Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Great White Fleet

The largest crowd to date packed onto the Monterey Peninsula in 1908 to welcome the "Great White Fleet," an armada of 16 monstrous battleships President Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world to show the U.S. had become a naval power. The steamships were painted white and lighted at nights, creating a fairyland presence that excited every port of call. Residents of Big Sur burned an entire chord of wood in a large bonfire that saluted the ships as they passed one April night, sailing from Santa Barbara to Monterey. Thousands lined the beaches of Carmel and Monterey at daybreak to watch the floating parade. Monterey was cleaned, whitewashed and decked in bunting and American flags to welcome the sailors. The first day the ships were opened to visitors, 10,000 ferried out to the mobile fortresses to see the massive armor and heavy guns. The battleships stayed for four days, then sailed on to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and the rest of the Pacific.

Image: "U.S. Atlantic Fleet Battleships, steaming out of Hampton Roads, VA. , in December 1907, to begin their cruise around the World. Leading two ships are: Kansas (BB-21) and Vermont (BB-22). NH 92091" from the Navy Department Library)

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