Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant William H. H. Southerland to Commander Bowman H. McCalla

U. S. S. Eagle,        

At Sea, May 12, 1898,

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Eagle reached the light ship off Diego Perez Island at 7 a. m. of the 11th instant and at once commenced a search for the submarine cable connecting Batabano with Cienfuegos.

     A boat was sent to the light-ship and the keeper’s services secured to aid in the search.

     Six lines were carefully run at varying depths between the light-ship and the point of the shoal to the eastward, now marked by a wreck, the bottom being visible most of the time. This vessel and two of her boats performed this duty, but without a satisfactory result. The strong wind and rough sea, the pilot’s assurance that no good holding ground could be found for an anchorage, the evident fact that the chart was extremely unreliable, and the positive statement of the light-ship keeper that no one had overhauled the cable in that vicinity for over three years determined me to abandon the search at 4 p. m. as fruitless, it being more than probable that the cable was buried deep in the sand of the reefs.

     In accordance with your order, the light-ship was then set on fire and was burning fiercely when this vessel left. Her keeper expressing a desire to go to Cienfuegos, took him on board this vessel with his personal effects and his own small boat, and will drop him off at Cienfuegos when you so direct.

     This action on my part was principally due to the fact that the sea was too rough for him to get ashore unaided. He states that he is a Cuban and has not received his salary from the Government for the last seven months.

     We reached PiedrasCay at sunset. Sent an armed crew on shore and destroyed the lighting apparatus and what pertained thereto. Two men were in charge of the light and with them a small boy. These we found in starving condition, in consequence of which it became necessary to bring them on board for removal from the island. They had been eight months without pay, three weeks without any communication with the outside, and five days without food.

     Very respectfully,

W. H. H. Southerland,  

Lieutenant, U. S. N., Commanding.

 Commander B. H. McCalla, U. S. N.,

Commanding Division.

Source Note Print: Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, pp. 198-99.

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