TDISH: A Very Costly Navigation Error

On September 8, 1923, a fleet of 14 United States Navy ships were steaming from San Francisco Bay to San Diego.  The flagship, the destroyer USS Delphy, rounded Point Pedernales  (also known as Point Honda) to enter the Santa Barbara Channel.  The sea was somewhat heavy and there was a large fog bank that shrouded the shore.  As flagship, the Delphy was responsible for navigating for the entire fleet, and the poor visibility meant that her navigator had to rely on dead-reckoning.  Unfortunately, it is here that things began to go awry.  As the Delphy rounded the Point, she took the corner too close and ran aground.  With the visibility so poor, six other ships ran aground and two others touched bottom but were able to reverse course before becoming stuck.  Unfortunately, 23 sailors lost their lives in the disaster and the U.S. Navy lost seven destroyers, making this the largest peacetime naval disaster in United States history to date.  In response to the disaster, captains of 11 of the ships and several other officers, including the navigator of the Delphy faced courts martial.  The Navy soon upgraded the lighthouse at Point Honda to help prevent further such tragedies.

Featured Image: “Point Honda Disaster.” By U.S. Navy, photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). – US Navy, Public Domain.
Source: “Honda: 8 September 1923.” Destroyer History Foundation.
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