Quick Links Menu.
USS Cyclops on 31 October 1911
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.
Class: CYCLOPS (Fleet Collier No. 4)
Design Navy Fleet Collier No. 4
Displacement (tons): 5,500 light, 19,360
Dimensions (feet): 542.0' oa, 520.0' pp x 65.0' mld x 27.7' mn
Original Armament: 4-4"/50 (1916/17)
Later armaments: --
Complement: 104 (civ.)
Speed (kts.): 14.61
Propulsion (HP): 6,705
Machinery: Vert. 3-exp., 2 screws
||24 Mar 09
||William Cramp & Sons
||2 Jun 09
||7 May 10
||7 Nov 10
||4 Mar 18
FY 1909 (Act of 13 May 08). Although CYCLOPS, NEPTUNE, and JUPITER (Fleet Colliers Nos. 4, 8, and 3, built in that order) had the same hull design and could thus be considered sister ships, they had three different types of propulsion plants and two different types of coal handling gear and are listed separately here.
On 23 Mar 08 the Secretary of the Navy forwarded to the General Board for comment a letter from Rep. George A. Loud (Michigan), chairman of a subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs, asking the Navy Department to give its views on the addition to the naval bill an item for two large fleet colliers. Mr. Loud was proposing colliers of 15,000 tons capacity and a "normal speed of 10 to 12 knots but the ability to make 16 knots." After noting the technical absurdity of the clause on speed, the Board stated that experienced Navy officers felt that the maximum coal capacity for a collier to follow the fleet should be 6,000 tons, that the Navy had two colliers of 16 knots speed were then building, and two more of similar type were recommended for the current building program. The Navy needed a certain number of these fast colliers to accompany armored cruiser squadrons and emergency movements of battleship squadrons, but the Navy also needed colliers of less speed to accompany the battleship fleet at its cruising speed. The Board felt, however, that these should have the same capacity of about 6,000 tons. Navy studies showed that, for example, five colliers of 6,000 tons capacity each could refuel a force of 20 battleships in less than half the time needed by two colliers of 15,000 tons.
On 13 May 08 Congress essentially had it both ways. It authorized the construction of "two fleet colliers, of fourteen knots trial speed, when carrying not less than 12,500 tons of cargo and bunker coal. One of said colliers to be built in such government yard on the Pacific coast as the Secretary of the Navy shall direct. Cost not to exceed $1,800,000 each, and toward the construction of both, $1,500,000 is hereby appropriated." It also authorized the purchase of "three new steam colliers of American registry, having a cargo carrying capacity of approximately 7,200 tons deadweight" (see the VULCAN, Collier No. 5, class). On 15 Oct 08 the Navy Department issued a circular to prospective bidders containing the "chief characteristics for fleet collier No. 4, CYCLOPS (which applied also to fleet collier No. 3, JUPITER)." Bids were opened on 15 Dec 08 and the Navy found that, because of the great scarcity of work in shipyards at that time, the bids received were unusually low and the Department was able to place a contract with William Cramp & Sons, Philadelphia, for the construction of CYCLOPS at $900,000, half the limit of cost authorized by Congress for the ship. She was probably built on Navy plans with twin-screw reciprocating machinery to the bidder's design.
The ship carried most of her cargo coal in five large holds, each with two hatches. An additional large hold behind the bridge was subdivided into four smaller holds in which either oil fuel or special coal could be carried for the use of submarines or torpedo boats. Four much smaller holds for oil only were located under the forecastle for a grand total of 13 holds. To handle the coal Cramp selected an apparatus developed by the Mead-Morrison Mfg. Co. that used a pair of booms over each hatch supporting a cableway on which traveled a clamshell bucket with a capacity of 1.2 tons. Twelve pairs of booms were supported by a framework that included seven pairs of uprights at the sides of the ship, including one pair built into the back of the bridge. In CYCLOPS the buckets could drop coal vertically at a distance of 22 feet from the side of the ship or, in the hands of skilled winch men, "shoot" it as with a hand shovel to a greater distance. Each bucket typically handled between 100 and 180 tons per hour, making three round trips a minute. In addition, a girder at the top of the framework on the centerline served as a track for a fore-and-aft bucket that was used to shift coal from hold to hold for trimming the ship and for supplying certain holds in case only one or two could be brought into use. Unofficially it was also used for carrying the captain's lunch forward to the bridge in heavy weather and for transporting crew members between different parts of the ship. The coaling gear could also handle bagged coal for old ships that required it.
As built the ship's cargo capacity was 11,600 tons of coal and 1,275 tons of oil or 10,100 tons of coal and 2,925 tons of oil. She also carried 2,275 tons of bunker coal. The largest colliers built up to that time had a maximum capacity of 7,500 tons of coal, so a collier of some 12,500 tons capacity was a major innovation. The builders gave a lot of attention to the ability of the ship to work at sea under adverse conditions and to redistribute weights to compensate for the varying conditions between full and no load. During a very rough passage to Denmark in 1912 her water ballast tanks, which were probably located topside outboard of her coal cargo holds and in her double bottom, were used to control trim and the fore-and-aft conveyor bucket was also used to transfer coal from one end to the other to relieve undue stresses on the hull.
CYCLOPS probably received her first wireless installation in 1912, with the horizontal long wire antennas being suspended between her forward and after pairs of topmasts. In around December 1915 her rig was modified to elevate the antennas. The four topmasts atop the ends of her coaling framework were cut down to the level of the crossbar (a lookout bridge) on the forward pair, a crossbar was fitted to the after pair, and new tall two-section topmasts were fitted on the centerline to both crossbars to support the antennas. CYCLOPS received her armament of 4-4"/50 guns during a brief availability at the Norfolk Navy Yard in April 1917.
CYCLOPS was placed in service in November 1910 with a civilian crew commanded by a licensed master as part of the Naval Auxiliary Service. As of 1 Mar 14 her allowance was 13 officers and 91 men. After the U.S. entered the World War she was commissioned on 1 May 17 with a Navy crew, her civilian officers having enrolled in the Naval Reserve Force to retain their positions. CYCLOPS departed Barbados on 4 Mar 18 with a cargo of manganese ore for the United States and was never seen again. She was due to arrive at Baltimore on 13 Mar 18. The cause of her disappearance is beyond the scope of this study, although it must be noted that, of the Navy's seven large colliers with engines aft, three (CYCLOPS, PROTEUS, and NEREUS) disappeared at sea without trace.
For massive and authoritative documentation on this ship see Marvin W. Barrash, U.S.S. Cyclops
(Heritage Books, 2010), 703 pages.
||Disappeared at sea after departing Barbados for Baltimore, Md., on 4 Mar 18 with a cargo of manganese ore. 309 crew and passengers declared deceased 14 Jun 18.
Compiled: 11 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012