Hostile Ships From San Francisco To Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
The third day a streak of dark cloud, low down, and almost directly ahead of the ship, attracted the attention of the officers on the bridge. Far up in the maintop were men with glasses, and one who had his mouth fixed to a telephone transmitter.
The wake made by a large steamer on a fairly smooth sea can be seen for miles, as the minute bubbles made by the churning propeller give that white appearance which stretches like a streak astern.
When a steamer leaves port a course is set and the quartermaster at the wheel directs the ship so that it may go five hundred or a thousand miles in a straight line, and an observer on the stern of such a ship will look at that long and gradually disappearing streak, and wonder how hour after hour it can be made so straight and unvarying.
The people on the ship were evidently excited by something out of the ordinary, for they were now moving forward along the main port promenade, and some with glasses trying to penetrate the mystery.
Thus for an hour the interest continued, and still the smoke hung low on the horizon, but was now nearing the path of their ship. Mr. Munroe and Stanwood were also interested observers, and together with Winfield, they had mounted to the upper railing amidship, where some of the ship's instruments were housed.
Looking back, Winfield saw the white streak in the wake of the vessel describing a curve. "We are turning," he cried. "Look back and you will see."
The great ship was swerving to the right. This was perceptible now; and then, within the next hour, another, and a little darker smoke pall began to appear, a little to the right of the one they had been watching.
During the two hours of watching and waiting, and wondering, the wireless apparatus at frequent intervals would give out its spiteful warnings. Then there would follow an answering signal. The operator quickly transmitted the contents over the 'phone to the Captain on the bridge.
Every one was excited now. Nothing but a wireless warning or some apparent danger ahead could compel the vessel to alter its course. Why did not the vessel ahead answer the oft repeated calls of the Shinto Maru's wireless?
Another hour passed and then the original smoke grew fainter and fainter, and the dark cloud to the right became heavier and more dense. For two hours longer the two lines of smoke ahead were visible and then, when the trail of the steamer was again observed, it was noticed that the vessel had made another curve to bring it back again to its original course, and late in the afternoon the top, and finally the hull, of a dark gray ship was plainly observed ahead.
Every one aboard was on the watch now. Field and marine glasses passed from hand to hand. The peculiar shape of the vessel attracted all.
Mr. Munroe, with his glasses, was ever full of information, as the boys plied him with questions. "That is, undoubtedly, an English cruiser, or, possibly, a battleship. The ship to the left, the smoke of which is now disappearing, is, probably, a German war vessel, scouting in the track of the ocean liners, and it was only the vigilance of the English and Japanese vessels that prevented us from being captured."
That night every port hole on the ship was muffled, and only a tiny light shone on the starboard side. It was curious to see the canvas shields strung all along the decks and strapped close up to the ship's housing.
In the morning Mr. Munroe informed the boys that the smoke of the ship to the left was really a German war vessel, and that the one which crossed our bows in the distance the night before was the English cruiser Imperial.
"What a wonderful thing it is to have wireless telegraphy," said Winfield.
`Yes but it is a disadvantage sometimes, and, particularly, with merchant vessels in case of war. While in a great many cases the wireless impulses are caught by the steamers, and thus warned, still it is difficult to tell whether it is a friend or a foe who is talking, and a shrewd commander can so signal as to bring the ship he wishes to capture within his net."
"But I thought they had the wireless so arranged that it could be caught up only by the ones who had the particular code, or system," ventured Stanwood.
"No that is a misapprehension. Wireless telegraphy is merely a means whereby, through the use of specially-designed electrical apparatus, the ether is agitated, and this agitation extends out in all directions. That is something which has been known for a good many years."
"But why wasn't wireless telegraphing used right along after that was discovered?" asked Winfield.
"Simply for the reason that it took some years to find a way to detect those disturbances, Some devices are much more simple and efficient than others. Then there is another thing which makes it dangerous to merchant steamers in war. The enemy's warship, by keeping silent, and simply listening to the steamer's wireless, can easily get her location without exposing her own position."
"Do you mean that the warship can tell just where the steamer is located, even if she does not expose her position on the wireless?"
"Not exactly that; but the operator can tell with reasonable accuracy how far off the signaling steamer is located, and it is then an easy mat-ter, comparatively, to cruise within that radius."
On the fourth day two more cloudy spots appeared, and you may be sure they were watched with more than the usual interest. They were now within 350 miles of Honolulu, and all looked for-ward with interest to a sight of the new world which would open itself to the boys the next day.
"Do you know how long we shall remain in port at Honolulu?" asked Stanwood.
"That depends on the amount of freight ready for us, and also on the time we reach there. If we dock in the afternoon we may not get away until the next morning, but if we should arrive in the morning we can usually resume our trip the same day."
"I would like to see the city," said Winfield.
"You will have ample opportunity for that, as you have no duties while in port. As for Stan-wood, I think I can get along without him for the greater part of the time. Sorry I cannot be with you, however, but I must remain at my post."
"Thank you very much, but I don't feel that I should leave you at that time," said Stanwood.
"No, no it doesn't inconvenience me in the least, only you'll have to work a little harder after we leave the harbor," said Mr. Munroe.
Every hour of the next day was one of anxiety to the boys. They watched and strained their eyes to see ahead, until about one o'clock in the after-noon when a small, cone-like speck was detected by Winfield.
Sinclair had his marine glass, and pointed it to the west, saying, "That does look like a mountain, sure enough." At that moment Mr. Munroe and Stanwood came on deck.
Sinclair saw the boy and handed the glass to him. "See if you can make it out," he said.
Mr. Munroe smiled as he said: "Yes, that is the first view of the Hawaiian Islands."
"But we are not going there. It seems we are heading way north of the places we see," said Winfield.
"Quite true," answered Mr. Munroe. "What we now see are the peaks of the two highest points, namely, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the former, which has an altitude of 13,823, being an extinct volcano. The latter is 13,675 feet in height, but it is still active, its most noted eruptions having taken place in 1868 and in 1899."
"Aren't they near Honolulu?"
'Oh, no. Honolulu is fully a hundred and twenty miles north of those peaks, on an island called Oahu."
How many islands are there?"
Eight, the largest being Hawaii, on which the two volcanic mountains are located. The city is on the third largest island of the group."
Soon another peak came into view, still farther to the north, and then another, and within two hours thereafter the tops or two more peaks were plainly visible directly in the path of the steamer. The city is on the southwest coast of the island there, directly ahead of us, and slightly to the right. The island to the left is Molokai. At the eastern end of that island is situated the well-known leper colony."
"Have you ever been there?" queried Winfield.
"I visited the place on several occasions. It is beautifully located and laid out with every convenience and comfort. The people have plenty of exercise, and are engaged in the ordinary occupations and vocations of life."
"It must be dangerous to go there, I should think," said Stanwood.
"Not at all; it is not now regarded as a contagious disease, although it has been found advisable to compel those affected to live apart from the community. The disease is gradually dying out. It was introduced into Europe by the Crusaders, and it was so prevalent on the continent, between the period of 1000 and 1300, that in France every town had its lazar house, and there were more than two thousand institutions in that country alone for the purpose of caring for the unfortunates so affected."
A little later Mr. Munroe called the attention of the boys to a point of land to their right. "That is called Makapuu Head, and we are now fifteen miles from the harbor."
The ship turned to the north and sailed up into a beautiful harbor, and as they passed the last point and the ship's speed had greatly decreased, Mr. Munroe pointed over to the right, and exclaimed: "Notice that vessel there with the revolving gun holders on the side. That is a German gunboat, called the Beyer, which has been interned during the war."
"What does that mean?" asked Winfield.
"The word itself means literally to send into the interior of a country, but in it's broad sense has reference to confining within fixed limits."
"But why should our government prevent it from leaving, if it wants to?"
"The law provides that if, during the existence of war between two powers, a vessel of either should enter the harbor of a country not at war, then such a vessel should not be supplied with coal or supplies beyond what is absolutely necessary to take it to the nearest port of its own country."
"And if it refuses to leave?" questioned Stanwood.
"If it does not leave the harbor within twenty-four hours, it must be dismantled and kept under guard during the remainder of the war."
The harbor was a most beautiful one, and aside from Pearl Harbor, about eight miles distant, was the only place where ships could conveniently find a safe anchoring place. The coast line between the city and the mouth of Pearl River appeared to be deeply indented, thus affording a safe place for vessels.
Mr. Munroe informed the boys that the vessel would remain until morning, and that they would be granted leave to visit the city and surrounding places of interest in the meantime.
While sailing up the coast the boys had noticed numerous natives along the shore, some with spears and others with nets. This interested them to such an extent that after reaching the dock they inquired the way toward the beach, and in a few minutes had arranged for a row boat, which soon took them to the desired place.
"What are they doing?" inquired Winfield, as they neared the natives.
"They are spearing fish," said Stanwood.
On going closer some of them were noticed with long slender spears, which they poised with considerable grace, and the accuracy with which the fish were speared was marvelous. Accompanying each spearer was one with a net, who took the fish from the spear.
After an hour's boating in the beautiful water, and a surf bath, just before returning, they rowed back to the wharf and reached the ship in time for the evening meal. Mr. Munroe greeted them on their return.
"I am sorry," he said, "that it will be impossible for you to take a journey to Mauna Loa, and see the great crater of Mokuaweoweo. It is about twenty miles from the western coast of that island, and less than thirty miles from the shore the ocean is 10,000 feet in depth.
"In some respects these islands are very remarkable. They seem to be the peaks of a mountain range, less than four hundred miles in length, and the sea, twenty-five miles off from the shores of any of the islands, has a depth of nearly two miles.
"This submarine mountain seems to have been formed in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, and there may be a great deal of truth in the theory that the moon came from this part of our planet."
Within an hour of the time the ship docked the boys, accompanied by Sinclair, were roaming through the city. Although the population does not, exceed twenty-five thousand, it spreads over a large area, the houses being generally detached and provided with surrounding gardens or lawns, giving the city an attractive appearance.
They were delighted to observe on the street railway line a notice of a ball game between two rival colleges, the St. Louis and the Oahu institutions of learning, and with one voice it was decided to witness the game.
A ride of less than twenty minutes brought them to the park, where the good old United States flag was flying. What interested them intensely on the way was the talk of the native boys, who seemed to have the lingo of the real American fan, although it was evident that they had never been in the States.
But there were real American boys there, not in great numbers, it is true, for in the entire islands there are not to exceed 6000 native Americans.
Other nationalities, such as British, Portuguese and Germans, are represented, but there are more than 80,000 natives and Chinese and Japanese on the different islands. Most of the Americans, however, are to be found near Honolulu.
Quite a number of young men belonging to the fleet, and stationed at the army post, were in attendance, sufficient to give the scene a home-like aspect. The regulation game was played, and at the close of it they wandered around to the different booths adjoining the park, and witnessed some of the peculiar games of the native boys.
One of them was played with a small ball, which was kept in the air by means of a mallet-like head on the end of a short flexible handle, the object being to strike the ball with the mallet, as it descended, and the count was determined by the number of times the ball was struck in succession.
The game of roloi papo is something akin to craps. The instrument is a ring, about two inches in diameter, of either wood or metal, which is twirled in a very peculiar way. It is grasped between the thumb and finger, and when it is thrown upwardly it is spun so it turns over and over, and in falling it must strike the earth and rest between the cross marks of a checker board set of lines drawn on the hard ground, these lines being about three inches apart.
If any part of the ring rests on a line the thrower must pay a forfeit of a mote, and if it lies clear between the lines the opponent must pay three motes, the amount of the wager.
The native game of ball is entirely different from our national game. Each team has five players, a pitcher, a catcher, two basemen and a fielder. The fielder stands directly behind the pitcher, and the basemen are in positions similar to the first and third basemen, although not so far apart.
The batter has the choice of two methods of striking the ball; one where the ball is thrown directly over his head, so that in holding the bat he faces the pitcher squarely, and holds the bat with both hands so that it hangs down his back.
When the ball is thrown over the batter's head he swings the bat upwardly over his head. He must not hit the ball at a point lower than the top of his head. The catcher stands back of the bat-ter at least twenty feet or more.
In the other method the batter has the privilege to call for a ball to the right or to the left. In either case this manner of handling the bat develops the muscles of the arms and shoulders.
The pitcher throws overhand. Under such conditions the batter sees the ball coming toward him, above, and not to one side, as in our game, and consequently there are few misses.
The run is made to a point a hundred feet be-hind the pitcher and back again, and the holder of the ball must touch the runner, and not the base.