September 10, 1923 – San Pedro – Battered by heavy seas breaking over her ’midships, while she is fast fore and aft on the rocky reefs at the north end of San Miguel Island, the Pacific Mail Line steamer Cuba is apparently beginning to break up and will become a total loss, advices from the scene of the disaster this afternoon declared.
A half million dollars’ worth of gold and silver bullion was salvaged from the wrecked liner late last night and was brought here this morning by the San Pedro Towboat Company’s Red Stack tug Fearless, under the command of Captain Dan Thompson. The Fearless also brought from Santa Barbara and San Miguel Island Captain Led Curtis, Captain Cecil Brown, Captain Martin and Captain Lancaster, insurance and Pacific Mail Line officials. Fifty-six men and fourteen women, survivors of the wrecked boat, were brought here yesterday morning by the destroyer Reno, which was the first craft at the wreck. They are quartered at the Y.M.C.A. and at the Y.W. C. A., while preparations are being made by the Pacific Mail Line to transport them on to their destinations.
Fears that Chief Officer F. S. Wise and eight members of the Cuba‘s crew were lost were allayed last night when the Standard Oil tanker W. S. Miller found the survivors drifting in a life boat in the center of Santa Barbara channel. They will be taken to San Francisco. Due to the dense blanket of fog which hung over the sea and island at the time of the crash on the rocks, Chief Officer Wise was unable to locate tile position of the other life boats, which had put out to sea, and turned the bow of his boat toward the land, twenty-eight miles distant.
The rescue of Officer Wise and his men marked the finding of the last of the survivors and there is not a single casualty, it was reported at the offices of the Pacific Mail Line hero. Thoroughly drenched in their battle with the sea while attempting to land on the island, tired and bedraggled the seventy survivors landed here related many tales of coolness under the strain of the disaster which had overtaken them.
According to the radio operator, W.W. Woldridge, he was awakened on Saturday morning by a grinding noise, but paid no attention to it until a few minutes later when lie was notified by a fellow operator that the ship had struck. He immediately rushed to the bridge, where he found Captain Holland in his pajamas. The engines wore reversed and the liner seemed to slide to safety. When she cleared the first obstruction, however, a strong tide swiftly carried the stern toward the rocks and in the dense fog a moment later, the fatal crash came. Immediately the word was passed to the passengers.
Panic threatened for a minute, but the immutable law of the sea prevailed and order was restored from the first flurry. The passengers returned to their staterooms and gathered what belongings they could from the fast filling cabins. Far below docks, a garrulous parrot, the mascot of the ship and pet of the third assistant engineer, Johnny Young, screamed disapproval of the proceedings and was only quieted when ascending the iron ladders on the shoulders of the assistant engineer.
While the work of abandoning the ship was hardly under way, the Cuba began listing badly to port. A heavy sea was running and with utter darkness adding to the heavy fog, the life boats experienced great difficulty in getting away from the side of the doomed ship. After many hazardous attempts the boats were successful in making the landing on the shores of San Miguel Island. For the moment the survivors were in a sad plight. They were wet and the hitter cold cut like a knife. Small fires were soon built and in a cabin close by around which wore scattered the gruesome remains of former shipwrecked sailors, the women were placed in the only comfort and accommodations obtainable.
After being stranded on the island until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when the motors in the life boats refused to work for a trip to the mainland, the survivors on the sandy beach noticed the sleek grey form of a United States destroyer slipping through the water at a tremendous speed. As it raced by they noticed the name, U.S.S. Reno. But she passed by, and spirits again fell, as the survivors thought that they had not been noticed. It was a despairing climax to the tremendous drama of the sea.
Thirty minutes later, however, the black smoke of the Reno again appeared on the horizon and she had turned back to pick them up. The commander of the destroyer explained that, he was on a trial speed run from San Francisco to San Diego and at the terrific speed could not stop when they were first, sighted. After the sailors of the Reno had labored in the heavy surf for many hours, rescuing the women and men, the work was completed at 7:28 p.m. Saturday.
The passengers slept on the decks of the destroyer as best they could, while being brought to this port. (San Pedro Daily News)