Page images
PDF
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

THANMtMlB TO

2

mOto-gmncA* wdbu^J Library

[merged small][graphic][merged small]
[merged small][graphic]

First United States Life-saving Station.

of $200. Crews were left to be picked up as best they might whenever the awful necessity should arise. In this fashion things continued until 1869, when Mr. Haight. Representative from Xew Jersey, tried to secure a provision of law allowing the employment of permanent surfmen, lie was defeated; but fortunately, through the vigorous and skilful efforts of Hon. S. S. Cox, a substitute was adopted, authorizing crews at alternate stations. That was something, and it "broke the ice" for the passage of subsequent legislation.

Even with these improvements, the Service still remained deplorably inadequate. It lacked thorough organization and zealous guardianship. The Revenue Cutter Service, of which the Life-Saving establishment wras only an adjunct, was itself sadly in need of reformation; and to that end, in February, 1871, Mr. Sumner I, Kimball was appointed Chief. Politics had honeycombed the whole fabric ; and. with regard to the Life-Saving branch, there was an especially sorry state of affairs. An inspection along the coast showed the stations too remote from one another ; the houses often filthy, some in ruins : the outfits frequently lacking such prime requisites as powder, rockets, and shot-lines; the apparatus

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

when the wreck of the Metropolis occurred on the coast of North Carolina, involving the loss of 85 lives, and, soon thereafter, the wreck on the same coast of the U. S. war vessel Huron, in which 98 men perished. These overwhelming shocks at first provoked wrathful censure of the Life-Saving Service: but, as to the Huron, it was speedily disclosed that she was lost while the Life-Saving stations were closed according to law. With regard to the Metropolis, it appeared that Congress had failed to place stations in that vicinity, as had been urged by the Chief of the Service. The outcome of the whole matter was that the Life-Sav

where only a keeper is employed. The Keepers (Captains) of the stations having crews receive $900 per annum; and the members of the crews (surfmen), $65 per month. Keepers must not be less than 21 years old when enlisted, surfmen not less than 18, and neither class more than 45. Keepers are promoted from the surfmen, and superintendents from the keepers. Outsiders are eligible only to the grade of surfmen, and the prospect of promotion therefore furnishes strong incentive to faithful conduct. The crews are drilled every day except Saturdays, in some of their duties, among which are resuscitation of the ap

[merged small][merged small][table][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

ber of people. The way a lifeboat bails itself is by means of relieving tubes running down from the deck through the bottom of the boat. When a sea dashes on board, the deck being higher than the outside water, that taken on board runs down the relieving tubes by force of gravity, and the boat is thus constantly kept free. Some of our surfboats are also self-bailers and self-righters. The self-bailing quality is probably the best feature a boat can have; without it she is liable to be swamped at any moment, and is always handicapped.

The Breeches Buoy

The breeches buoy apparatus, when in operation, is simply a rope suspension bridge between the ship and the shore. The Lyle gun first throws over the wreck a projectile, with a small but very strong ■cord attached. This gun—the only piece of ordnance that shoots to save—de

[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[merged small][graphic][merged small]

loss of life; but the patrol system has eliminated this horror, wrecks being now discovered within a few minutes after their occurrence, sometimes on the very instant. The patrolman quickly burns his signal—a message of hope to the shipwrecked, and of alarm to the station —and the crew turns out promptly, while the ever-ready telephone summons assistance if need lie from neighboring stations. Patrol duty is always arduous, and, in the bad winter weather, is extremely severe and dangerous. The arrangement of the watches is necessarily such that no man ever has a whole night in bed. Quite a large number of patrolmen have perished on the stormy pathway, and a great many have suffered serious injuries; but the inestimable utility of the patrol system has been demonstrated over and over again.

One night in February, 1880, three life-saving crews rescued the crews of four wrecks on the New Jersey coast, without the slightest mishap, while everything and everybody was coated with ice and the weather was pitch dark. In September, 1880. three crews near Cape Henlopen, Delaware, rescued every person (194) from 22 stranded vessels,

« PreviousContinue »