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Discussion Starter #1
I had never heard of this. Click the link to see the entire article on Wikipedia.
The Honda Point Disaster was the largest peacetime loss of U.S. Navy ships. On the evening of September 8, 1923, seven destroyers, while traveling at 20 knots (37 km/h), ran aground at Honda Point, a few miles from the northern side of the Santa Barbara Channel off Point Arguello on the coast in Santa Barbara County, California. ...
 

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Wow . . . never heard that before. What a loss!!
Captains ignoring radio navigation signals in favor of dead reckoning? :cluebat: I know radio was new but ....really!
 

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I remember reading about this in an old magazine that my grandfather had about navigation. There is a LOT whitewashed in the Wiki article.

i do not remember the details, but there were many many chances for this to not happen, and it was all neglected by the Commodore and his Captain. The Commodore IIRC was very intent on having a very impressive line of ships steaming past the beaches of Santa Barbara and beyond. The old article had been written by a Adm, USN ret, who tore holes into the Navy over allowing pride over safety to every reach the bridge.

http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=34.60206 ... 20Disaster)

If you look at the map, you can see where the point is, and instantly see that its a very difficult place to make way with islands, rushing up shallows, and deep cuts running just South of the point of impact. In good weather, there are significant landmarks to navigate by that would keep you well off shore in this area. Even in poor weather, there were several fog horn bouys and bells to tip you off this was not a safe place
Hitting this would be similar to piling up on the montauk beaches trying to cut it short from Block Island into Long island Sound. There is no excuse, no matter what the weather or reason for this to have happened.

The area preceeding on the coast is generally fairly low, until you get past the Santa Ynez River, where the Transitions Mountains start, these rise from sea level to over 1200 foot high within a mile or two of shore. There is no mistaking the first of the promintories and thus being that close to shore shows real neglect.
 

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Remember folks, this was before the techno explosion that started with WWII. No solid state electronics, no satellites, no radar to navigate. Primary sensor, eyeball Mk. I, secondary sensor ear Mk. I. Underwater charts were a joke and a bad bet.

If showing the flag to the folks who paid for it was involved, it's understandable. Newspapers and still pictures were state of the art media.

Radio was still just starting out and a single man could know all there was to know about it. Radio navigation had serious problems, and wasn't very accurate.

Still, given he had a large percentage of the Navy's newest destroyers under his command, the Commodore should have been more paranoid.

Geoff
Who reminds people we are techno spoiled and too often techno ignorant, stove piped into our narrow view of our little tech tool boxes.
 

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Skeptic49 said:
Remember folks, this was before the techno explosion that started with WWII. No solid state electronics, no satellites, no radar to navigate......Radio was still just starting out and a single man could know all there was to know about it. Radio navigation had serious problems, and wasn't very accurate.......
It is the responsibility of each ship's commander to understand the characteristics of his navigation equipment/methods. Radio navigation may have been in it's infancy, but "dead reckoning" is known to be inaccurate in so far as exact placement. It is the method that the ship's officers on board the R.M.S. Titanic used to fix their position that April night in 1912 when they struck the iceberg. And recall Dr. Bob Ballard's difficulties in finding the wreck ... not to mention earlier explorers' efforts.
While the Wiki article may have been -- as Guntotin_Fool said -- a rather ..."stilted" representation I don't recall it saying there was any problem with any of the ships' navigation equipment. Plus there was a number of ships; each having bad equipment would be a rather bizarre coincidence.
 

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guntotin_fool said:
...http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=34.60206 ... 20Disaster)

If you look at the map, you can see where the point is, and instantly see that its a very difficult place to make way with islands, rushing up shallows, and deep cuts running just South of the point of impact...
With all due respect, I believe that the map you cite here is incorrect. I think that the actual point involved is somewhat farther south, now labelled "Point Arguello."
 

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Sorry about the map, the one I had on the screen is not the one the the link refers to. Go to the wiki article, click on the Lat and Long on the far right, there will be a page that lists possible maps, I used the google maps option and used the terrain map option. That should be the best view.

The issue was that the area was a well known area for shipping disasters. There were bouys in service at the time that would have given the squadron a good idea of their location. Remember too, that while these ships did not have modern nav aids like loran, GPS or even sat maps, (obviously) the men doing the basic navigation were pro's, trained very well in what they did and there were testimonies given that said, quite clearly, many were uncomfortable with the decisions made by the Commodore. Showing the Flag and Steaming that Fleet past viewers does nothing to overrule the first rule of seamanship and that is TAKE CARE OF THE BOAT.

There are a plethora of landmarks around (those undersea charts of the area were aware of the shoals and islands,) that would have alerted a crew to the fact that the turn was being made to soon from a SSE to ESE course coming around the two promontories. The Commodore himself in the Court Martial admitted that he was to blame and that he had in fact ignored warnings in order to meet a scheduled arrival. While its portrayed by some as "taking the sword" by some as a brave Commodore taking the fall for the others on the ship, the article I read portrayed him not as a Gallant Officer accepting blame, but as a ding bat who had risen far above his ability. He was a political figure, who had been more involved in liaison activities than in commanding ships at sea. His taking direct command of the flotilla in operations was not the role of the Commodore, but that of the flagship's CO.
 

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IIRC, there is now not only a light on the point, but also there is (or was) a Loran station there or very nearby.
I remember visiting it with a friend with whom I went hunting in the '70s. We stopped off at Vandenberg on the way upstate, so he could visit his brother, who was manning the Loran station.

You wrote about the Commodore, "His taking direct command of the flotilla in operations was not the role of the Commodore, but that of the flagship's CO."
Is that true?
I thought that the Commodore was in direct command of the entire flotilla in operations, and that the flagship's Captain had command only of the flagship. That is, the Commodore could tell the entire flotilla, "Come to course 120," but it was entirely up to each separate ship's captain to figure out how to come to the course required, and how to maintain his ship's position in the line while so doing.
Am I wrong in this?
 
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Discussion Starter #9
Steve M1911A1 said:
IIRC, there is now not only a light on the point, but also there is (or was) a Loran station there or very nearby.
LORAN has since been phased out and was shut down this year.
 

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My explanation from a retired 40 year Chief was that a commodore in a operation was like the CEO of a business. He might say Lets go to Santa Barbara, but it was the CO of the individual ship who had the responsibility of first the safety of his own ship, and then the fulfilling of the mission. While a Commodore might say, Head to 120, it was the CO's responsibilty to look at the map, see the rocks, and say "I believe the Commodore meant to say come to 120 in just a few minutes...." whilst standing there with his finger on the map showing the rocks.....
 

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Yeah. That's my understanding of it too.
Thanks for the clarification.
 
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