EL VAPOR PANAMA

DE FALONDRES (De repente)

El PANAMA, fue uno de los paquetes que compro, imperativamente, el Marques de Campo, para poder mantener los servicios de soberanía que había contraído con el Estado al haber ganado el contrato para la explotación de estos. El 7 de febrero de 1879 se adjudica el contrato de la línea de Filipinas. De hecho tendrían que haber sido Olano y Larrinaga quienes lo hubiesen conseguido. Desafortunadamente para ellos no tenían fincas de caza en Madrid, y, como siempre pasa en este país, el Marques, por influencias en la corte, se lo adjudica.
La lucha con la compañía de Antonio López adquiere caracteres épicos y, en unos pocos años, el Marques crea una flota, como ya hemos visto, de veintiséis vapores. Uno de ellos es el PANAMA.
Carlos Llorca Baus, en su libro La Compañía Trasatlántica en las Campañas de Ultramar, nos explica estos movimientos, de ambas compañías, que acaban con la absorción de casi todos los vapores de campo en la gran Compañía Trasatlántica. El 12 de agosto de 1881, Campo se adjudica el contrato de vapores correos desde la metrópoli hasta Cuba, Puerto Rico, Méjico y Venezuela. Compra siete vapores, que son el VIÑUELAS, MEXICO, PANAMA, VERACRUZ, SAN AGUSTIN, SANTO DOMINGO y REINA MERCEDES.
El PANAMA era el BRANKSOME HALL, numero de grada 185 de la London & Glasgow Engineering and Iron Shipbuilding Company. Botado el 15 de noviembre de 1875, se entrega a la Sun Shipping Company a principios de 1876. Esta compañía, obra de Robert Alexander y Liston Young, será luego la Hall Line, a quien Campo compra este vapor.
El vapor BRANKSOME HALL. Del libro THE DEVELOPMENT OF BRITISH SHIPPING THROUGHOUT THE AGES.jpg
El vapor BRANKSOME HALL. Del libro THE DEVELOPMENT OF BRITISH SHIPPING THROUGHOUT THE AGES.jpg
El 14 de marzo de 1884, el Gobierno autoriza al Marques la cesión de su contrata con el Estado (la línea de Filipinas), y por diez millones de pesetas Lopez se incauta de la flota de Campo, incluido el PANAMA, que pasara, casi en exclusiva, a realizar la linea de Cuba a Nueva York, a Méjico y a Venezuela.
Su vida y hechos quedan muy reflejados, mucho, en la hemeroteca del diario The New York Times, una fuente de información inigualable que recomiendo encarecidamente a todos los lectores. Desde 1852 podemos encontrar en su buscador montañas de información sobre los buques y la vida en nuestra antigua colonia.
No vamos a transcribir literalmente, ya que no habría espacio, pero si vamos a resumir y condensar parte de los artículos aparecidos.El día 6 de octubre de 1892, el diario publicaba “Stranded on Alligator Reef. The Steamer PANAMA in Trouble off the Florida Coast”, y es que el vapor habia embarrancado en la costa de Florida, en los bajos de Alligator Reef. El vapor OLIVETTE le ofrecio ayuda al PANAMA, pero esta fue rechazada por el capitán Ugarte, ya que la situación no era grave y se podría salir de ella. El diario apunta las siguientes características del buque: …»Aparejo de bergantín; 2.85 toneladas de registro bruto; casco de hierro; cinco mamparos estancos; 300 caballos (nominales); eslora entre perpendiculares, 331 pies; manga, 34 pies; puntal en bodega, 24 pies»… También, y curiosamente, cita: …»Bajo mando del Capitán Ugarte, un oficial que últimamente mandaba el HABANA de la misma línea, el PANAMA salio de este puerto el 30 de septiembre, en dirección a La Habana. Llevaba carga general y los siguientes pasajeros de primera: M. Morillo, José Rosini, Francisco Rosio, San Bucete Victoria, Rafael Perez, J.W. Brown, Jose Suarez, Ramon Rosete, Maria del Pino, Antonio Ceballos, A.A. Arrostegui y Victor Vizcay.
Vapor PANAMA. The Chicago Record´s war Stories. Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. Flickr.tif
Vapor PANAMA. The Chicago Record´s war Stories. Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. Flickr.tif
El PANAMA pertenece a la misma línea que era la del VIZCAYA, cuya memorable perdida, en las cercanías de Barnegat, costo tantas vidas hace dos años»…
No debio ser importante la varada, ya que en la edición del 7 de octubre de 1892 se publicaba el articulo The PANAMA Safe. En el notificaba que a las 6 de la mañana llegaba el vapor a la Habana sin daños aparentes después de haber varado en Elbow Reef, unas millas al sur de Carysfoot Light.
El mismo diario, el 2 de noviembre de 1887, prácticamente repetía editorial, consignando “The Steamer PANAMA Safe”, y es que el PANAMA había vuelto a varar en la costa de Florida, llegando a La Habana el 1 de noviembre, en donde el capitán, Sr. Alcatina, fue relevado del mando.
El 21 de abril de 1898, el diario daba eco de la puesta a disposición del vapor, por parte del Gobierno español, para todos aquellos que quisieran salir de Estados Unidos antes del inicio de las operaciones belicas.
El 26 de abril de 1898, con la editorial “Spanish Spy an Officer” se da cuenta, en un articulo interesantísimo, del descubrimiento de un espia a bordo del buque, el oficial de la Armada Remigio Zapatero Jimenez, (Remigro Zapatero Jiminez, como indica el diario).
Por fin, y en un curioso articulo aparecido en el diario THE NEW YORK TIMES, de 27 de abril de 1898, nos da una idea de como fue la captura del PANAMA. El artículo cita, textualmente, lo siguiente: …»More Prizes Brought In. Spanish Steamship PANAMA from New York for HAvana Taken by the Tender MANGROVE. Three Shots to Bring Her To. She was laden with supplies for the Spanish troops in Cuba. Two Coasting vessels captured by the Gunboat NEWPORT.
Key West. Fla., April, 28.- The light house tender MANGROVE puffed proudly into Key West Harbor this morning with the richest prize of the war thus far, a vessel four times her size, trailing in her wake.
The captive was the steamship PANAMA, Capt. Quevedo, a big transatlantic liner and an auxiliary cruiser of the Spanish Navy, which has been plying of late between New York and Havana. She had a crew of twenty-nine passengers. Including three women, one Frenchman, and one Mexican, and a crew of seventy-two. She is laden with stores tor the Spanish Army.
El viejo HOOKER. Foto del libro CABLESHIPS AND SUBMARINE CABLES.jpg
El viejo HOOKER. Foto del libro CABLESHIPS AND SUBMARINE CABLES.jpg
As the PANAMA carried two twelve-pounders she could easily have annihilated the little MANGROVE; and as the latter came into harbor with her prize, there was not a craft but saluted her with rousing cheers.
The MANGROVE, under Lieut. Commander William H. Everett, who came down from the Hydrographic Office a few weeks ago to take her, was cruising along the Cuban coast, navigated by Ensign Palmer, shortly before 6 last evening, about twenty miles north of Havana. At 5:45 P. M. she sighted the PANAMA. The only other ship of the fleet in sight was the battleship INDIANA, three miles to the rear. Lieut. Commander Everett scented a prize and scudded toward the stranger. When the latter came within range a shot from the MANGROVE’s twelve-pounder was sent across her bows; but the Spaniard ignored the challenge, and went on. Another shot followed without result; but the MANGROVE was drawing nearer the stranger, who calmly proceeded on her course, apparently without any intention of running away.
When the third shot was fired the MANGROVE was within 100 yards of the PANAMA, and Lieut. Commander Everett shouted to the deck officer that if she did not surrender he would sink her.
The MANGROVE officers admit that they expected the enemy’s fourteen-pounder to open on them in response to the threat, but the Spaniard promptly came to Ensign Dayton, the senior officer of the MANGROVE, boarded the prize.
The battleship INDIANA had seen the capture, and meanwhile drew up to the MANGROVE, her crew giving the little boat a lusty cheer. Lieut. Commander Everett reported to Capt. Taylor of the battleship, and the latter put a prize crew on board the captive, consisting of Cadet Falconer and fifteen marines. They then proceeded to the flagship, where a formal report was made, and Rear Admiral Sampson ordered Lieut. Commander Everett to convoy the prize into Key West.
The PANAMA’s passengers are mainly Spanish refugees fleeing from New York and other points in the United States to Havana. Capt. Quevedo was grief stricken and greatly humiliated because of the capture. The passengers declare that they knew nothing of the blockade, and that when they saw the searchlight of the MANGROVE they thought It was the light of a Spanish man-of-war. The first shot changed their joy to apprehension, the second and third created a panic. The women ran screaming for shelter from the enemy’s guns, and the Captain locked himself sullenly in his cabin.
The cargo, with the ship itself, undoubtedly makes the richest trophy thus far taken. Under the regulations, however, the battleship INDIANA will share in the prize money, as she was in sight when the capture was made.
This makes five steamers thus far captured, in addition to a number of schooners and smaller craft. The entire fleet had been on the lookout for the PANAMA for several days, as she was due at Havana yesterday or today. She sailed from New York last Wednesday, heavily laden with food supplies and merchandise, her manifest showing her cargo to consist of bacon, hams, lard, beans, peas, corn, bran, flour, hay, and milling machines.
She was cleared for Havana, Progreso, and Vera Cruz by J. M. Ceballos & Co., the New York agents of the Transatlantic Company of Barcelona, the owner of the steamer.

Vapor PANAMA con los colores de la Cia. Trasatlantica. Pintura de M. Marti Barrionuevo. Postal.jpg
Vapor PANAMA con los colores de la Cia. Trasatlantica. Pintura de M. Marti Barrionuevo. Postal.jpg

The prize of the MANGROVE was formerly the British steamer BRANKSOME HALL. She is of iron, and was built at Glasgow in 1875. The steamer registers 2.085 tons gross and 1.347 tons net. She is 331,4 feet long, 31,2 feet broad, and 24,9 feet deep.
The Spanish Line mail steamship PANAMA, which sailed from New York last Wednesday, was insured in a New York agency office against the marine war hazard at a rate of 2 per cent. All the American companies declined to have anything lo do with the risk, while several British underwriters quoted a prohibitive rate, feeling that the capture of the steamship was almost inevitable. The insurance upon the cargo of the PANAMA was offered in several offices. It was reported yesterday that it was placed at Lloyds, London, but the report could not be confirmed. A rough estimate of the vessel yesterday placed her value between 150.000 USD and 160,000 USD.
Underwriters said last night that, whatever disposition was made of the passengers, the vessel itself, together with the cargo, was likely to prove a total loss to her insurers, especially as the latter consisted almost exclusively of provisions for the Spanish military forces, in Havana«…
Descartando la fogosidad patriotera del articulista, este interesantísimo artículo nos explica la captura del buque por los americanos. Era evidente que el capitán del PANAMA, con pasajeros a bordo, no iba a hacer fuego contra el MANGROVE teniendo a un acorazado, el INDIANA, a menos de tres millas.
La carga del buque se embargo y este fue puesto a la venta. En la edición del 31 de mayo de 1898, el The New York Times apunta que el PANAMA se envia desde Key West, acompañado de un crucero, hacia el Norte para ser vendido.
En el diario del 5 de junio de 1898, y con el siguiente titular “The Sale of the PANAMA”, se indica que el comandante Wynn atraco en el Pier 20 de Nueva York al PANAMA para proceder a su venta. La parte de la mercancía consignada a Méjico se devolvería a los embarcadores de esta, mientras que la carga destino a Cuba, se vendería. Parte de la carga eran muchos tubos de calderas, presumiblemente para el crucero ALFONSO XII, que se encontraba en la bahía de La Habana con sus maquinas fuera de uso. Tambien da cuenta del famoso espia, que esta vez describe como Remejo Zaporte Jiminez, prisionero en Cincinatti cuando el PANAMA dejo Key West.
Al final el buque se lo quedo el Gobierno de los Estados unidos, convirtiéndolo en el buque cablero HOOKER. En el diario del 1 de Mayo de 1899, se leía: …»The HOOKER will Sail Today. Government’s New Cattle Steamer to Start On Her Journey to Manila. The Government’s new cable steamer, the HOOKER, formerly the Spanish Line steamer PANAMA, will sail today for Manila. She fitted out for her new service at the Morse Iron Works, in South Brooklyn, and on Saturday went to the Erie Basin to drydock.
She will go to Army Pier No. 22, Brooklyn, this morning and finish taking- on her supplies and the rest of her ship’s company.
The HOOKER is the first cable vessel owned by the United States Government. Her repairs and equipment are said to have cost over $100,000. She is of 2,035 tons, 325 feet long, and 35 feet beam. She mounts two six-pounder guns.
In her holds tanks have been constructed in which are coiled about 250 miles of cable. She also carries a large quantity of land wire for use in the Philippines, so that connections may be made overland and through dividing waters among the group of islands.
The expedition will be in command of Lieut. Col- John E, Maxfield of the Signal Corps, who will be accompanied by over thirty officers and men, including two cable experts. The HOOKER will have as passengers as far as Colombo, William T, Pee of Ohio and his family. Mr. Fee is the new United States Consul at Bombay»…
El buque no tuvo suerte en su misión, y en las primeras operaciones varo cerca de la boca de Corregidor, en la bahía de Manila, en unos bajos señalados en la carta. El diario, en la edición del 20 de agosto de 1899 así lo hacia constar. El día anterior, el mismo diario apuntaba que el gobierno americano se gastaría 81.000 dólares en su salvamento, ya que el buque y su carga, cable para el uso del Signal Corps. Estaban valorados en 200.000 dólares. Finalmente, en la edición del 25 de agosto de 1899, bajo el titular “The HOOKER is a Total Loss”, se anunciaba que era imposible el rescate del buque y su carga y que este era declarado perdida total.
Una referencia al buque, como HOOKER, aparece en el libro CABLESHIPS AND SUBMARINE CABLES. Este estupendo libro, escrito por K.R. Haigh, se publico en 1968. Veamos el apunte sobre el buque: …”Length. 333,0 ft. Breadth. 33,0 ft. Depth. 24,1 ft. Gross tonnage, 2.000. Built 1875 by the London and Glasgow CoSingle screw. Compound engine of 1600 ihp. Launched as the BRANKSOME and later renamed PANAMA for the Compania Transatlantica Espanola for service between Havana, the West Indies and Spam; she was captured by the United States Navy cruiser MANGROVE during the United States Spanish war. After service as a transport for the United States Army it was decided to fit her out permanently as a cableship, the task being undertaken by the Morse Shipyard, Brooklyn.
Three cable tanks, 13 ft diameter by 8 ft high, 24 ft diameter by 13 ft high, and 26 ft diameter by 6 ft high respectively were fitted. A single bow sheave on the end of a boom was mounted up forward, whilst the cable winch was mounted on the forward well deck.
The first cable expedition by the HOOKER was to lay in waters around the Philippines, 240 miles of cable manufactured by the Safety Insulated Wire and Cable Company.
After leaving New York the ship had to put into Gibraltar for boiler repairs, but finally arrived in the Pacific via the Suez Canal. During the laying of her cargo she went aground on the island of Corregidor in Manila Bay and was lost.”…
Espero que este artículo haya resultado entretenido a los lectores. No he querido ampliarlo mas, cosa que se podría hacer extensamente, ya que esta fantástica base de datos de consulta esta en Internet y se puede consultar libremente.
Rogamos a los lectores que si disponen de fotografías del PANAMA o del HOOKER, y quieren compartirlas en esta web, que remitan tan necesarios documentos.

3 comentarios en “EL VAPOR PANAMA

  1. My great grandfather was Commander of the ss Branksome Hall – We have just restored a very nice painting of the Branksome Hall, probably from 1876, which has been in my family for the whole period. Mike jjones

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