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USS Saturn circa 1905-1911
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Class: SATURN (AG-4)
Design Cargo, 1890
Displacement (tons): 4,840 normal
Dimensions (feet): 297.1' oa, 283.0' pp x 40.5' wl x 21.25' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr (1898)
Later armaments: 1-6pdr (1900);
1-6"/50 2-3"/50 (ca. 1918);
Complement 87 (1920)
Speed (kts.): 11
Propulsion (HP): 1,500
Machinery: Vertical triple expansion, 1 screw
||2 Apr 98
||Harlan & Hollingsworth
||11 Apr 98
||17 Mar 22
||25 Sep 22
According to a report in the 1 November 1890 issue of "Railway World," the steamship SATURN, a new collier for the Boston Towboat Co., left the yard of her builder, the Harlan & Hollingsworth Co. at Wilmington, Del., on 28 Oct 90 for Philadelphia to be turned over to her owners and load coal for Boston. The journal stated that SATURN was one of the largest ships built within the previous few years at this yard and was one of the finest colliers afloat. Iron or other metal had been used in her construction everywhere possible, and the equipment for handling the vessel and her cargo was all steam machinery. According to the report she was the first American coastwise steamship in which the English arrangement of deck and deckhouses had been adopted and she somewhat resembled an English tramp. She was to be used for towing coal barges and had very powerful triple expansion condensing engines.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. 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 in early April the Navy Department ordered it to secure additions to the Navy's fleet of colliers. On 5 Apr 98 the New York Times reported that "the powerful seagoing iron tug SATURN was purchased yesterday from the Boston Towboat Co. and taken to the [New York] Navy Yard, where she will be converted into a collier. The big steam tug LEBANON was also purchased from the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, to be used as a collier." Four days later the Times reported that "it has been an almost impossible task to find vessels in this port suitable for colliers, as an investigation has shown that the old style of coal-carrying steamships has almost disappeared, having been superseded by barges. These barges can be moved about by powerful ocean-going tugs, and are left at the wharves to be loaded or unloaded while the tugs take away other barges. Hence the former colliers have been put into the tramp or oil-carrying business. After a three weeks' search the board has only secured two suitable ships for this purpose--the SATURN and the LEBANON." The Navy soon turned to the old-style tramps, and ultimately SATURN was the first of twenty cargo ships acquired by the Navy for use as colliers between early April and late July 1898.
After commissioning she immediately departed New York with a cargo of coal for distribution to the ships operating off Cuba, and also visited ports in Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Danish West Indies before the end of the war. She returned to Norfolk, Virginia, in September 1898 and was decommissioned there in November 1898.
SATURN was recommissioned in August 1900 and served on the Asiatic Station until she was decommissioned at Bremerton, Washington, in June 1903. In December 1903 the collier was placed in service, and until 1911 or 1913 she operated as a "U.S. Navy Auxiliary" with a Naval Auxiliary Service merchant marine crew. During this period she was mainly employed off the U.S. West Coast but also made voyages to Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexico. Saturn commenced a tour of duty with the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla in December 1908 and was out of service between September 1911 and August 1912 and between July 1913 and April 1914.
In September 1916 Saturn began special duty as a tender and relay ship for radio communications between Alaska and the western United States. During the next year and a half she cruised extensively in the Northern Pacific, calling frequently at Seward, Sitka, Ketchikan and Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and Tatoosh Island, Washington. In November 1918 she carried coal and supplies to the United States Expeditionary Force at Vladivostok, Russia. She also transported the Vladivostok Radio Expedition, a largely civilian working party that built a naval radio station on an island in Vladivostok harbor. Returning to the U.S. West Coast in February 1919, Saturn resumed duty as a communications link for Alaska. She was designated AG-4 when the Navy's standard hull classification scheme was implemented on 17 Jul 20.
SATURN was not one of the old ships selected on 2 Nov 21 for relief by new ships recently acquired from the Shipping Board, but when it was decided on 26 Nov 21 and 8 Dec 21 that the relief of NANSHAN (AG-3) by ANTARES (AG-10) would take place on the East instead of the West Coast, SATURN was designated to bring the materials from NANSHAN on the West Coast to ANTARES on the East Coast and then be relieved by ARCTURUS (later GOLD STAR, AG-12). SATURN was decommissioned in March 1922, the Navy Department placed her on the sale list on 18 Apr 22, and she was sold for scrapping in September 1922.
||Ex merc. SATURN (completed Oct 90). Sold to J. G. Hitner, Philadelphia, Pa. and scrapped.
Compiled: 06 Oct 2012
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2012