September 14, 1923 – Honda Point – Seven naval destroyers were dashed upon the rocks near Honda creek at about nine o’clock Saturday night, only a short distance from the point at which the Santa Rosa went down in 1911.
These, with the Pacific Mail steamer Cuba, wrecked on the east shore of San Miguel island, makes a considerable toll of the sea for 24 hours on this section of the coast. The naval vessels were hastening to the rescue of the Cuba when the wreck of seven of their number occurred. Various explanations for the disaster have been advanced.
A dense fog, hanging so low that the ships were unable to observe their position; a series of rip tides and cross currents, caused by the recent Japanese earthquake, that carried the ships far out of their usual course of reckoning drift; and the approaching eclipse and the well known effect upon tides. The final decision as to causes and blame will not be fixed until after the hearing that is to be held shortly by the navy department. First reports of the accident came from a Southern Pacific operator at Honda, who reported seeing the destroyers go aground.
Immediately a rescue party was organized by W. S. Bland, G. T. Gunderson, Clifford Smith, Dr. L. E. Heiges and Dr. M. S. Kelliher. A later party was organized shortly after by B. B. Hoover, which included a number of husky high school boys, bearing quantities of blankets and other materials for the comfort of the sailors able to reach shore. All during the night men were washed ashore in life belts, on rafts and many of them through their own efforts as swimmers. A line was run from the cliffs to the nearest wreck and many were drawn ashore by this means. Many of the men were in serious condition from being dashed against the rocks as they floated in toward shore, and all were blistered and blinded by the floating oil that escaped from the broken tanks of the ships.
The ships had left San Francisco Saturday morning, bound for San Diego after maneuvers in the northwest. Each carried about 100 men, all but about 19 of whom have been accounted for. All of the boats, costing about $2,000,000 each, were fairly new. The Chauncey was commissioned June 25, 1919; the S. P. Lee, October 30, 1920; the Fuller, February 28, 1920; the Young, November 29, 1920; the Wood bury, October 20, 1920; the Delphi, November 30, 1918; and the Nicholas November 23, 1920. Some of them had been just released from the navy yards at Vallejo, after complete overhauling.
Every effort will be made to salvage the wrecks, one or more of the ships being yet in such shape as to be floated off, it is claimed. Some of them are so damaged as to be a total loss. One broke in two soon after striking, another is lying upside down and others are so torn in the bottom as to render them beyond repair. Thousands of visitors traveled to these wrecks through Lompoc, some driving over the narrow, crooked, private road to the Sudden Estate company’s property, then up the coast. Others drove to Surf and took train or walked the six miles down the coast. More people, it is estimated, have gone through the city because of the wrecks than those that came to see the eclipse.
The salvage work will take several months, according to those who are familiar with the work of salvaging of the Santa Rosa. (Lompoc Review)