Re: US Navy Floating Dry Docks
Havana Dock – American Service at Pensacola
I am pretty sure that the dock arrived in Pensacola towards the end of 1902, and became desgnated Dock No.2 Cannot find any references to the operation of the dock during its stay there, but it is presumed she was used for the repair and maintenance of the large US battleships, the previous capacity being only an old wooden dock that seems to have been installed in 1826 when the Navy Yard was first built and equipped.
It is reported that on December the 11th 1903, the dock was involved in another accident. It appears that the smaller wooden dock was being docked in Dock No.2 (Havana dock) – presumably for cleaning and maintenance, when the blocks slipped, causing the smaller dock to crash through the pontoons and cause significant damage to the larger dock. The accident occurred just as the water was being pumped from the big dock, so that all of the weight of the small dock was on the blocks. Efforts were made to pump out the water from the small dock in order to float it, but the pumps and and pipes were too badly damaged to accomplish this. A fire engine and two naval tugs were used to pump out the water, and tow the small dock into the basin. Both docks ere successfully repaired.
On Monday the 24th of September 1906 a weak hurricane stared on the tip of South America in the Caribbean Sea with winds of 75 mph. The next day, the hurricane intensifies into a Category 3, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 115 mph. By the afternoon of Thursday the 27th, the hurricane made landfall near Pascagoula, Mississippi, as a Category 2 hurricane, and eventually weakened to a tropical storm.
The impact of the storm on the Pensacola shoreline, 100 miles away was devastating. It was considered as one on of the worst cyclones ever to hit the bay, giving rise to a 7 to 12 foot storm surge that caused millions of dollars in damage and 134 fatalities, 30 in Pensacola itself. At the navy yard of Pensacola, all but three boats, the Spanish cruiser Isla Luzon and the water boats, were either sunk or thrown ashore.
The small wooden floating dock was completely destroyed, being crushed against the stone dock wall. No.2 dock (Havana) Spain was driven ashore, with just minor damage, but areas surrounding it were littered with debris. It took several attempts to re-float the dock. Three naval tugs Hercules, Uacas and Osceola tried for several weeks, at one stage Osceola, while going ahead at full stem, had her propellor smashed by floating wreckage. The dock was finally resumed to service on October the 31st, one of the first dockings was that of the two tugs Accomac and Waubun. Accomac did not suffer much damage, but was swept high up onto the beacn. Waubun had almost sunk at her moorings, six pilings having been driven through her hull.
The following telegram was received at the navy department from the commandant of the Pensacola navy yard, gives a good account of the damage suffered:
“Machias at moorings In basin; Waubun sunk at wharf; coal barge No. 1 high on beach at west end of yard; Gloucester on beach outside of yard west; Wooden dry dock destroyed; new coal pen also gone; piles standing the old coal wharf and the steel drydock, wharf and ammunition wharf damaged; also Undine sunk; barge ashore; broken up target range; house destroyed; the Isla de Luzon floating in basin but leaking; steel drydock apparently undamaged; heavy wreckage in yard; trees uprooted; wireless topgallant masts and all electrical wires wrecked; power plant damaged and not working; buildings generally damaged by wind; one house uninhabitable; water damage to machinery on ground floor, No lives lost In navy yard. BICKNELL".
The task of raising the gunboat Machias was a big one as the hull had been badly damaged and it took divers several weeks to plug the holes so that she could be pumped out and raised. She was placed in the floating dock in early January 1907, and after hull repairs, was floated out on February the 15th.
The gunboat Gloucester was blown virtually high and dry onto the beach during the hurricane, but for about 2 feet under her bow. It took several weeks for the dredger Caucus to dredge a channel, finally allowing Gloucester to be pulled into deeper water, on February the 28th 1907.
In March 1907, the Navy Department offered the old wooden dock, resting at the bottom of Pensacola harbour, for sale. Whilst the wooden structure was of little value, the dock had a copper bottom. In April 1908 there is a record of a plan by M.A. Baker to raise the dock, but I can find no further reference to the outcome, or the final fate of the dock.
On May 19th 1907 the Spanish mail and passenger steamer Alfonsa XIII was towed into Pensacola harbour to undergo repair of a broken propeller. She was docked in the early hours of May the 22nd, and was the first Spanish ship to enter the dock since it was moved from Havana. Pumping out of the dock has to be ceased after several hours after the two or three of the pump motors overheated, and some burned out. Pumping was resumed some five or six hours later after repairs had been carried out. With her propeller repaired, Alfonsa XIII floated clear of the dock at 1.04 pm on Monday the 27th of May, to resume her interrupted voyage to Vera Cruz.
In July 1907, the light house tender Laurel was docked for hull scraping and painting, and other maintenance work. She left the dock on September the 5th.
On September the 9th, the dredger Caucus was in the dock having a new propeller fitted, after it hit an obstruction whilst dredging in the harbour, breaking thre of the four propeller blades.
On the 22nd of January 1908, the last of the vessels beached in the hurricane, the gunboat Vixen was floated out of the dock after several weeks of repairs.
In March 1908 the mexican cargo steamer Olympia was docked for hull scraping and painting.
On April the 3rd 1908, the torpedo boat Blakely was floated out of the dock after repairs to damage from being hit by a Whitehead torpedo during target practice.
By 1912, the US Navy declared that the old Spanish floating dock at Pensacola had deteriorated through age to such an extent as to be rendered on long fit for naval purposes. It was therefore sold. To James Shewan & Sons of Brooklyn. On the 4th of May 1912 the tugs Mary E. Scully and M.E. Luckenmach of the Scully Towing & Transportation line, left Pensacola with the dock in tow. The voyage was estimated to taKe 20 to 25 days to reach New York if the weather was fine.
I can find no further information about the dock or its final fate.
HavanaDock_5: Dock at Pensacola in 1905. Published by the Detroit Publishing Company. Believed to now be in the public domain. No copyright restrictions evident.
HavanaDock_6: Postcard showing ship docked whilst dock at Pensacola, probably around 1905 again?
HavanaDock_7: Just for interest, I think this is the old wooden dock at Pensacola. Date unknown. Original source of photograph not determined. No copyright restrictions evident.
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