Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Extract from the Report of the Spanish Commission on the Maine Catastrophe

 

     The report contains the depositions of eye witnesses and experts, and, by reproducing, by means of these depositions, the act of explosion, at each moment of its duration, in its external appearances, proves the absence of all the incidents which always necessarily accompany the explosion of a torpedo.

     It is known, through these same depositions of witnesses very near the Maine, that there was only a single explosion; that no column of water was thrown up; that there was no movement of the water; that there was no dash of the water against the sides of the nearest vessel; that there was no shaking of the shore, and that no dead fish were seen subsequently. The deposition of the chief pilot of the port shows that there was a great abundance of fish in the bay after the explosion, and the same thing is asserted by the assistant engineer of the harbor works, who says that he has always found dead fish after many explosions (blastings) made for the works in the bay.

     The divers, when examining the hull of the Maine, could not see its bottom, as it was buried in the mud, but they examined the sides and the rents in them outwards are an infallible sign that the explosion was internal.

     When the bottom of the bay around the vessel was examined not a single sign of the action of a torpedo was found, and, moreover, the district attorney (fiscal) finds no precedents of the blowing up of the magazines of a vessel by torpedoes in any case.

     The report states that the peculiar nature of the procedure followed and the thorough observance of the principle of the extraterritoriality of the Maine have prevented the making such investigations in the interior of the vessel as would furnish the means of deciding, at least hypothetically, the internal cause of the disaster; and this inability was increased by the unfortunate refusal which prevented the establishment of the necessary and appropriate cooperation between the Spanish commission on the one side, and the commander and crew of the Maine, the American officials commissioned to investigate the causes of the event, and those subsequently charged with the recovery (salvamento) on the other side.

     Lastly, the report affirms that the internal and external examination of the Maine, when it can be accomplished, and provided the labors for the total or partial recovery of the wreck do not cause any change in it, and the examination of the spot in the bay where the vessel is sunk, will prove that, as has been said, the explosion was produced by an internal cause.

A true copy:

                                           Juan Du Bosc.1

Source Note: FRUS, pp. 1044-45. The extract was enclosed in a note from the Spanish legation to John Sherman, the American Secretary of State, of 28 March 1898.

Footnote 1: Juan Du Bosc was the Spanish Acting Chargé d’Affaires in Washington.

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