The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Compiled and Edited by Virginia Ross
Stronghurst Graphic, April 30, 1925
ON A SUB IN SOUTH AMERICA: Through the courtesy of Mr. George Barnett, The Graphic shares a letter he received from his son Max, who is a pharmacist Mate of the 3rd Class at the U.S.M. Submarine Base at Coco Solo, Canal Zone, describing a trip which he recently made to Ecuador: "I just returned last Monday from a trip to South American being gone a month. We left here March 10th, crossed the equator March 13th, with the usual ceremonies and arrived at Guayaquil, Ecuador on the 15th. There were nine submarines and a tender, the Quail, which I was on for the time being only.
On the 17th I was in a party that went to Quito, the capitol, which is quite a distance in the mountains, possibly 200 miles by railroad as the latter has to make a great many twists and turns through the mountains. The day after we arrived there, the railroad washed out. We were taken care of in Quito by the government of Ecuador, free lodging and board of the best quality being furnished to enlisted men at the Ecuadorian Military Academy while the officers were taken to hotels. Nothing seemed to be too good for us and we had a splendid time.
The city is about 10,000 feet above sea level, and we had some difficulty in breathing while climbing hills, etc. After staying there four days, we left and came half way back by train, and there we were placed in care of the Army. They had horses and burros for us to ride over the trail and Indians to pack our baggage. The trail over which we traveled had been practically unused for 30 years so you can imagine what was before us. We started on the trail on Tuesday, March 24th, and the first day's journey of only 12 miles was all up hill. Imagine that for a bunch of men who seldom walked a dozen blocks without resting. We stopped that evening at an Indian village. By the way, there were not quite horses enough to go around and I happened to be one of the unfortunate ones who walked. We rested at the Indian village until the following morning. We were treated to fresh park, chicken soup (with everything in it) and coffee and slept in a native church on the floor which was covered with dry grass. All told, there were about 200 people-sailors, officers and Indians sleeping together on the floor.
The next day's march was 18 miles and we covered it in about 8 hours. Some of the ponies were lame so more of the men had to walk. By this time, we were going down the mountain and it's easier to walk down a steep hill than it is to ride. That afternoon we came to a larger village and found that due to severe rains, three bridges on the trail had been washed away so we stayed here all-day March 26th.
The next and last day we had 50 miles to cover and most of us preferred to walk as the trail ran along a river all the way and was very dangerous. We walked from 6:30 am to 2:45 pm, covering about the same distance we had made during the two preceding days taken together; but when we stopped, I was all in. We were descending gradually to lower altitudes and whatever there was a place in the trail which was the least bit level, was filled with mud and water up to our knees. There was no way to avoid these places and so, after 30 miles of this, you can imagine what our trousers and shoes were like. One of my ankles was on the "frits" and the heel was off my other shoe; so, I could only hobble along, but arrived at our destination soon after the first of the party did. We reached the end of trail and found a train waiting for us. We also found five sailors with sandwiches and coffee. I believe I appreciated the nigger cook who was with the sailors more than any of the others just then.
On way back to Coca Solo we stopped at an uninhabited island for a day's fishing. This island is a historic spot from the fact that it was once the stronghold of the pirate Morgan. Nothing eventful occurred during the remainder of the trip and we arrived here Monday, April 6th. No casualties occurred on the way of sickness and for the first time while I have been down here I did practically nothing to the line of regular work for about a month. I had neuralgia of the face for four or five days during the trip so that I would hardly sleep at night but got rid of it when we got back to the ship. I arrived at Coco Solo safe and sound with the exception of the loss of about 6 pounds of flesh. We reached here a couple of days after an epidemic of food poisoning from eating canned beef tongue had broken out but there were no fatalities. I expect to be here for three months yet, but do not know what changes may take place in the meantime so still address me here at the dispensary.'