Frank B. Lesher, USS Virginia, South America

"I am now a real sailor we having crossed the equator at 12.01 A.M. this morning at 0 degrees latitude and 38.20.10 longitude.  Last night at ten o'clock Davy Jones, Neptune's secretary, came aboard and made known to the captain the fact that Neptune would be aboard today to initiate into his realm all those who had never before entered his domains.  At nine o'clock all hands marched aft on the quarterdeck where Neptune and his staff were received by the captain and crew.  Then all were dismissed and everybody went to the forward part of the ship, where a platform had been erected about ten feet from the deck, below this platform was a large tank of water.  The victim was first placed on a chair on the platform, where a pill was forced down his throat, then he was lathered with some red paint and after a through shave by the barber, he was precipitated into the tank by tipping up the chair.  In the tank a party of bears awaited the land-lubber, and here he received a through dunking at the hands of the bears. . . . "  "I will send my certificate home from Frisco and I want you to frame it and hang it where I can see it when I come home."


port of spain, trinidad

"Lat 33'17" Long 73"24' at Sea, December 17, 1907.                      Dear Papa,  It is now three PM and up until noon today we have traveled 249 miles in SSE direction.  It is a beautiful day with a smooth sea and no ships besides our fleet in sight.  Left Hampton Roads yesterday morning at ten AM and passed the Mayflower about 11:30.  It was a fine sight and I could see it all from where I was stationed on the bridge where the Captain was.  Suppose you now read a full account of everything in the papers and that Roosevelt says it is the intention to have the fleet return by way of the Suez Canal."


"Port of Spain, Trinidad, BWI,  It is the night before Christmas and we are anchored at Port of  Spain where the temperature was up to 90 degrees today.  I just came down off deck where we had a dance and I am going ashore tomorrow after dinner."  "December 26th, The mail leaves tonight for the states so will have to bring this letter to a close.  Spent my last day of 1907 in the City of Port of Spain and I had the time of my life seeing more strange sights than I have ever seen before in all my life.  Went ashore at ten o'clock in the morning and stayed ashore until ten at night.  Saw the Leprosy Hospital and incidentally some awful sights.  I took a trolley ride out into the forest where are full of all sorts of tropical trees and plants.  Palm trees 50 - 60 and 90 feet high are to be seen everywhere.  As are also coconut, banana and other tropical trees.

There are also a great many India coolies brought here by the English.  Good and hard workers at their different trades and as day laborers. They all live in a certain portion of the town and here life in the far east is pictured in reality they all dress in their native costumes the women wearing rings in their ears and noses and bracelets on their arms.

I have secured a good collection of English money as well as a working knowledge of its value.  Will send you some postal cards with foreign stamps on them.  The letter comes by U.S. colliers to the states."  



rio de janeiro

"Took a trip to the highest mountain in the vicinity of the city.  It is called Corcovada which in Portuguese means "hump-backed" and the mountain very much resembles the hump in a deformed man.  First we started out in a car pulled by one little mule but he certainly could make the car go some, we rode this way for about a quarter of a mlle when we transferred to the electric car, the party having a special car chartered.  We now began the ascent of the mountain the trolley line follows an old aqueduct built over a hundred years ago.  It passes through tropical vegetation which exceed if not surpasses that of hte Island of Trinidad.  We ascended in this manner for about fifteen hundred feet the line then stopped and we again transferred and took the cog road the remainder of the way to the height of twenty three hundred feet above the level of the sea.  On top of the mountain is an observatory and one can get a magnificent view of the city and surrounding country.  I looked down the mountain and down the side a sheer decent of twenty three hundred feet, to the bottom of the mountain.  We then descended the mountain by the same route that we had ascended, and from here we went to the botanical gardens."

"They have a street here called Central Avenue which surpasses Fifth venue for the manner in which it is illuminated although the illumination is perhaps not so brilliant.  In the evening the merchants bring chairs and tables out on the wide pavements, and here one may sit and drink anything from water up."

The below letter is an interesting read.




at sea - en-route to callao peru

"We are now out in the broad Pacific bound for Callao although we are going to stop in Valparaiso long enough to give the Chilean president a salute, and then be on our way again.

The trip through the Straits will be one that I never will cease tiring telling of.  We started at eleven o'clock on Friday night February 7/8 and the next morning when I got up, lad was in reach a quarter of a mile on either side of the Straits some places it widened out an in one or two place even grew narrower.  The barren mountains towering thousands of feet on either side covered with the everlasting show which never melts.  At one place we caught sight of a large glacier which ran down off the mountain almost to the bottom, the ice appeared to be of a light blue, and all sorts of beautiful colors.  The wind blew a gale all the time we were passing through and we all heaved a sigh of relief when we got safely through, for in several places it was quite dangerous navigating.  The mountains through the straits are all composed of rocks, with very little vegetation and not once did we see signs of any human beings.  Passed four steamers going through.  At one place we were going to run up on the dry land, but when we reached the point we found that there was an opening to the right through which we passed."



the southern most town in the world - punta arenas, chile

I have been ashore in the most southern most town in the world and I am certainly glad that I had the opportunity of going ashore.  Went yesterday at ten AM and had until ten in the evening but I saw all that I wanted to see, and came back to the ship at six o'clock.  The town is built on the side of a hill, and all the fellows who have seen western mining towns say that it reminds them very much of the above mentioned towns.   The majority of the houses are but one story high, and built of corrugated iron sides and roof.  The legation buildings are built of concrete, and present a good appearance.  From the ship the houses look all alike on account of the rooves all being made of the same material.  Coal is sold at 35 dollars a toneso you can imagine there is not much of it used.  Wood is very plentiful, and all day long in the summer time, (which is the present season) ox carts with there loads of wood can be seen steaming into the town from the surrounding mountains.  Oxen and horses are the chief animals of burden, but the oxen are used chiefly for hauling materials of all kinds.  Saw them digging a cellar of a house and it looked funny to see the oxen coming out of the excavation with there load of dirt.  Horses are used for riding and driving there being many sheep ranches in the interior."


a visit to valparaiso

"Our stop at Valparaiso was quite an agreeable surprise as I secured a fine view of the city and reviewing party.  I was supposed to be working/but I stowed myself away in the forward fighting top, where one is visible only from a point away from the ship, and there I saw the entire review.

The bay is a very shallow one, by this I mean that it does not extend very far inland, so we made a slight curve into the harbor and then out again.  The part of the city which we saw first from the South is built on top of hills which are separated from one another by large ravines, and the people go from one hill to the other by means of bridges.  The Northern portion of the city is built on more level ground, and it is here that the railroad terminus is located.  Here I caught sight of the trains pulling out for Santiago the capitol of Chili.  We passed quite near to the reviewing ship and I could plainly see the presidential party.  The ships passed by in review in very good order attested by the fact that Admiral Evans sent a congratulatory letter to the men and officers of the fleet."


callao, peru

"I suppose you have seen accounts of the affair in the papers,  but I will tell you in a few words how the event took place . . ."

First there was a parade around the bull-ring, of the people taking part in the fight, and the double team of horses that were used to pull the bulls out of the ring after they were killed.  The first bull was then admitted to the ring, it would be well to add that these bulls are about half starved for a week before the event takes place in order to make them more ferocious.

Two men called Capeadores are mounted on horse back and as the bull comes into the ring the ride up in front of him and wave red capes in front of him the bull charges at the horses, but generally the horses manage to get away.  But I saw one horse get a terrible gash cut into his hind leg by the horns of the bull.  After they have teased him a while the bugle is blown and the Matadores or men on foot get after him, these men are also armed with red capes which they throw in front of the bull in order to get him mad.  The animal makes vigorous attempts to get the men, but they manage to side step him and get away, although I saw one man get gored in the side, his comrades got the bull off of him in time to save his life. 

The bugle then sounds again, and this time the Bandaerilleros attack him with an instrument somewhat like a fish-hook mounted on a stick about two feet long.  These are stuck two at a time into the bulls back at the shoulders, about eight in all are thrown.  This so enrages the bull that he rushes around at a furious rate of speed.  Again the bugle sounds and this time a man called a Matadore comes out with a sword and sticks it in the bulls neck close up to the shoulder, in an attempt to sever the artery which compels the bull to fall down exhausted for loss of blood. 

The bugle again sounds and a man comes out and sticks him in the back of the neck with a dagger.  This puts an end to the poor bull and he is then dragged out of the ring at a two-forty gate, and cut into steaks right outside of the ring. 

I saw three killed in the above mentioned manner and it will be a long time before I go to see another one."



MAGDALENA bay, mexico

The fleet would spend time in Magdalena Bay on gunnery.  This was one of their most important stops, preparing for combat against the Japanese.  The Japanese had proven themselves against the Russians to be proficient in gunnery, even during high sea states.  If the American fleet would meet the Japanese at sea for an engagement, training to the highest level of readiness was necessary.

The USS Buffalo was assigned to convey mail to San Diego as part of its tasks.  Above are three cards showing the mascot bear and the Captain of the Buffalo helping with the care of the bear.



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