National Geographic : 1998 Feb
unemotional man, Sigsbee was unexpectedly moved this night by the bugle's slow, sweet sound. He put down his pen and listened as Newton, who liked to produce fanciful effects, paused between notes so that taps echoed and reechoed through the stillness of the ship. "Hardly anything was moving in the harbor, and the wind was still," as Lt. John Hood later remembered. "A more perfect scene of peace and rest could hardly be imagined." Hood, an ordnance officer, sat in a chair on the port side of the quarterdeck, smoking a Cuban cigar and looking at the lights of Havana. It was 9:40. A HOOD WALKED OVER to speak to Blandin, they both heard and felt the death of the Maine-"a shock and a sound" to Hood and "a dull, sullen roar" to Blandin. Looking forward, Hood saw "the whole starboard side of the deck, with its sleeping burden, burst out and fly into space, as a crater of flame came through, carrying with it missiles and objects of all kinds, steel, wood, and human." After a few small explosions-scattered ammunition, Hood surmised-"all was still except for the cries of the wounded, the groans of the dying, and the crackling of flame in the wreckage." The explosion tore out the berth deck. Men in their hammocks were vaporized, ripped apart, or hurled into the night. Many were trapped in the shattered bow, their dying cries muted to a murmur as the hulk quickly sank. In the main sleeping area, only two men survived. One, Coal-passer Jeremiah Shea, had no idea what had happened. "I think I must be an armor-piercing projectile," he said. The other, Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Charles Bergman, heard "a terrible crash" and was flung into the water, encased in a piece of sinking wreckage. When it struck Crossed by ferries then as now (below), Havana harborwas tranquil the night of February 15, 1898. Could a passingboat have planted a mine? After the Maine exploded, a Cuban ferry ignored the searchfor survivors.A Spanish Navy ship and a U.S. passengership, anchored nearby (map), joined the rescue. The Maine's auxiliarywheel remains in the Museum of the City of Havana.