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USS Vulcan (Collier No. 5) on 26 December 1911
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Class:        VULCAN (Collier No. 5)
Design        Navy Collier No. 5
Displacement (tons):        3,500 light, 11,250 full load
Dimensions (feet):        403.0' oa, 385.0' pp x 53.0' mld x 24.7' mn
Original Armament:        4-4"/50 (1916/17)
Later armaments:        --
Complement:        82 (civ.)
Speed (kts.):        12.82
Propulsion (HP):        3,736
Machinery:        Vert. 3-exp., 2 screws

AC Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
5 VULCAN 28 Oct 08 Maryland Steel 5 Oct 08 15 May 09 2 Oct 09
6 MARS 28 Oct 08 Maryland Steel 5 Oct 08 10 Apr 09 26 Aug 09
7 HECTOR 28 Oct 08 Maryland Steel 5 Oct 08 3 Jul 09 22 Oct 09

AC Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
5 VULCAN 20 Jul 21 26 Apr 23 12 Dec 23 Sold --
6 MARS 27 Dec 21 26 Apr 23 22 Jun 23 Sold --
7 HECTOR -- -- 14 Jul 16 Lost --

Class Notes:
FY 1909 (Act of 13 May 08). 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 and that 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. In addition to authorizing the construction of "two fleet colliers, of fourteen knots trial speed, when carrying not less than 12,500 tons of cargo and bunker coal" (see Colliers Nos. 3 and 4), it authorized the Secretary of the Navy "to purchase three new steam colliers of American registry, having a cargo carrying capacity of approximately 7,200 tons deadweight each, at a cost not exceeding $525,000 each," the total sum of $1,575,000 being appropriated for this purchase. The smaller ships were consistently referred to as "colliers," in contrast to the larger "fleet colliers." The Navy issued advertisements on 18 May 08 for the purchase of the ships and received proposals from the Massachusetts Steamship Co. and several shipbuilders to supply the ships, the steamship company having ships available for immediate delivery while the other bidders were to build them. These bids, opened on 1 Jun 08, were not satisfactory to the Department, and the Secretary of the Navy on 13 Jul 08 signed a circular defining the chief required characteristics and the Navy then issued advertisements for the purchase of three vessels to conform with the requirements in this circular. The new bids, opened on 1 Sep 08, came from four leading shipyards: Maryland Steel Co. (Sparrows Point, Md.), Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. (Newport News, Va.), William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.), and New York Shipbuilding Co. (Camden, N.J.). Maryland Steel won the contract with a low bid of $479,600 per ship, a more expensive bid from this yard for ships with an alternative arrangement of coaling appliances being declined. The ships were to be completed within 12 months and their contract speed was 12 knots. Their cargo capacity as built was 7,600 tons of coal and no oil, and they also carried 825 tons of bunker coal.

For carrying and handling coal the ships had five holds, ten hatches, and ten derrick posts each with two booms located in pairs between the hatches. The ships were equipped with Lidgerwood (Spencer-Miller) marine transfers, which used self-filling clamshell buckets to take coal out of the collier's holds and transport it to the receiving ship. The Navy let a supplemental contract with Maryland Steel to fit the ships with this gear after the Lidgerwood system won a competition for equipping the VESTAL class colliers and the Lidgerwood firm guaranteed an output of 100 tons of coal per hour per hatch on the new ships. In the VULCAN class one of the two booms serving a hatch would be raised over the hold to support the bucket while it grabbed a load of coal and the other would be extended over the receiving ship and support the bucket as it was winched to its drop point using inhaul and outhaul lines attached to the end of the extended boom and the opposite rail of the collier. The kingposts on the colliers were originally too short for the bucket to clear the decks of some battleships with a sufficient margin and were soon raised about eight feet. When the kingposts were raised the booms were raised with them. The ships had wider hatches than the VESTAL class, allowing the buckets to grab a greater amount of coal, but the much taller masts and longer booms of the VESTAL class were better suited to operation of the marine transfers.

The ships were initially placed in service with civilian crews commanded by a licensed master as part of the Naval Auxiliary Service. On 7 May 17 the Navy directed that all Naval Auxiliaries that had previously been manned by civilian officers and crews be placed on a naval status and manned by naval crews, who in practice were often civilian seamen enrolled in the Naval Reserve. As of 1 Mar 14 these ships had an allowance of 12 officers and 70 men, all civilians. In late 1918 they had facilities for a Navy crew of 10 officers and 119 men.

The VULCAN type had its first test in actual service in early 1910 when the Atlantic Fleet was at target practice off Guantanamo, Cuba. The actual capacity, shown in practice, in which two trained winch operators transferred 190 tons of coal an hour from a single hatch, was not called for as the collier easily delivered coal to battleships faster than the battleship crews could strike it below. Nearly 1,700 tons of coal was put aboard one battleship in five hours using four marine transfers with grab buckets and one handling coal in bags.

HECTOR was wrecked off Cape Romaine, S.C., while in her usual services as collier from Charleston to the Caribbean. She was caught in a severe gale during which, after being disabled and having become unmanageable, she finally stranded. No lives were lost in the wreck.

Ship Notes:
AC Name Notes
5 VULCAN First sale fell through, sold 12 Dec 23 to Pacific States Lumber Co., San Francisco, merc. COOS BAY. Wrecked at Point Lobos, San Francisco, 22 Oct 27 while in ballast.
6 MARS Sold to Diamond Transportation Co., merc. MARS. Wrecked pierside on 9 Nov 24 in a cyclone at Daiquiri, Cuba, while loading iron ore and abandoned there.
7 HECTOR Wrecked 14 Jul 16 off off Cape Romaine (Charleston Light), S.C., sank 17 Jul 16.

Page Notes:
AC        1908
Compiled:        11 Aug 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012