer for Haaks Lightship position and had no intentions of going to Lister Deep. Then we intended to go to Terschelling Bank Lightship position: then to Boerkum Reef Lightship position; then east by south, magnetic, to 9 miles north of Norderney Lighthouse. I think we changed to this last course about 2.45 a. m.
We cast the lead frequently. We had 15 fathoms at 9 a. m., 13 fathoms at 10 o'clock, and 1273 fathoms at 10.30. We were about to heave lead again when the explosion came.
The pilot had his own chart with him and advised me when to
heave the lead. We did not want to go too close as it was quite hazy. I depended greatly upon him as he seemed to know the waters thoroughly. He appeared to be a capable pilot, and I found his courses to be correct.
We were going at full speed when the explosion occurred. We had been going at full speed all night; the pilot says it was safe to do so.
The weather was somewhat hazy and at times there was a thick fog. Most of the time we were able to see about 2 or 3 miles. We saw no floating mines at all that morning.
I had just left the bridge and was down on deck when the explosion came.
I judged the ship was 10 miles north by west from Norderney Light when the explosion came. But all morning we had had the tide against us and I believe we were much more to the westward than this position. The wind was about SSW.
The first explosion occurred at 10.58 a. m., February 22nd. It seemed to strike the vessel just about amidships, and directly from below, as the ship seemed to lift. The explosion broke the ship in two and burst one of the boilers, which blew coal and steam up into the air and into the Captain's room, and almost instantly the engine room was full of water up to the cylinders. This rush of water and steam is, in my opinion, what caused the death of Third Assistant Engineer William Bazzell, Fireman Antonio Martinez, and Coal Passer Segunda Blaz, as no trace of these men could be found, although a search for them was made as thoroughly as possible.
The boats were uncovered and already swinging in the davits, as they were constantly since leaving the Channel. They were lowered immediately and the remaining 27 men and the pilot, named Kruize, rowed away from the ship.
I was unable to save any papers on account of the perilous condition of the vessel and the necessity for immediate departure.
After we had rowed about one-quarter of a mile from the ship we stopped and waited, and the last we saw of the ship through the haze and fog the stern of the vessel was just about to sink under water. This was about 20 minutes after the explosion. Then we started to make for the shore, steering a southerly course, and in about 15 minutes we heard a second explosion. We were unable to tell whether this was another mine or the second boiler exploding. We did not actually see the ship sink, on account of the thick fog, but judging from our last sight of her she went down in a very few minutes.
I have no belief that the vessel was torpedoed but feel reasonably sure she struck a mine.
I was in charge of boat No. 1 and Chief Officer Gifford was in charge of boat No. 2. There were 16 men in my boat, including the pilot, and in the other boat there were 12 men.
After rowing for about 40 minutes we sighted a German patrol