From The American Marine Engineer Vol. 8 January 1913. This is too good to abbreviate!
Suppose you lived in a blistering bit of a Central American Village, with the jungle steaming on one side of you and the sea blazing endlessly on the other, with smelly kerosene lamps for illumination and the luxuries of life fewer than you would expect to find in an Arizona adobe. And then suppose a tidal wave came along and smashed things up pretty generally, but ended up by picking up a big fine steamer and washing her over the bar into shoal water near the beach, leaving her there high and dry.
And then suppose an enterprising citizen of the village, seeing that the vessel was intact and all her machinery undamaged, sent to the nearest source of supply—which in this case was Tehuantepec, just 180 miles distant—and obtained a goodish length of electric cable and quantities of lamps, assorted sizes, and rigged up the cable between the ship and the shore, and pumped current from the wreck’s dynamos, which he retailed at commercial rates to all ambitious natives who fancied the glow of an incandescent bulb in their palm thatched, corrugated iron homes. … It’s too much like a chapter from a story about a South American revolution, with a dictator, a beautiful daughter, and an athletic American engineer thrown in. Just the same, it’s true.
It was long about four years ago that the steamer Osiris of the Kosmos Line of San Francisco was lying off Ocos, Guatemala, when an earthquake shook that part of the world and was followed by a tidal wave big enough to pick up the steamship as if she had been a fishing smack and carry her over the intervening sand-banks to a point near the beach, where it dropped her neatly, between two reefs just sufficiently far apart to provide her with a comfortable cradle.
When her crew left her, judging her to be of no further use, a citizen of Ocos, who had some experience of civilized life, rowed out to the uninjured wreck and cast a speculative eye over her contents. Later, he sent to Mexico for the necessary materials and proceeded to form the Ocos Power and Light Company. Ocos took the hook all the way down its gullet and then struggled for more. To think of having a real electric lighting plant! It was hardly to be believed. And every citizen of Ocos lauded it over the citizens of the other village sea ports along the Guatemalan coast which could not boast such munificent luxury.
To be anywhere in Ocos society it was necessary to point to at least one eight-candlepower incandescent pendant from the roof of the living room. The Mayor and Council even proceeded to have the principal streets lighted. Business hummed. The padre had the church wired. People came from far and near to admire. Ocos was by way of becoming one of the principal points of interest in all Guatemala, and it was rumored that the President himself contemplated paying a visit to such an enterprising community.
Then, behold, as joy and pride were at their height, what should happen but a brief communication to the Ocos Power and Light Company, from the Kosmos Line of San Francisco, stating that salvage operations would shortly be begun with the idea of getting the undamaged hull of the Osiris into deep water, so that she might resume her peregrinations along the Pacific Coast.
Can you imagine the grief in Ocos? Can you conceive the misery of the Mayor, who saw his streets deprived of their glowing decorations and emblems of progress? Can you conceive the misery of the padre, who beheld his church bereft of one of its most striking ornaments? Can you even fancy the agony of soul of the citizens who anticipated their return to dependence on kerosene, with all the plebian smelliness it entailed?
It has been almost too great a burden of disappointment for Ocos to bear. They have seen their source of illumination cut off, the salvage crew at work on the lighting plant’s regeneration; presently they will even be obliged to witness its actual departure.