The Bermuda Islands, from their
position, have always been regarded as of considerable strategical
importance in the event of our being involved in war with any Power
likely to prey upon our shipping, and at the present time they attract
especial interest in view of the Spanish-American quarrel. As has
been pointed out, Spain and America are not witthel by any undertaking
from searching vessels under a neutral flag, and if either should avail
herself to any great extent of this licence we might be the greatest
sufferers. International law is a very thorny subject, bristling
with difficulties and with apparently antagonistic precedents, and it
will be necessary that our interests should be vigilantly guarded in
this quarter of the world; hence the importance of Bermuda as a Naval
base and coaling station for our cruisers. The little group of
coral islands lie about 500 miles from cape Hatteras, a little to the
southward of it, and about 1300 miles to the north-east of Havana.
Our illustrations show the large floating dock, which is capable of
accommodating a vessel of over 370 ft in length and 25 ft draught.
It was built in 1869 and was towed across the Atlantic by two ironclads,
with the old paddle-frigate "Terrible" fastened astern to act
as a rudder. The vessel represented in the dock is the second
class cruiser "Intrepid", of 3600 tons displacement. She
looks,as Jack would put it, like a mere jollyboat in the huge floating
structure. In another illustration the dock is itself being
docked, and having the barnacles scraped off it's bottom.
The building of the dock "Bermuda" was commenced in August
1866, on which there were at one time 1400 hands employed; she was
launched 3rd September 1868, and finally completed in May 1869.
Immediately after coming out of dry dock the ships are removed to the
other side of the camber to coal. On the "long arm" of
the breakwater immense stacks of coal are built up, the oldest being
used first; thus the ship may be at one end of the breakwater and have
to take her coal from the other end, in which case the dockyard train is
brought into use, half the ship's company filling the baskets and
loading the train, while the remainder stand by abreast the ship to
unload the trucks and "dump" the coal. As soon as the
bunkers are filled the ship goes out to Grassey Bay to clean up and put
on a fresh coat of paint.
Extract from "The Navy and Army Illustrated Vol. VI"
(April 2nd 1898)