The steam yacht Tarantula was an extraordinary vessel which, for all practical purposes, looked exactly like a small torpedo-boat destroyer. Designed by Cox & King for the wealthy and eccentric American millionaire Colonel Harry MacCalmont - for whom they had already created the equally arresting Banshee (see lot XXX) - she was built by Yarrow's in 1901 whilst the company still had yards on the Isle of Dogs in London. Constructed of steel and measuring 152 feet in length with a 15 foot beam, she was registered at 123 tons gross (84 net) and rigged as a triple-screw schooner. In point of fact, she actually mounted nine propellers on her three shafts and was powered by a pair of Parsons' steam turbines fired from two water-tube boilers. As one of the very earliest turbine yachts, she had an exceptional turn of speed and could make 23.3 knots under optimum conditions. Once in service in and around the waters of New York, particularly the East and Harlem Rivers, she was often accused of causing damage to shore-front facilities and boats moored thereto due to her high speed and turbulent wake. It is even believed that a court ruling against her set the legal precedent whereby a passing vessel's owner was held responsible for any damages caused when that vessel did not reduce its speed in a confined waterway. The date of this ruling is unknown but it seems more likely to have occurred during the tenure of Tarantula's second owner, W.K. Vanderbilt Jnr., who purchased the yacht in 1904 and kept her until 1914. Like MacCalmont, Vanderbilt used her to commute into New York and the image of both men roaring up and down the city's main rivers in a minature destroyer must have provided frequent excitement for many New Yorkers over a long period.
In 1913, Vanderbilt acquired a new Tarantula and sold his older boat to G. Lawley & Son of Boston, Massachusetts who in turn sold her to J.K.L. Ross in 1914. Ross renamed her Tuna and ran her for two years until she was acquired by the Canadian Navy in 1916. Following service in the Great War as H.M.C.S. Tuna, she disappears from record thereafter, possibly a war casualty although this is not confirmed.