When a ship sinks, we expect to be able to find it, or at least find out where it went down. With radios, making it possible to receive a “May Day” call, we expect to be able to pinpoint the location of the floundering ship. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, no matter how hard we search for the ship, plane, and even car, but the search seems to be in vain. I think it is more common to have a search without success when it comes to a ship or even a plane in the ocean. It is so hard to see something that is so far below the surface. Still, it seems like after a century or more, there should be some breakthrough…shouldn’t there.
A 550-foot-long naval ship, USS Cyclops debuted in 1910. The ship was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, so to speak…at least in it’s early days. It moved coal around the seas, as well as providing aid to refugees. Then, during World War I, USS Cyclops became a naval transporter. In 1918, the Cyclops, with it’s crew of 306 people and 11,000 tons of manganese, sailed from Brazil. The ship made a stop in Barbados and then sailed on toward Baltimore. Somewhere along the way, it disappeared. Strangely, there was no SOS made. It was as if the ocean had swallowed the ship up. Now one knew exactly where to look for it, because it had sailed quite a ways from its last known location. Maybe if there had been a distress call of any kind, they could have had a general location. Without that, they didn’t know if it had gone off course, or how fast it was traveling, so there was no way to be sure. It was thought that the Cyclops may have gone down in the Puerto Rico Trench. The waters there run very deep, which would have made it very difficult to located the ship in 1918. Still, there was another hazardous area…the Bermuda Triangle, and some people thought that might be to blame.
The US Navy calls the tragedy of Cyclops, “The disappearance of this ship has been one of the most baffling mysteries in the annals of the Navy. All attempts to locate her have proved unsuccessful.” To this day, the original Cyclops has never been found. Many other ships that were lost at sea have been found, many that were lost before Cyclops, but there has been no sign of Cyclops. The mystery of Cyclops might never be solved, and considering the lives lost, that is very sad indeed.
As disastrous fires go, the Great Baltimore Fire comes in historically as the third worst conflagration in an American city, surpassed only by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906. There were other major urban disasters that were comparable in cost, but not fires. These were the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and most recently, Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico coast in August 2005.
On February 7, 1904, a small fire was reported at the John Hurst and Company building on West German Street at Hopkins Place, The site is currently the Royal Farms Arena in the western part of downtown Baltimore. The fire started at about 10:48am, and quickly spread. It wasn’t long before the fire surpassed the ability of the city’s firefighting resources, and calls for help were telegraphed to other cities. By 1:30pm, units from Washington, DC were arriving on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Camden Street Station. Officials decided to use a firebreak in an effort to halt the fires progression. They dynamited buildings around the existing fire. Unfortunately, this tactic was unsuccessful. The fire continued to rage and spread until it was finally brought under control about 5:00pm on February 8, 1904.
In the end, the fire engulfed a large portion of the city that evening. The culprit for starting the fire is believed to have been a discarded cigarette in the basement of the Hurst Building. When the fire was finally out after burning for 31 hours, an 80-block area of downtown Baltimore, stretching from the waterfront to Mount Vernon on Charles Street, had been destroyed. More than 1,500 buildings were completely leveled, and some 1,000 severely damaged, bringing property loss from the disaster to an estimated $100 million. No lives were lose in this disaster…miraculously, although some reports did claim one man died, but that was not confirmed. The fire raged from North Howard Street in the west and southwest, the flames spread north through the retail shopping area as far as Fayette Street and began moving eastward, pushed along by the prevailing winds. Amazingly, it narrowly missed the new 1900 Circuit Courthouse…now known as the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. The fire passed the historic Battle Monument Square from 1815 to 1827 at North Calvert Street, and the quarter-century-old Baltimore City Hall of 1875 on Holliday Street; and finally spread further east to the Jones Falls stream which divided the downtown business district from the old East Baltimore tightly-packed residential neighborhoods of Jonestown…also known as Old Town and newly named Little Italy.” The fire burned as far south as the wharves and piers lining the north side of the old “Basin,” now the “Inner Harbor” of the Northwest Branch of the Baltimore Harbor and Patapsco River facing along Pratt Street. Also spared was Baltimore’s domed City Hall, built in 1867. The Great Baltimore Fire was the most destructive fire in the United States since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, It destroyed most of the city and caused an estimated $200 million in property damage.
My brother-in-law, Mike Reed has proven himself to be such a great addition to our family over the years. When we first met Mike, I wasn’t sure he stood much a very good chance against all of our teasing, but he is a really good sport, and he is also, a great teaser in his own right. When we first met him, he might have been a little overwhelmed by our large group of full on teasers, but that only lasted for about ten minutes….then he was right there with us.
Mike and my sister, Caryl are such good friends. They have the same goals and dreams. Right now they are working on their retirement plans. I always knew that Caryl loved horses, and wanted to have some of her own, but I didn’t know that Mike shared that dream with her. Nevertheless, they do share this dream, and since their purchase of a ranch outside of Casper, they have been working to fix it up. Mike is very handy as a carpenter, and I think Caryl must be too, or else she is a good assistant, which would be more like what I would be. Their retirement is down the road a little way yet, but by the time they are ready, their home on the ranch will be built. There is already a house there, but they are renting it out for now. Time will tell what they decide to do with that house later on. Mike has many talents. He could easily be a handyman. In fact, it seems like every time they come down, we have some project for him to do at our parents’ house, where our sister, Cheryl lives.
Of course, I think that the thing that Mike is most looking forward to in retirement, is the same as most of us are…relaxing. Mike likes to fish, hunt, and to travel. He has taken a couple of trips to Alaska to go Carabou hunting. He uses the meat from the hunting to make the most amazing jerky ever. And like most of us who have done it, taking a cruise is a wonderful way to spend a vacation. I think that once you have done it, it’s real easy to get hooked on it…as Mike and Caryl will certainly tell you. They have traveled, to many places, including Japan, the Bahamas, and most recently a cruise from Baltimore to the Caribbean. I think they are in pre-retirement mode…but then aren’t we all. Well Mike, with each birthday, you are a little bit closer…good news!! Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!