National Geographic : 1920 Feb
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE EVEN IN TIHE ROUGHEST WEATHER IT CONSTANTLY WAS NECESSARY FOR THE SHIPS TO GO ALONGSIDE EACH OTHER AT SEA TO TRANSFER SWEEP-GEAR OR BUOY MATERIAL All hands were required to wear life-preservers, on account of the danger of being washed overboard by a mine explosion. to rig out their sweeps. It seemed incred ible that they could actually be working, as they perched for a moment on the crest of a wave, then disappeared almost from sight, as they slid into the hollows of the seas, pitching and rolling sometimes as much as fifty degrees each side of the vertical. Still the work continued. The nights were even worse than the days, for then it was necessary to lie to, trying, some times vainly, to keep a tiny marker buoy in sight by playing a flickering search light on it, as the ship lurched to and fro, for it was imperative we should know our position in the morning. THE DAY OF DAYS But at last our efforts were rewarded. That day of days came-the day which had at first seemed almost beyond attain ment. And what a sight it was! The Patuxent had planted the last buoy, mark- ing the goal of our ambition; and as the sweepers, pair by pair, steamed past it and slipped sweep for the last time, the exultation of the victorious conquest of an invisible enemy burst forth in whole hearted cheers from every officer and man. Whistles and sirens, too, were opened wide, while a wireless operator with a humorous turn coupled a phonograph to the radio-telephone and regaled the fleet with the welcome strains of "Home, Sweet Home!" During the last two weeks 864 square miles of the barrage had been reswept to make absolutely certain that the work had been thoroughly done. Where approxi mately 35,000 mines had been anchored a few months prior, not a single one could now be found, except in one small pocket which had been skipped and was marked by buoys to enable it to be cleared on this final operation.