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USS Alexander on 7 June 1898
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Design: Cargo, 1894
Displacement (tons): 3,250 gross, 6,181 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 343.3' oa, 330.0' pp x 43.0' x 23.0' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr 2-3pdr (1898)
Later armaments: 1-6pdr (1900);
Speed (kts.): 8.75
Propulsion (HP): 1,026
Machinery: Vert. 3-exp., 1 screw
||25 Apr 98
||29 Sep 94
||1 Jun 98
||9 Aug 13
||16 Aug 13
In September 1894 the cargo ship ATALA was launched by Richardson Duck & Co. at Stockton-on-Tees, England. She was the ninth ship built by this prolific British yard for the British firm of Carlisle & Co. and was one of around five freighters of the same hull dimensions built by this yard between 1893 and 1896. She was of the spar-deck type with a short break poop aft for cargo, a steel hood over the engine and boiler casing, and a short break forecastle for the crew. The engineers were berthed in a house on deck abaft the casing and the captain and officers were berthed amidships in the 'tween decks. Her equipment included five steam winches, double derricks to all hatches, stockless anchors, steam steering gear, and every modern appliance for facilitating loading and discharging. Her engines were built by Messrs. Thomas Richardson & Sons.
On 12 Mar 98 the Secretary of the Navy 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 by the end of March it also had orders to find six colliers, two repair ships, and two distilling ships. By mid-April the Navy had acquired the six colliers, SATURN, LEBANON, NIAGARA, STERLING, SOUTHERY, and MERRIMAC, but the Department soon instructed the Board to find more. Ultimately between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty ships for use as colliers plus three more as distilling ships and one as a repair ship.
The Navy's qualifications for efficient colliers included a carrying capacity of 2,000 or more tons of coal, a speed of 12 or more knots, thorough seaworthiness, as little draught of water as possible, and the capability of being armed sufficiently to protect themselves against privateers, armed transports, and small gunboats. The vessels purchased as colliers were all of the merchant-ship type, and, in order to render their character more difficult to ascertain, their general appearance was not changed. They were fitted with towing appliances, as most of them were powerful vessels, capable of towing disabled ships of war should it become necessary. 15 vessels were purchased and employed on the Atlantic Coast and two more, NERO and BRUTUS, were purchased for use on the Pacific coast and in convoying ships to Manila. In addition NANSHAN was acquired in the Far East, HECTOR was captured from the Spanish, and SCIPIO was acquired but not placed in service. These vessels were purchased outright, manned by a naval force, and provided with batteries for repelling attacks from privateers. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which developed, there was at no time any complaint of lack of coal.
ALEXANDER was sold to the Navy by New Star Blue Line Steamers Ltd. (Carlisle & Co.), London. Her cargo coal capacity was 4,200 tons. After recommissioning in June 1903 she appears to have served primarily on the Asiatic Station. She was placed out of service at Cavite on 15 Apr 10, returned to service on 6 Jul 11, and placed out of service at Cavite for the last time on 9 Aug 13. Subsequently sold to the Philippine shipping firm of Madrigal & Co., she was reportedly chartered to carry coal for German cruisers in the Pacific and was seized by a British warship off the port of Zamboango, Mindanao, and interned in British North Borneo in September 1914. She then made a voyage from the Pacific Northwest to Vladivostok in early 1915, returned to Puget Sound in late 1915, and went missing after departing on a second voyage to Vladivostok at the end of 1915.
||Ex merc. ATALA (completed Nov 94). Merc. RIO PASIG 1913 (Madrigal & Co., Manila), missing after sailing from Seattle on 31 Dec 15 for Vladivostok.
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013