Docking of the Colorado

Established Success Of The Hunter's Point Dry Dock

A Large Crowd in Attendance and Great Interest Manifested in the Result

California Challenges The World - A 4,000-ton Steamship Docked and Out of

Water in two Hours Important Event For San Francisco

The great dry dock at Hunter's Point, in the success of which our entire community has taken a deep interest from its inception, has proved a grand, unqualified success. The dock has been completed for some weeks, and two vessels, the steamer Ajax and Italian bark Palestro, have in turn been repaired within its walls; but it remained for the Colorado, one of the largest steamships afloat, to fully test its capacity and completeness of design. Yesterday the test was had, and it proved entirely satisfactory. The announcement that this marine monster would be taken into the dock and exposed from main-truck to kelson had the effect of calling together a large concourse of citizens, perhaps a thousand in number, to witness the operation. It was generally understood, and so announced, that the ship would enter the dock at eleven o'clock A.M., and the consequence was that few of the visitors had the pleasure of seeing her enter the dock, but saw her after she had been arranged upon the keel-blocks and witnessed the operation of freeing the dock water.


At nine o'clock yesterday morning the Colorado left the Pacific Mail Steamship Company's wharf and steamed over to Hunter's Point. Before her arrival the caisson had been removed from the mouth of the huge cavity, and it was filled with the waters of the bay, resembling a slip, or a small, deep bay. Arriving opposite the entrance she was headed for the basin, and without the slightest difficulty run in as she would run alongside of her wharf, even turning her wheels after making the entrance. Lines were thrown out from the slip to the shore, the vessel was made fast in the ordinary manner, her bows and stern were properly adjusted by measurement, and she was securely fastened in proper position. The huge caisson was then brought to the mouth of the dock, adjusted in the groves, and sunk by filing it with water, and in a few minutes the ship was bottled up as completely as was ever the hero of Fort Fisher. The waters in which she lay were so still that she did not appear to be afloat, and nothing but the gauges on her stem and stern ports indicated she was not resting upon the bottom From the time she left the wharf at the foot First street until she was docked and the caisson adjusted was exactly one hour and ten minutes. All of the visitors were agreeably disappointed in witnessing the ease with which she entered her haven, and with which the gate was securely shut after her.


After the gate had been closed the orders were given to start the pumps, and the two ponderous pieces of machinery, having a power of 150 horses each, went to work with superhuman energy, swallowing the waters in the dock and disgorging it in the bay, at the rate of 40,000 gallons each per minute. The smoke-stacks belched forth the volumes of black smoke, that looked like immense piles of dusky fleece; the engines snorted like war-horses eager for the fray, and puffed under labors like overworked giants; the immense fly-wheels spun around with fearful velocity; and the centrifugal wheel, at the bottom of the deep well rumbled like the mutterings of an approaching earthquake. In the dock, on the south side and near the center, a small whirlpool twisted the waters, around which the floating debris in the dock danced a lively tune. This spot was over the main well, which communicated underground with the reservoir in the engine-house. From this well the waters of the dock flowed into the reservoir, and here the immense centrifugal pumps baled it out with wonderful rapidity. The immense volume of water discharged from the dock found an outlet on the south side of the Point, where it flowed, a rushing, turbulent stream, running with such force that no living being could stand up in its way, and making billows upon the otherwise quiet surface of the bay. The immense power of the pumping machine at Hunter's Point can only be appreciated by being witnessed while operating in full force. So rapidly did it exhaust the waters in the dock that spectators could see it recede before their eyes at every stroke of the mighty engines; and the actual times employed in pumping out the reservoir was but one hour and fifty minutes, and then the ship was completely out of water.


A few minutes before one o'clock the Colorado was high and dry, resting firm and up right upon the wooden blocks beneath her, and as completely exposed to view as a miniature ship in a glass case. Visitors descended into the dock and walked around her and under her. They gazed with wonderment upon her immense proportions; looked upwards from the bed of the dock to the hurricane deck, which appeared to be mountain high; glanced under the bottom from the extremities at the army of men at work, resembling a swarm of flies upon the carcase of a whale; stood under the paddle wheels, which hung dangling thirty feet above their heads; crept under her bottom and saw the wound which was inflicted a few days since, which seemed like the piercing of a lance into the huge monster, and from which the water trickled like the ebbing away of its precious life blood. To most these curious visitors the sensation was new. They had never before seen a large ship in all her parts, and they made the most of the opportunity. No one but a nautical man or shipbuilder can appreciated the beauties of a clipper or steamship except when she is afloat. When out of her element she is like a fish out of water, and tied up in the dry dock reminds one of the whale stranded upon the beach. When afloat only the most graceful contour of her lines is exposed, and she appears built for speed, sitting apparently edgewise in the water, exposing no clumsy projections to impede her course. No more inspiring sight can greet the nautical eye than a trim built ship sitting like a swan upon the bosom of the ocean, but when the lower portions of the hull are exposed the romance departs. The Colorado is thirty-seven hundred and twenty-seven tons Custom house measurement, and over four thousand tons carpenters' measurement.


But for the injuries which she received a few days since the Colorado would not now be in the dry dock. It will be remembered that while passing Pigeon Point, about twenty miles south of the Heads, a few days since, the passengers experienced a shock which was by some attributed to an earthquake, and by others to the ship having struck a rock. It was reported that she was well of shore in deep water and that the accident was unaccountable. It is now stated that Captain Lapidge gave the ship into the hands of the first officer, who changed the course to two points and run her too near the shore, striking upon the bottom. An examination was made by submarine divers a few days since, who reported that the copper was torn off and the planks badly chafed, when it was deem prudent to have her repaired. An examination today showed that a hole had been broken through her bottom, on the port side, about twenty feet forward of her wheel, through which several fingers of a man's hand could be thrust, while the copper was ripped off a distance of ten feet, and the planking badly torn. From the splinters were taken several pieces of rock, which indicated that the ship must have struck upon a bottom of either soft or loose broken rock. Two new planks, about ten feet length, will make her bottom as good as new. The copper was generally in a good condition, and only torn in a few places. This will be repaired, and the ship will be able to make half a dozen trips to Panama and back before she is again docked. With the old style of steamers a suit of copper was expected to last through the travel of ninety thousand miles, but with the improved models, at least one hundred and ten thousand miles of running is expected before a ship demands new copper. The repairs of the Colorado are expected to be completed ton-night, and to-morrow the dock will be filled and she will be floated out.


When the water was pumped out of the dock yesterday an amusing scene was presented in a small army of boys scampering over the wet, muddy bottom, catching crabs and fish that had entered the basin and been left without water. Half a dozen kegs full of crabs of all sizes were picked up in a few minutes, and several kinds of fish, from a large porgie weighing a pound to a little minnow. One peculiar fish was found which excited the curiosity of many. It was shaped like a bat, with large flat fins correspondingly the size of a bat's wings, and had a long tail no larger than a rat's. A submarine looking individual said, with a knowing look, that it was a "werry wicious," and if it "flopped one of them thorns inter a feller, it 'wd make him squark." After this account of it dangerous qualities visitors viewed it solemnly at a respectable distance. The fish was what is known in the East as a "skate."


The result of yesterday's operations have proven that the Hunter's Point Dry Dock is a success, fully up to the anticipations of everyone. It is unquestioned that the largest ship can easily be docked in it. Even the Himalaya, of the Peninsular and Oriental line, the largest vessel afloat (expect the Great Eastern) could lie in the dock, with plenty of room to spare. That it is the largest dock in the United States in conceded; that it is equal to any in the world, not only in point of size, but in all its appliances and that it can dock a ship as speedily as it can be done anywhere, is no longer a matter of doubt. The benefit of this grand enterprise, not only to San Francisco but to the coast, cannot yet be realized. All large vessels in the Pacific waters must come here for repairs and, besides the trade which it brings us, our reputation for commercial enterprise will be established wherever a vessel finds a harbor. It is something for Californians to brag of, and adds another, and the most important of all, to Californian's big productions. Our bucolic friends may boast of their bit squashes, turnips and beets, but our dry dock beats them all. In the language of the enthusiastic Yankee, it is emphatically "pumpkins." Already the effects of the enterprise are seen in the little village which has sprung up around the dock, the numerous large buildings which are being erected and the advanced price of real estate in the vicinity.


We do not propose to drop the subject without telling the public, what they already know, to whom the principal meed of praise belongs, in connection with this magnificent enterprise. From first to last Colonel A. W. Von Schmidt conceived, planned and executed the work. He has met with obstacles; the wisdom of some of his plans, which were entirely original, has been questioned by experienced engineers, and he has had to combat that prejudice which too frequently opposes improvements in every profession. More particularly was this case with the manner of opening the entrance. His plan was to tunnel under the bed of the bay, fill the tunnel with powder and blow it up, which plan has proved a great success; the plan generally suggested was to open a channel by submarine operations with divers.

On the 22d of September the water broke into the dock, on the 25th the blast were exploded, and on the 21st of October the channel was dredged, the caisson put in, and the Ajax docked. The best pleased person about the dock yesterday was Colonel Von Schmidt, who witnessed with his habitual smiling countenance the full fruition of his labors. The work is an enduring monument to this name. Captain James Pollock, the Superintendent of the dock, managed the docking of the Colorado, and to his superior skill is due the successful result of the operation. The stockholders who furnished the coin are also entitled to consideration, which it is to be hoped they will receive in the shape of remunerative dividends. San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 1868

Source: San Francisco Chronicle in November of 1868


The Colorado in drydock at Hunter's Point

Colorado departed San Francisco amid great fanfare on New Year's Day 1867. Three weeks later, she arrived at Kanagawa, and eight days later, on January 30, she was at Hong Kong. The newspapers that she carried were newer by two weeks than those brought via the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Returning eastbound, Colorado embarked the entire Japanese embassy then en route to Washington. Although Colorado made a few more transpacific runs, she spent the next dozen years mainly in the coastal work for which she was built. She was broken up in 1879. Her successful inauguration of the transpacific route expanded following the launch of a quartet of Pacific steamersóCelestial Empire, Great Republic, Niphon, and Americaówith connecting service in China provided by Pacific Mail's Costa Rica.
Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia - - Colorado

Hunters Point History