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was about 48 miles west half south from Fastnet she experienced violent shock followed instantly by terrific explosion bursting hatches and throwing hatch beam cargo derricks and twisted iron into air filling lower hold forward completely with water. Crew immediately took to boats. After standing by ship one hour returned on board and at 10.30 started for Liverpool. About 1.25 a. m. met two vessels sent by British Admiralty in answer to our wireless call and one has been in attendance ever since. It was dusk when explosion occurred. Flag had been hauled down five minutes before. Steamer's name painted on both sides ship in letters six feet tall. Had no warning and saw nothing.
Consul Washington to the Secretary of State.
Liverpool, May 28, 1915. Nebraskan chartered White Star Line, water ballast. Shock followed by explosion 8.24 evening May 25, latitude 51.14 N., longitude 10.52 W. Captain and officer watch say flag lowered ten minutes before explosion. Chief engineer only person saw track approaching torpedo. Captain, officer watch, and chief engineer say light time explosion sufficient see two thousand feet. Name and port painted both sides letters six feet high. Lieutenant Towers, Constructor McBride making further examination Nebraskan to-day. They will photograph in dry dock next week.
Consul Washington to the Secretary of State.
Liverpool, May 28, 1915. SIR: I have the honor to report that information having been obtained that the Nebraskan was due on the evening of the 27th instant, arrangements were made to board her through the courtesy of the White Star Company as she arrived at the Mersey Bar.
The Assistant Naval Attaché, Lieutenant Towers, arrived in Liverpool under instructions from the Embassy in the early afternoon, the
White Star Line courteously allowing him and Mr. McBride, of the Construction Corps, U. S. N., who accompanied him, to also proceed on the tug to the Bar to meet the Nebraskan.
Affidavits were taken of the Captain, the officer on watch at the time of the explosion, and of the Chief Engineer, the only person on board who saw any indication of a torpedo approaching the ship. The captain of the Nebraskan later told me that a reluctance to make an affidavit, which I had observed on the ship, of the Chief Engineer, was due to the fact that he was, by reason of the sentiments which he entertained, disinclined to state that he had seen anything that indicated that the vessel was struck by a torpedo, presumably fired by a submarine of a country with which he was in sympathy.
These affidavits will be delivered to the Embassy in London by the Assistant Naval Attaché, it being understood that the contents will be more rapidly transmitted to the Department, and also that as the Ambassador had instructed the Assistant Naval Attaché to proceed to Liverpool to investigate that the affidavits should be taken by him to the Ambassador.
A brief summary of the information listed in the affidavits is that the Nebraskan at 8.24 p. m. May 25th, while in Latitude 51.14 N., Longitude 10.52 W., experienced a severe shock, and that after a short but marked interval there was a loud explosion, which did serious damage to the fore part of the vessel, fortunately hurting no one seriously.
The Nebraskan was under charter by the White Star Company for the return voyage and was proceeding in water ballast with no cargo to the Delaware Breakwater.
It was early dusk when the explosion took place; there was also moonlight, and the words "NEBRASKAN of New York” were painted in white letters six feet tall on each side of the ship. It was the opinion of the Captain that objects were clearly visible for at least 2,000 feet.
The American flag had been flown since leaving Liverpool until about ten minutes before the explosion occurred. It was immediately after the explosion rehoisted.
The crew left the vessel, but returned in an hour's time.
The Nebraskan was escorted to the Mersey Bar, and the Captain is to-day writing a letter to the Admiralty expressing appreciation,
The Nebraskan was put alongside dock at 11 p. m., May 27th, and will shortly go into dry dock, when it is the purpose of Lieutenant Towers and Naval Constructor McBride to photograph her.
These circumstances were reported to the Department in condensed form by cable, which is confirmed under a separate cover. I have, etc.
HORACE LEE WASHINGTON.
Ambassador W. H. Page to the Secretary of State.
London, May 28, 1915. SIR: With reference to my telegram of to-day's date, No. 2186, I have the honor to transmit herewith enclosed the detailed report made by Lieutenant Towers, Assistant Naval Attaché of this Embassy, on the case of the American steamer Nebraskan and depositions of three of the ship's officers made before the Consul at Liverpool. I have, etc.
Report of Assistant Naval Attaché Towers.
In accordance with the verbal instructions of the Ambassador to investigate the case of the Nebraskan, on May 27, accompanied by Naval Constructor McBride, I proceeded to Liverpool. On arrival there we proceeded to the American Consulate. The Consul had arranged with the White Star Line for our passage down to the mouth of the Mersey on the tug which they were sending to meet the Nebraskan; accompanied by the Consul we went on board the tug and proceeded down to the bar.
The Nebraskan, convoyed by a naval trawler, came up about 6.30 p. m., and we went on board. After an examination of the injured portion of the ship, so far as such examination could be made at sea, we obtained the depositions of the Captain, Chief Engineer, and Third Officer of the ship. No one else could be discovered who could give any statement of importance.
The ship arrived at the Canada Dock at 10.30 p. m., and was moored. An examination of the hull and spaces was made on the next day. Arrangements were made for dry docking at Birkenhead on May 29, when a complete inspection will be made.
The following was brought out by the depositions and examinations:
The steamship Nebraskan, Captain John S. Greene, of 2,824 tons net, of the port of New York, and owned by the American Hawaiian Steamship Company of New York City, was under charter to the White Star Line for a voyage from New York to England and return. She had discharged a cargo at Liverpool, and on the afternoon of May 24, 1915, sailed from Liverpool for Delaware Breakwater, in ballast. She had painted on each side amidships “Nebraskan, New York” in white letters six feet high, and was flying the American flag. She had received no advice or instructions from any Government official as to course to steer. Nothing unusual occurred until the evening of May 25. The weather at that time was clear, and the ship was proceeding on her course at a speed of about 12 knots. At about 8.10 p. m. the officer on watch gave orders to haul down the flag, as the sun had set and the ship was also getting well out to sea. At 8.24 p. m., the ship then being in Lat. 51° 14' N., Long. 10° 52' W., a streak of white foam was noticed on the starboard side, perpendicular to the ship, and almost instantly a severe shock was felt, followed by a violent explosion on the starboard side, abreast No. 1 hold. At this time the light was good, and the name on the sides could have been distinguished for at least 2,000 feet. The hatch covers and beams of No. 1 hold and the cargo booms above same were blown into the air, and also quantities of débris and oil. The oil came rom the double bottom compartments, which were used as fuel oil tanks. Pieces of side and bottom plating were blown through two decks, and the ship was generally cut up around this hold, especially on port side. None of the crew were seriously injured ; two men suffered cuts and bruises and several had narrow escapes. The hold immediately filled with water and the ship settled by the head. The captain stopped the engines; the fires were turned out, and the crew took to the boats. Before leaving the ship the captain sent a wireless call for assistance and received a message from the British Admiralty stating that assistance was being sent. After lying off for about an hour the captain and crew returned to the ship and headed her for Liverpool. At 1.30 a. m. on the 26th two British vessels came up, and one of these convoyed the ship to the mouth of the Mersey. The return trip was made at a speed of from six to eight knots, and was without incident. While in clear water it was possible to see, by looking down from the top of No. 1 hatch, the large hole in the starboard side of the ship; no holes were seen on port side.
From the accounts of the witnesses, and an examination of the ship, I am firmly convinced that the ship was torpedoed, and it seems probable, from the apparent results, that the torpedo punctured the skin of the ship before it exploded, as the effect on the interior structure of the ship was very great, and as a comparatively small amount of water was thrown on deck. A further examination, made when the ship is in dry dock, may result in more evidence, though I
do not consider that more evidence is necessary to establish the fact beyond doubt.
J. H. TOWERS.
Deposition of John S. Greene, Captain of the Steamship“Nebraskan.”
KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND,
County of Lancaster, City of Liverpool, ss: I, John S. Greene of San Francisco, aged 48 years, captain of the steamship Nebraskan, of 2,824 tons net, of New York, owned by the American Hawaiian Steamship Company of New York City, N. Y., now at the time of making this affidavit under Charter to the White Star Line, said Charter having been made in New York May 1st, 1915, do depose and say:
I left in my vessel, the Nebraskan, from Liverpool for Delaware Breakwater, at 5.7 p. m., May 24, 1915, in water ballast.
The name of my vessel, “Nebraskan of New York," appeared in letters six feet in height amidships on both sides of the vessel; the name of the vessel and home port is clear and distinct.
We passed the Fastnet Rock at 4.33 p. m. on May 25th. At 8.24 p. m. in Lat. 51.14 N., Long. 10.52 W., the ship met with a violent shock, followed instantly by a terrific explosion, bursting No. 1 hatches and deck, abreast of No. 1, throwing hatch beams and cargo derricks 30 feet in the air, and filling No. 1 lower hold completely with water. The engines in the ship were stopped and boats lowered and filled with the crew. We stood by ship for about one hour in the boats, and as there was no further explosion I ordered the crew on board again.
At the time of the explosion I have just described the weather was clear and it was just coming dusk; the moon was up and the light was sufficiently good in my opinion to enable the name of the vessel on the ship's sides to be distinguishable for a distance of 2,000 feet.
I estimate the explosion to which I have referred occurred about ten minutes after I had lowered the American flag, which I had continued to fly up to that time at the stern of my vessel since leaving Liverpool.
I further state that neither before leaving Liverpool, nor up to the time of the explosion to which I have referred, did I receive any instructions or advice from any official of a belligerent nation in regard to courses to steer on my return passage to America.
Before I left the ship I caused the wireless operator to return to the vessel from the boat and send the signal “S. 0. S.” I received a wireless message from the British Admiralty that assistance was being sent. After returning to the ship from the small boat the boats