Fighting Fire By Cable.

Fighting Fire By Cable.

“Here is the most suggestive letter I ever received,” said a New Yorker whose business takes him frequently into the British possessions in America. There are half a dozen lines in it that any American might ponder over for a week.”

This is what the letter said :

“The Ireland Island business is the only exciting thing we have had recently, and you may be sure that stirred us up while it lasted. We expected every minute that the powder magazine would go and wipe everything out. But the old man handled the business beautifully, and for a few hours we kept the wires red hot. A novel method of managing a big fire, wasn’t it ? ”

“ That sounds commonplace enough,” the New Yorker continued, “ until you know the circumstances under which the letter was written. Ireland Island is in Bermuda, and 1 the Ireland Island business’ means the recent burning of several of the British navy yard buildings there. This letter was written in Halifax by a naval officer, and ‘ the old man ’ refers to the commander of the North American and West Indian squadron, presumably the Admiral. The letter means that the minute the fire broke out in the Bermuda dockyard the Admiral in Halifax 900 miles away sat down at the end of a wire and directed every important movement chat was made for the preservation of the property.

“ I know just how the business was done, for I have had experience with those West Indian cable lines, sometimes to my sorrow. The government subsidizes them all, and reserves the right to take possession of them whenever occasion requires. When a government dispatch comes in all private business must stand aside. They will stop a private message in the middle of a wo|l if necessary to send the official one. The minute that fire broke out on Ireland Island the Halifax and Bermuda cable was in the hands of the Admiral, and you could not have got a private message over it to save your life till he said he was done with it. That gives some idea of the little kingdom the British have set up right off our coast.

“I do not think our people in general understand that the the British have established a complete little kingdom extending along the Atlantic coast, controlling not only the ocean, but the great lakes and the Gulf of Mexico as well. I do not know of a more formidable line of defences in the world. It is made up of only four points—Halifax, Bermuda, Jamaica and St. Lucia. Everything is concentrated upon them.

“It is as a machine shop that Bermuda is of the greatest importance. They can handle there the largest ships afloat and make any repairs that can be made anywhere. I do not wonder that they were alarmed when the fire broke out, for there is enough powder stored on Ireland Island to supply the navies of the world. As to projectiles, they are piled there in mountains. The warehouses are full of naval provisions, and a disabled man-of-war can find there duplicates of almost any part that may be damaged, from a shaft or a propeller to a new bowsprit. And coal! Why, there is enough coal stored in the Bermuda dockyards to carry on a naval war.

“One thing I noticed in the naval yards, both in Halifax and Bermuda, that surprised me till I came to understand it. In Halifax they keep at least a thousand miles of ocean cable coiled up ready for use, and in Bermuda there is nearly twice as much. The West India cable is a commercial enterprise, and does not belong to the Government, so there is only one explanation of this heavy reserve. In case of trouble an enemy might cut the coble; and if this should happen you would see a man-of-war go out in a hurry to repair it or lay a new cable. They can’t afford to lose their telegraphic communication with the West Indies.

“It is not more than five or six years since the troops and war ships in Bermuda were supplied with rain water stored in tanks. There are immense tanks in St. George’s for this purpose, and a great rocky hillside was smoothed to catch the rain as it fell. It was excellent water and there was always plenty of it. But the time might come when so many troops would be massed on the islands that there would not be water enough to supply them, so one of the largest set of condensers ever made was put up at the dockyard for distilling sea water. With these condensers at work the supply of fresh water can never fail.

“ The fortifications of Jamaica do not compare with those of Bermuda, but it is still a formidable place. The entrance to the harbor is so narrow that one or two ships could easily hold it against an enemy. The island is principally useful to the British as a coaling station and a second-rate repair shop in time of peace. It is in telegraphic communication with Bermuda and St. Lucia, and it is so near the latter that help could reach it speedily. But if the British should wish for any reason to blockade the Gulf of Mexico, Jamaica would be an important point. You understand there are only two entrances to the Gulf, one between Cuba and Florida, about ninety miles wide, and the other between Cuba and Yucatan, of nearly the same width. A few iron-clads in each of these passages would cut the Gulf completely off.

“St. Lucia is less known than Bermuda, but it is looming up into one of the greatest British strongholds on this side of the Atlantic. It is only twelve miles from the French Island of Martinique, and it is of little account except as a military and naval station. It has one of the best harbors in the West Indies, surrounded by high mountains which are heavily fortified. About 400 men are constantly at work there making new fortifications and improving the harbor. Within the next five years it will be almost as strong as Bermuda. It is already the military headquarters for the West Indies.

“ When a British Admiral can sit in his house in Halifax and direct the management of a big fire in Bermuda, and when war ships can go from any one of these stations to the next one in forty-four hours, the islands cannot be considered very far apart. It is not stretching a point, I think, to speak of the British kingdom extending along our coast.”

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