Page images
[blocks in formation]

Balance June 30, 1875

2, 469, 539 80 TABLE R.Receipts and Disbursements of Designated Depositaries of the United States for

the year ended June 30, 1875.

$275, 940 90 2, 914, 434 10

Blanee June 30, 1874

[blocks in formation]



The sea and lake coasts upon which the establishment of life-saving stations is authorized by law are divided into districts, as follows: District No. 1 embraces the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire; district No. 2, the coast of Massachusetts; district No. 3, the coasts of Rhode Island and New York, (Long Island ;) district No. 4, the coast of New Jersey; district No. 5, the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, from Cape Henlopen to Cape Charles; district No. 6, the -coasts of Virginia and North Carolina, from Cape Henry to Cape Hatteras; district No. 7, the coast of Florida; district No. 8, the coasts of Lakes Ontario and Erie; district No. 9, the coasts of Lakes Huron and Superior; district No. 10, the coast of Lake Michigan; and district No. 11, the Pacific coast.

The stations in operation during the past year are located in districts Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, and are 104 in number. The reports of the super. intendents show that during the past season (from November 1, 1874, to November 1, 1875) 82 vessels were driven ashore upon the line of coast protected by these stations, having on board 975 persons, and valued, with their cargoes, at $2,607,722. Twelve of the disasters occurred in district No. 1, 20 in district No. 2, 17 in district No. 3, 25 in district No. 4, and 8 in district No. 6.

At 44 wrecks the life saving apparatus was used, and 468 persons were rescued by it, and in most of the other instances assistance of some kind in succoring the shipwrecked and in saving property was rendered by the service. of the lives imperiled, 959 were saved; $1,756,475 of property was saved, and $851,247 was lost, the number of vessels and cargoes totally lost being 14, and the number of lives lost 16. The number of shipwrecked persons sheltered at the stations was 219, and the number of days' shelter afforded 726.

A tabular statement of the foregoing disasters, giving the name and character of the vessel in each case, the exact locality of the disaster, the loss attending it, and all other desirable particulars, is appended.

The cost of maintaining the service during the year, exclusive of the expenditure for establishing new stations, was $163,204.52.

Of the persons lost, as noted above, one of a badly frost-bitten crew, rescued from the schooner John Rommell, Jr., wrecked on the coast of Cape Cod, perished from cold after reaching the shore, the rest of the crew being restored with much difficulty. Another was lost from the steamer Vicksburg, which was driven ashore near statiou No.21, on the Long Island coast, on the night of February 25, 1875. The crews of stations 21 and 22 landed the passengers and crew of the steamer, except the cook, who was drowned in an attempt to get ashore before assist. ance arrived. It must be confessed that it is probable this life would have been saved had the keeper and crew of the station within whose precinct the disaster occurred not been remiss in the exercise of the vigilance required of them. The occurrence was fully investigated, and it was found that the keeper had neglected to send out his patrols after 10 o'clock on the night in question, because, as he alleged, the wind

blowing off shore, he thought there was no danger, and his men were wearied with the unusual watching which the two preceding days and nights of dense fog had exacted. The vessel stranded soon after the patrol was withdrawn, and the people on board remained without assistance, exposed to imminent peril, until near 4 o'clock in the morning. The excuse of the keeper could not be accepted as satisfactory, nor could the praiseworthy conduct of the crew, after the accident became known to them, atone for their recreancy to the bumane interests in. trusted to them, in having availed themselves of the permission of the keeper to omit an indispensable duty. Both keeper and crew were therefore summarily dismissed, and, as an admonition to all others in the service, the order of dismissal was read to the crews of all the stations.

The other fourteen were lost from the ill-fated Italian bark Giovanni, at Peaked Hill Bar, Cape Cod, in the terrible storm that prevailed on that coast during the 3d and 4th of March, 1875. One only of those on board was saved. The wreck of the Giovanni is the first disaster resulting in marked loss of life which bas occurred within the limits of the operation of the life-saving service since the organization of the present system in 1871. It excited much interest at the time, and some erro. Deous statements regarding the management and effectiveness of the life-saving apparatus on that occasion became current. It is gratifying to learn, bowever, from the report of the investigation which was ordered and made into all the circumstances of the sad occurrence, that the men of the service conducted themselves with great fidelity and heroism, and that the loss of life was solely due to the fact that the vessel had stranded so far from shore that the unfortunate people on board were beyond the reach of any human aid. No boat could live in the sea then raging, and the wreck lay beyond the range of shot and line. The testimony shows that no effort was omitted which offered a ray of hope, and that tbe mortar and ammunition employed were in perfect condi1100 and as effective as any in use. The report of the investigation is appended.

There are two or three points upon the Atlantic and lake coasts there large vessels are liable, as in the case of the Giovanni, to ground outside of the reach of any mortar or rocket apparatus invented. During the past summer a series of experiments, under the direction of Captain Ottinger, of the revenue-marine service, who has heretofore Vented some valuable life-saving apparatus, has been conducted with the view of securing, if possible, a greater range with the shot-line. Captain Merryman, inspector of life-saving stations, has been also similarly engaged, assisted by the board of experimental gunnery of the Ordnance Corps of the Army. Captain Ottinger has succeeded in obtaining a considerable increase of range with a somewhat heavier mortar and a smaller line than those now in use. No opportunity has Tet occurred for testing in actual service the practicability of his improvement. The points yet to be settled are whether the mortar is sufficiently light to admit of its ready transportation along the beach, and whether the line with which the greater range has been obtained is large enough to be easily bandled by the people on a wreck, and strong enough to draw the hauling lines of the life-car through the water against the force of swift currents and heavy surf. In view of the difficulty experienced in transporting the apparatus from the nearest station to the scene of the wreck of the Giovanni, and to further provide for future disasters in that dangerous locality, the inspector recommended the erection of a relief boat-house there, to contain a boat, mortar, life-car, and some other of the heavier portions of the life-saving apparatus. This recom

19 36

mendation has been acted upon, and the building will soon be completed. It is the intention to place there for trial during this winter the new mortar of Captain Ottinger, so that in case of another disaster at that point it can be made available on the spot, while if a wreck should occur within a reasonable distance of the place the practicability of its ready transportation along the beach may be tested. Captain Merryman and the officers of the Ordnance Corps have not yet completed their labors, but they have good hopes of succeeding in producing means of effecting practicable communication with vessels which may be driven ashore at any point on our coast in any weather.

That no means might be omitted to avert a repetition of the catastrophe at Peaked Hill Bar, a recent German invention for extending the range of the shot-line, which is highly commended, has also been purchased, and is now on its way here.

To illustrate the efficiency of the present system of admivistering this service, the following statement of disasters 'to vessels which have occurred within the scope of its operations since its adoption in 1871,* and of the results of these disasters, is subjoined: Total number of disasters

185 Total number of lives imperiled.

2,383 Total number of lives saved

2,564 Total number of lives lost Total pumber of shipwrecked persons sheltered at the stations. Total number of days' shelter atforded.

1, 307 Total value of property imperiled..

$0, 293, 65 Total value of property saved..

$1,514, 756 Total value of property lost

$1,742, 902 This is a record unsurpassed by that of any life-saving establishment in the world. The efticiency of the present system will be better realized, however, when a contrast is instituted with the service as it existed prior to the date of its re-organization in 1871.

The earliest life-saving stations on our shores were established in 1850 on the coasts of New Jersey and Long Island. Small houses were erected at selected points, and furnished with surf-boats, mortars, shotlines, and other apparatus, among which was the life car invented by Captain Ottinger. There appears to have been no organization, nor was there any systematic record of the operations of the service at this time. Upon the occasion of wrecks, the only aid rendered was by the extemporized efforts of such people as could be hastily mustered from the scant and dispersed population in the vicinity of the stations, and as this was not always available, fatal disasters were sadly frequent.

The wreck of the steamship Powhatan, on the New Jersey coast, in 1854, in which over three hundred lives were lost, led to some improvement in the service. Twenty-six stations on the coast of Long Island, and fourteen on the New Jersey coast, were established, and a superintendent was appointed for each coast, and a keeper for each station, but no provision was made for crews; a serious omission, since experienced and courageous surfmen are of prime necessity, especially upon those wastes of marginal saud which are almost destitute of inbabitants, and upon which, consequently, crews cannot be improvised. The service continued in this inchoate and unorganized

* It should here be observed that, during the four years embraced, the operations of the service bave been limited as follows: Season of 1871-72, to the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey ; seasons of 1872–74, to the coasts of Cape Cod, Long Island, and New Jersey; season of 1874–75, to the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, New Jersey, and a portion of Virginia and North Carolina,

condition until 1871, except that in 1870 a partial improrement was made by employing six surfmen at alternate stations for three months in the year, but only on the coast of New Jersey.

One of the marked advantages of the present system is in the complete and accurate statistics of the service, resulting from the keeping of careful and systematic records. Nothing of the kind was attempted prior to 1871, and the account of results is consequently meager and incomplete in comparison. The figures accessible, however, establish a striking proof of the superiority of the present service. For example, during the twenty years from 1850 to 1870, the number of vessels known to bave been wrecked on the shores of Long Island aud New Jersey is 279, an average of 13 per annum; while the four years, from 1871 to 1875, give a record of 118 wrecks, an average of 29 per aumum. The number of lives lost from the wrecks kuown to have occurred during the first-named period is 512, an average of over 25 per annum, while from the wrecks of the last four years only 4 lives were lost, an average of 1 per annum. Here, it will be seen, the average of life lost during the period covered by certain knowledge is strikingly less than for the contrasted term, whose average as given would certainly be increased if we were in possession of fuller information.*

But the thorough and comprehensive organization of the service constitutes its chief advantage and involves the secret of its efficiency. Before 1871, although many lives were sared through its instrumentality, it could bardly be termed a service, being almost destitute of organization. It is now under the government of a code of rules and regulations, carefully framed with reference to all its requirements and exigencies. The stations, wherever practicable, are located within conTenient signaling distance of each other, and the beach between them is regularly patrolled, day and night, by surtmen provided, for nocturnal lise, with beach-lanterns and also with red Coston hand-lights, (a species of Bengal light,) which they kindle immediately when a wreck or a vessel in distress is descried in the darkness, and with flags for use in the day-time. A code of signals with these flags and lights bas been devised, so effectual that all necessary communication for initiating aid for a wrecked or endangered vessel can at once be exchanged, and so simple that the rudest intelligence can find no difficulty in mastering it. At a number of the stations, also, the signal-service of the Army bas established its semaphores and telegraphs, thus facilitating and extending intercom inunication. During the severe portion of the year, for a period of four to six months, crews of surfmen, selected for their hardi. bess and skill, are now regularly employed, the term of their employment being by law capable of such extension, in the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury, as the severity of the season may require. In the summer time, when wrecks more rarely occur, and the surfmen, generally fishermen, are away at sea, provision for casualty is made by the employment of substitutes, who receive a stipend for each occasion upon which they render assistance. Another valuable feature is the institution of strict examinations for all its employés. The superintend. ents who are in charge of the respective districts are required to be of exemplary character, in the vigor of health and manhood, able to read, Frite

, and keep accounts, familiar with the coast to which their duties appertain, and conversant with the management of life-boats and lite

*In the 512 lives stated as known to have been lost during the 20 years from 1550 to 1870, from the 272 wrecks of which information has been obtained, the crews of two vessels, from which all on board were reported lost, are not included.

« PreviousContinue »