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USS Sterling on 2 May 1907
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Design Cargo, 1881
Displacement (tons): 2,016 gross, 5,663 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 284.0' oa, 275.0' pp x 37.0' x 22.5' mn
Original Armament: 2-6pdr 2-3pdr field (1898)
Later armaments: 1-6pdr (1900);
Speed (kts.): 11
Propulsion (HP): 926
Machinery: Vert. triple expansion, 1 screw
||16 Apr 98
||Robert Duncan & Co.
||24 Aug 81
||16 Apr 98
||7 Jul 19
||3 Aug 19
||15 Sep 19
In August 1881 the shipyard of Robert Duncan & Co. at Port Glasgow, Scotland, launched the iron-hulled cargo ship LAMINGTON for Renton & Co. of Glasgow. Sold to Raeburn and Verel in 1885, she stranded in fog near Patchogue on Long Island on 4 Feb 96. The wreck was floated at the end of February by the Merritt Wrecking Co. and towed to New York. There it was sold to the Black Diamond Transportation Co. (Campbell & Co.) of Boston. Repaired, she became the American-flagged STERLING.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but by the end of March it also had orders to find six colliers, two repair ships, and two distilling ships. On 11 Apr 98 three members of the Board inspected the British steamship SOUTHERY at New York, and the New York Times reported the next day that her purchase would complete the fleet of colliers according to the present plans. The others were SATURN, LEBANON, NIAGARA, STERLING, and MERRIMAC, of which the last three had all been selected and purchased on 9 May 98. At the end of April the Department instructed the Board to find more colliers, and ultimately between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty ships for use as colliers plus three more as distilling ships and one as a repair ship.
The Navy's qualifications for efficient colliers included a carrying capacity of 2,000 or more tons of coal, a speed of 12 or more knots, thorough seaworthiness, as little draught of water as possible, and the capability of being armed sufficiently to protect themselves against privateers, armed transports, and small gunboats. The vessels purchased as colliers were all of the merchant-ship type, and, in order to render their character more difficult to ascertain, their general appearance was not changed. They were fitted with towing appliances, as most of them were powerful vessels, capable of towing disabled ships of war should it become necessary. 15 vessels were purchased and employed on the Atlantic Coast and two more, NERO and BRUTUS, were purchased for use on the Pacific coast and in convoying ships to Manila. In addition NANSHAN was acquired in the Far East, HECTOR was captured from the Spanish, and SCIPIO was acquired but not placed in service. These vessels were purchased outright, manned by a naval force, and provided with batteries for repelling attacks from privateers. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which developed, there was at no time any complaint of lack of coal.
STERLING was sold to the Navy by the Black Diamond Transportation Co. Her cargo coal capacity was 2,672 tons. She served in the North Atlantic Fleet during the Spanish American War and went out of commission at Boston on 1 Mar 99. Recommissioned on 9 Apr 02, the collier continued to serve primarily along the East Coast with several more periods out of commission, the last beginning on 9 Aug 13. She recommissioned at Norfolk on 2 Feb 16 and remained in service throughout World War I. She was one of the original ships assigned to the new Naval Overseas Transportation Service in January 1918. On 6 May 19 STERLING was reassigned to the 3d Naval District for decommissioning and disposal. She was decommissioned at Philadelphia on 7 Jul 19, and her name was struck from the Navy list on 3 Aug 19. On 10 Sep 19 she was sold to F & H Starr, of New York for $75,000, probably being delivered on 15 Sep 19. Resold to the Anglo-South American Bank at Valparaiso later in 1919, she became the Chilean-flagged LLAI LLAI. She was sunk in collision with the Chilean cruiser O'HIGGINS in Iquique harbor 11 Mar 20.
||Ex merc. STERLING, ex LAMINGTON 1896 (completed Sep 81). Merc. STERLING 1919, LLAI LLAI (Chilean) 1919. Sunk in collision with the Chilean cruiser O'HIGGINS in Iquique harbor 11 Mar 20.
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013