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USS Culgoa in 1908
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Class: CULGOA (AF-3)
Design Cargo, 1889
Displacement (tons): 6,000 normal
Dimensions (feet): 346.3' oa, 334.3' pp x 43.0' wl x 21.75' mn
Original Armament: None (1898)
Later armaments: 4-1pdr (1907); 2-1pdr (1910);
4-3"/50 (1916); 4-3"/50 1-3"/50AA (1919)
Complement 177 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 13.25
Propulsion (HP): 2,350
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||4 Jun 98
||J. L. Thompson & Son
||25 Oct 89
||3 Dec 98
||31 Dec 21
||25 Jul 22
On 25 Oct 89 Messrs. Joseph L. Thompson & Sons launched from their North Sands shipyard at Sunderland, England, the steel steamer CULGOA. This vessel was built to the order of William Lund of London and was intended for his Australian service (the Lund Blue Anchor Line), for which Thompson had previously built the slightly smaller steamers HUBBUCK (1886) and MURRUMBIDGEE (1887) and was to build the slightly larger YARRAWONGA (1891). CULGOA was built on the three-deck rule and had a long full poop and a topgallant forecastle. She was fitted for a limited number of first class passengers. Her triple-expansion engines, provided by T. Richardson & Sons, were designed to indicate 2,000 horsepower.
On 12 Mar 98 the Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused mainly on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but eventually it and other naval authorities acquired ships of other types including four "supply ships" (CELTIC, CULGOA, SUPPLY, and ZAFIRO) and one "refrigerating ship" (GLACIER). CULGOA, one of the last acquired, was purchased by the Navy at Cavite in the Philippines in June 1898 from G. F. Walford. Maintaining her status as a merchant vessel to avoid neutrality laws, she supplied ice and meat to U.S. forces in Manila Bay until she was finally put into commission on 3 Dec 98, one week before a treaty ended the Spanish-American war. Assigned to the Asiatic Squadron as a refrigerator supply ship, CULGOA made three voyages to Sydney and Brisbane, Australia, for fresh stores in 1900 and 1901. In July 1901 she cleared Cavite and sailed by way of Ceylon, Suez, Malta, and Gibraltar to New York, arriving on 25 September. She was placed out of commission on 16 October 1901 at Boston.
Recommissioned on 1 October 1902 CULGOA joined the North Atlantic Squadron and provided storeship services to ships and shore stations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until again placed out of commission on 11 August 1905. Considered for dispostion, she was stricken from the Navy List on 7 May 1906 but was reinstated on 30 June 1906 and recommissioned after repairs on 12 September 1907 for service with the Atlantic Fleet. Manned by a Naval Auxiliary Service merchant marine crew, she joined the Atlantic Battleship Fleet at Trinidad in December 1907 as a storeship for the round-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet. In the Formosa Strait in late October she established wireless communications with the fleet's Second Squadron, for which she had delivered supplies at Amoy, China. As the fleet entered the eastern Mediterranean on its way home an earthquake devastated the city of Messina, Sicily, on 28 Dec 08, and CULGOA was sent ahead with all the fleet's available medical stores and its own provisions to assist in initial relief efforts. Returning to Hampton Roads in February 1909, CULGOA resumed operations along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean with occasional voyages to Europe.
On 23 Apr 10 the Navy Department forwarded to the General Board a memorandum relative to supply ships, which explained why the three supply ships then in the Navy (CELTIC, CULGOA, and GLACIER) were not entirely satisfactory for the purpose for which they were employed. These vessels were originally designed to take on board a cargo of already frozen meat at one port and then transport it, without opening the cold rooms, to another port for discharge. They were never intended to take on board cargo under other conditions or to open the cold room frequently for partial discharges, as was necessary in serving the fleet. Nor were these ships fitted with cooled and ventilated compartments for the storage of fresh vegetables, eggs, and similar provisions. The memo also stated that soon, because of their age, these three ships would become very expensive to keep in service, but with no new supply ships joining the force before the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 the three ships continued to serve.
CULGOA probably replaced her merchant crew with a Navy one on 1 Jul 11. She continued to operate primarily in the Caribbean until February 1918 when she joined the Naval Overseas Transportation Service and made seven transatlantic convoy voyages to France and Great Britain between February 1918 and May 1919. CULGOA issued stores and provisions to Battle Squadron 2 at Guantanamo Bay from 24 March to 6 April 1920, then after supplying shore installations at Yorktown and Philadelphia, cleared Brooklyn in early June for fleet maneuvers in the Pacific. She was designated AF-3 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20. The storeship joined Battle Squadron 2 at Colon, transited the Panama Canal, and joined in fleet problems on her way to Pearl Harbor, visiting Seattle and San Francisco. Returning to New York in September 1920 for overhaul, she resumed her supply operations on the east coast and in the Caribbean between February and October 1921.
On 2 Nov 21 CNO directed the 3rd Naval District to have ARCTIC replace CULGOA, which would transfer to ARCTIC the personnel and material necessary to put that ship in commission. ARCTIC had no significant defects and needed only to have adequate living spaces, galley and bake shop equipment and heads and washrooms for the larger Navy crew installed. CULGOA's guns were removed at the New York Navy Yard on 28 Dec 21 and she was decommissioned there three days later. She was sold to R. E. Miller in a sale held on 1 Jun 22 but the sale was cancelled on 30 Jun 22 and she was sold on 25 Jul 22 to Lucius H. Stewart of New York. She saw brief merchant service before being scrapped in 1924.
||Ex merc. CULGOA (completed Jan 90). Merc. CHAMPLAIN 1922, scrapped at New York in 1924.
Compiled: 13 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012