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USS Nero returning from Alaska on 23 November 1912
Click on this photograph for a multi-page photo essay on this ship.
Class: NERO (AC-17)
Design Cargo, 1894
Displacement (tons): 2,000 light, 6,100 max
Dimensions (feet): 323.4' oa, 312.0' pp x 41.0' wl x 21.5' max
Original Armament: * 4-3"BL (1898)
Later armaments: 4-6pdr (1899)
1-3"/50 4-6pdr (ca. 1918);
Complement 72 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 9
Propulsion (HP): 1,000
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||30 Jun 98
||J. L. Thompson & Son
||8 Dec 94
||8 Jun 98
||12 Sep 21
||29 Jul 22
The cargo steamer WHITGIFT was built by Joseph L. Thompson & Sons of North Sands, Sunderland, England in 1895 for Houlder, Middleton of London. She arrived at San Francisco on 11 May 98 from Calcutta with a cargo of gunnies and jute and on 28 May 98 was ready for sea, her next assignment being a $20,000 charter to take a general cargo from Portland, Ore., to Vladivostok, Russia. However on 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy had appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but in early April the Navy Department ordered it to secure additions to the Navy's fleet of colliers. Between 2 Apr 98 and 30 Jun 98 the Navy acquired twenty cargo ships for use as colliers, of which the last was WHITGIFT. Army and Navy authorities at San Francisco assessed WHITGIFT as "a good carrier that could be fitted out to accommodate about a thousand troops," although the Navy probably planned all along to use her as a collier. Negotiations for the purchase of the ship from Houlder, Middleton through Meyer, Wilson & Co. of San Francisco (McCondray & Co. in Navy records) began on 28 May 98 and were completed on 4 Jun 98. The ship was turned over to U.S. authorities and commissioned on 8 Jun 98, and the final sale documents were dated 30 Jun 98. The Navy rated her cargo coal capacity as 4,300 tons.
NERO was one of two colliers (the other being BRUTUS) acquired for use on the Pacific coast and in convoying ships to Manila during the Spanish-American War. Soon after entering service she departed San Francisco in company with the monitor MONADNOCK and arrived at Manila in August. The collier returned to Mare Island, California and decommissioned there in January 1899.
Recommissioned for special service only three months later, NERO took deep sea soundings between Honolulu and the Philippines via Midway and Guam as part of the Trans-Pacific Submarine Telegraph Cable Survey, and she took more soundings on her return trip from Yokohama, Japan. Assigned to collier duty between 1900 and 1903, she travelled from the U.S. Pacific seaboard to the Philippines, the U.S. East Coast, South America, Samoa, the Philippines, and back to the East Coast. NERO then served in the Pacific Squadron, the North Atlantic Fleet and the Asiatic Fleet, before starting a comparatively long period of service in the Atlantic Fleet that lasted from 1906 to 1911. On 1 Aug 06 the vessel ran aground in thick fog off the Southeast Light, Block Island, Rhode Island. The sea cocks were opened to minimize movement & damage. She was refloated a few days later by the T. A. Scott Co. and her extensively damaged bottom was repaired at the New York Navy Yard. While the repairs "did not put the vessel in her former condition, they were commensurate with the value of the remainder of the ship." In October 1911 the ship departed Norfolk, Virginia and commenced another lengthy period of Pacific Ocean service that lasted until 1917. Between May and November 1912 NERO transported materials and personnel of the 1912 Alaskan Radio Expedition, which built or upgraded Navy radio stations at seven locations in Alaska. For most of her pre-1917 service NERO was manned by a Naval Auxiliary Service merchant marine crew.
NERO returned to the Atlantic in August 1917 in response to the First World War's shipping requirements. Between October 1917 and February 1919 she was assigned to the Army coal trade, carrying fuel from Wales and Northern Ireland to French ports in support of U.S. Army forces operating on the Western Front. The collier returned to Norfolk in March 1919, served along the East Coast and in the Caribbean until December 1920, and then returned to the Pacific Fleet for a final resupply voyage from Mare Island to Samoa. She was designated AC-17 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. On 14 Jul 21 the Navy Department ordered that NERO be inspected for sale. The ship was decommissioned in September 1921 and on 10 Nov 21 the Department ordered that she be sold. The ship was sold on 25 Feb 22 to Philip C. Lowery of San Francisco, but this sale was cancelled on 4 May 22. She was readvertised on 2 May 22 and resold on 29 Jul 22 to A. Bercovich Co. of Oakland, Cal.
||Ex merc. WHITGIFT (completed Mar 95). Sold to A. Bercovich & Co. of Oakland, Cal., and scrapped there in 1922.
Compiled: 06 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012