The USS Maine was the second pre-dreadnought battleship in the United States Navy. The ship was ordered in 1886 as a response to the growing naval power of several South American countries, particularly Brazil which had become home of the most powerful navy in the Western Hemisphere. The USS Maine was completed in 1890 at a cost of approximately $4.7 million. Unfortunately, the USS Maine is best known for being sunk in 1898 and a total of 274 men lost their lives. Let’s take a look at where and why this tragedy happened.
Where did the USS Maine sink?
In January 1898 the USS Maine was sent to the Havana in Cuba during the Cuban War of Independence to protect U.S. interests in the area. About 3 weeks later, at 9:40 p.m. on 15 February a large explosion occurred on the vessel while it was in Havana Harbor. The ship quickly sank and settled on the bottom of the harbor.
The ship remained in its first resting place for a number of years, but it was a hazard and silt began to build up around the ship. In 1910 the U.S. Congress made fund available for the raising of the Maine and by 1912 the remains of the ship was floated. The bodies of the crew were removed, and laid to rest, and other important objects were removed from the ship. It was then towed four miles off the Cuban coast into the Strait of Florida where it was sunk. The Maine now rests in over 1 km (3,280 ft) of water.
What was the cause of the explosion?
Initial investigations ruled that the explosion and sinking of the USS Maine was caused by a naval mine. However, later investigations have cast doubt on this explanation. Today the most widely accepted theory suggests that a coal bunker fire caused the powder charges for the vessel’s six and ten-inch guns to detonate.
Did you know?
Most of the crew were sleeping at the time of the explosion. 266 men were killed instantly or shortly after the explosion and 8 more died later from injuries that occurred during the explosion. Only 89 people survived.