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The End Of A New Beginning

987 words - 4 pages

Thunderous booms and bangs sounded the evening of February 15, 1898. The battleship Maine exploded on the harbors in Havana, Cuba. Panicky passengers scurried frightened to safety, while some remained trapped, helplessly, with no possible escape. Startled survivors searched for crew members and friends. The battleship which detonated into several pieces sank to the ocean floor dragging rapt wounded and dead. Two-hundred and sixty-six of the three-hundred and fifty-five officers, crew members, sailors, and Marines on board died or drowned in the explosion or shortly after suffering from injuries or shock.
The USS Maine was the United States Navy’s second commission battleship; however, Maine was classified originally as an armored cruiser. Heavily armed with guns and torpedoes, this ship was ready for battle. The USS Maine, named after the state of Maine, and completed on November 18, 1889. The battleship remained stationed near the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean. In January 1898, President William McKinley sent the 6,789 ton ship, from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba in hopes to help protect the United States’ interests during the Cuban Revolt against Spain. Three weeks later the battleship mysteriously exploded inside the Havana Harbor. The captain, Charles Sigsbee and several officers aboard the ship survived, because of their location in the rear end of the ship.
A few weeks after the explosion, investigations began. First to explore the tragic scene was the United Stats Naval Court of Inquiry, located in Key West. They discovered that a naval mine caused the explosion. Researchers, Del Peral and De Salas conducted another investigation the same year and collected information given to them by surviving officers and the remains of the ship. Del Peral and De Salas observed that if a mine caused the explosion, a column of water would have been noticed. Also, they observed that the wind and water were calm on the date of the explosion, meaning a mine could not have been set off by contact. Finally they discovered no dead fish in the harbor which would be expected after an explosion in water. Another very important inquiry was not investigated until 1974, when Admiral Hyman G. Rickover reopened the case. He concluded through studying newspapers, personal papers, and construction information, that a mine did not cause the explosion. He deduced rather, the cause was from an impulsive incineration of coal in the bunker next to the storehouse. He compiled all his information into his book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. He inferred, “Instances had occurred in which bituminous coal of the type carried in the Maine bunkers had ignited through spontaneous combustion. Such fires were difficult to detect. Often they smoldered deep below the exposed surface of the coal, giving off no smoke or flames, or raising the temperature in the vicinity of the alarm. The bunker of the Maine had not been inspected for nearly 12 hours...

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