National Geographic : 1915 Jan
SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH EARTHQUAKES to human gaze, with struggling fish and monsters of the deep left high and dry. The round-bottomed ships keeled over on their beam ends, while the "Wateree" rested easily on her floor-like bottom; and when the returning sea, not like a wave, but rather like an enormous tide, came sweeping back, rolling our unfortu nate companion ships over and over, leaving some bottom up and others masses of wreckage, the "Wateree" rose easily over the tossing waters, unharmed. THE SEAS DEFY ALL NATURE From this moment the sea seemed to defy the laws of nature. Currents ran in contrary directions, and we were borne here and there with a speed we could not have equaled had we been steaming for our lives. At irregular intervals the earthquake shocks recurred, but none of them so violent or long-continued as the first. The Peruvian man-of-war "America," said to be the fastest ship in the world at that time, had hastily gotten up steam and attempted to get to sea. She was well out when the receding water left her partly afloat and broke her back;, of course destroying her engines. With her funnels still vomiting black smoke and apparently under full command of her people, she backed down toward the help less "Fredonia," which was then rapidly setting in toward the Morro, as if intend ing to help her. Lieutenant Commander Dyer, com manding the "Fredonia," saw the maneu ver, and, thinking the "America" was coming to their aid, and that a nearer ap proach would only involve them both in destruction, ran on the poop and hailed the approaching ship, then but a few yards distant: "'America,' ahoy! You can do nothing for us; our bottom is crushed. Save yourselves. Good-bye." Then down to his station among his si lent, unshrinking crew he ran again. The next moment the "Fredonia" was crushed, and of that ill-fated company not one was saved, while a counter-cur rent catching the Peruvian ship drove her rapidly in another direction. Facing the Morro, and a short distance away, a rocky islet rose some feet above the sea. On it the Peruvians had hewn a fort from- the solid rock and had mounted therein two 15-inch guns, the garrison numbering some Ioo souls. We were but a short distance from this fort and were fearing to be cast against its rocky sides, when suddenly we saw it disappear beneath the waves. Whether it sank or the water rose we could not tell; we only knew it vanished; and when it reappeared, after a few moments, like a huge whale, not only were the unfortu nate garrison gone, but the guns and car riages as well. Imagine, if you can, how the water lifted those immense masses of iron, weighing many tons and offer ing no holding surface from their resting places and tumbled them out of the 8 foot parapet. It is a problem never to be solved. Before the earthquake Arica had one of the best and most modern machine shops between Callao and Valparaiso. Many of the machines were ponderous and properly secured on cement founda tions. There were also several locomo tives, cars, and many heavy castings. These all disappeared; not a vestige was left. It seems impossible they could have been swept out to sea, but assuredly they could not be found on shore. During the first of the disturbance we had lowered one of our large cutters and sent it, in charge of a midshipman, to rescue a number of persons drifting about on some wreckage. There was no sea on at this time, but to our astonish ment we saw that, with all the efforts of the crew, the boat could make no head way, but went sailing about in the most erratic fashion. The midshipman, finding it impossible to rescue the people he had been sent to save, attempted to return to the ship. That, too, was impossible, and presently his efforts were ended by having his boat dashed violently against the side of the "America" and crushed like an egg-shell. He and his crew managed to scramble to her deck. There they found a scene which beg gars description. A condition of panic prevailed. Officers and men in abject terror were running about, imploring all the saints in the calendar to help them.