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made up of two distinct sets of
planking, which have a layer of pre-
pared canvass between them, com-
bining thus great strength and
elasticity. With regard to facility of
launching and taking the shore, this
requirement is met by an adjunct, the
transporting carriage. This contriv-
ance, with its accessories of blocks
and tackle, admits of its being con-
veyed over any kind of road and along
beaches, and of its being launched,
ready manned, through a raging surf.

In face of the prospective great-
ness of the United States as a maritime
nation, and with a knowledge of the
dangerous character of our seaboard
and lake shores, which together are
over 10,000 miles in extent, the gov-
ernment at Washington long displayed
a lamentable and culpable neglect in
regard to taking ordinary measures
for the prevention of loss of life at
sea. In 1820 it maintained only fifty-



five lighthouses, while no portion of
the coast had been surveyed, com-
manders and masters of vessels having
chiefly to depend upon the charts and
sailing directions of foreign nations
used in navigating our waters. Nor
was any survey made until 1832, in
which year the United States Coast
Survey was organized and began its
accurate and comprehensive work. By
1837 tne number of lighthouses had
been increased to 208, yet little or noth-
ing more was done for the next five and
thirty years to diminish the perils of
shipwreck. It is true that in Decem-
ber of that year an act was passed
authorizing the President "to cause
any suitable number of public vessels
adapted to the purpose to cruise upon
the coast in the severe portion of the
season, to afford such aid to distressed
navigators as their circumstances and
necessities may require," and that
revenue cutters were employed in that
duty; but it was not until 1848 that
the government gave any attention to
rendering aid to stranded vessels by
the establishment of life-saving sta-
tions along the coast. Honor be to
the Hon. William A. Newell, whose
humanity urged him to make an elo-
quent appeal to the House of Repre-
sentatives in behalf of sea-faring peo-
ple. He depicted all the horrors of
shipwreck on the New Jersey Coast,
scenes which he had witnessed him-
self; described the life-saving capabil-
ities of the surf-boat, the mortar, and
line rockets; and so solemnly pointed
out the necessity of putting the plan
in practice, that in August, 1848, an
appropriation of $10,000 was made
1 ' for providing surf-boats, rockets,
carronades and other necessary appar-
atus, for the better preservation of
life and property from shipwrecks on
the coast of New Jersey, 1 y in g between
Sandy Hook and Little Egg Harbor. ' '
Captain Douglas Ottinger, the in-
ventor of the life-car, was charged
with the superintendence and man-
agement of the service, and light
stations were established within the
limits prescribed. Nevertheless, little

progress was made; and the inef-
ficiency of the service in 1853-54 was
notorious, being signalized by disas-
ters attended with frightful loss of
life. Efforts were then made, but
with small success, to improve the
service. The records of the Depart-
ment at the time show that the Gov-
ernment had furnished the coast of
the United States with eighty-two
lifeboats, in the distribution of which
one had been supplied to the Pacific
coast. This is the first intimation of
lifeboat service on our coast.

The defective and badly organized
condition of the stations continued
until 1 87 1 , when several fatal disasters
having occurred within their limits,
the attention of the Department was
attracted to the carelessness on the
part of the employees in the service
with regard to their duties, and to
the inefficiency of the boats and ap-
paratus. It was evident that a large
outlay of money would be necessary,
in order to make the service properly
efficient; and for the first time Con-
gress, on these facts being represented
to it, made an appropriation adequate
to the importance and necessity of the
service. In April, 187 1, $200,000
were appropriated, and the present
effective system was organized. New
stations were built; old boats and
equipments were renewed and addi-
tional ones furnished; the patrol sys-
tem between stations was introduced;
incapable officers were removed and
efficient men were substituted in their
places; selected crews were employed,
and a series of instructions setting
forth the duties of officers and men
was promulgated.

From this time the success of the
institution has been so marked that,
whereas previous to 187 1 no other
branch of the public service was held
in so little esteem, ten years later the
reduction in mortality by coast dis-
aster and the heroism displayed in the
face of death by members of the Life-
Saving Service have won for it justly
merited praise and regard. During
that period the loss of life from coast



shipwreck had been reduced nearly
seventy-five per centum.

It is not claimed that the saving of
life was entirely the work of the L,ife-
Saving Service, but it is referable in
a great measure to its operations, and
the noble example set by the courage-
ous spirits employed therein. Due
credit must be given to those volun-
teer efforts of individuals whose depth
of humanity renders them incapable
of taking into consideration the risk of
their own lives, when those of
others may be saved. Their broad,
philanthropic sense of duty impels
them fearlessly with all kinds of peril.
Nor must humane societies be for-
gotten, especially the Massachusetts
Humane Society, which was organ-
ized as early as [786 by benevolent
persons and was dependent upon vol-
unteer crews. It is a sad task to have
to narrate a terrible disaster which
lately occurred to one such crew.

On the 25th of February last the
brig Sagua, loaded with sugar and
bound from Cuba for Boston, shortly
after eight o'clock in the evening,
struck on the Sow and Tigs' Reef,
off Cutty Hunk, one of the Elizabeth
Islands, which separate Buzzard's
Bay from Vineyard Sound. There
was a fearful sea on, but notwithstand-
ing that, and the emphatic warnings
of the captain of the Life-Saving
Station, a boat belonging to the above-
named SQCiety was made ready and a
volunteer crew of six men managed to
put off. Their struggles with the
angry waves and fury of the tempest
were terrific, and during the whole
of their long desperate pull they were
in incessant danger of being engulfed
by the monster billows. Of that
heroic crew only one man survived to
tell the story of that passage from the
shore to the wreck. With supreme
efforts they finally succeeded in get-
ting under the lee of the Sagua, and a
rope was thrown out to them. At
that moment a mighty wave capsized
their boat and all were struggling in
the ice-cold water. Joseph Tilton
succeeded in catching a rope that was

thrown out to him and was dragged
on board; all the others were drowned.
The captain, Timothy Aken, Jr., also
tied a rope around himself, but so
insecurely that it slipped, and he was
lost in the furious breakers. Some-
what later communication was estab-
lished with the land and those on
board the brig were saved ; but when
it became known that all but one of
the lifeboat crew was lost, the scene
was heartrending as widows and
orphans, relatives and friends searched
the shore all night for the bodies of
the drowned.

As before mentioned the sea and
lake coastline of the United States is
more than 10,000 miles, and these
10,000 miles of shore not only present
every variety of form and physical
feature, but are subject in different
localities to all the vicissitudes of
weather. On the Atlantic Coast the
dangers to which seafaring people
are exposed are immensely in excess
of those which prevail on the shores
of the Pacific. On the one side nar-
row bays, intricate channels, sharp
capes, low reefs, and submarine ridges,
nigged cliffs and sunken rocks, and
networks of shoals and ledges abound ;
then there are stretches of hundreds of
miles of sand beach intersected and
broken up into islands by narrow
inlets and pools separated from the
mainland by long strips of bays.
This dangerous portion of the Atlantic
Coast is ever changing its physical
appearance under the influence of the
storm, the unsteadfast sand-bars and
dangerous shoals incessantly shifting
and changing position under the blows
of the tumultuous sea. The fearful
tempests of the North, and the wild
hurricanes and tornadoes of the South
render these inexorable shores pecu-
liarly dangerous to mariners.

On this side, on the contrary, the
Pacific Coast is remarkably regular,
bold and unbroken ; its indentations
are few, and its navigation free from
those intricacies and difficulties which
trouble the seaman on the Atlantic.
Moreover, the climate is uniform and



mild during the greater part of the
year, and the winds prevail with great
regularity. Such being the case the
weather can generally be prognosti-
cated, and navigation in these waters
does not carry with it so much of
danger and hazard as in most seas.
Nevertheless, during certain periods
dense fogs prevail ; at other times
fierce gales occur, and occasionally

lifeboat on December 12th, 1890; and
that on April 12th, 1892, at the
Coquille River Station, Oregon,
Edward M. Nelson, the keeper of that
station, and William H. Green and
John K. Sumner, surfmen, were killed
in the breakers, owing to a similar
accident. Quite recently the surf at
Point Reyes has added another vic-
tim to its rapacity. The particulars,


very violent storms. At such times
disasters are not infrequent in the
neighborhood of prominent headlands
and near the entrances to the Columbia
River, the straits cf Fuca and San
Francisco Bay. To the above-named
causes of disaster may be added the
treacherous nature of the surf on the
coast, and several accidents attended
with loss of life to members of the
service have occurred within the last
two years. From the records kept by
Major Blakeney, Superintendent of the
Life-Saving Service, Twelfth District,
it appears that Fred Carstens and A.
Anderson lost their lives at Point
Reyes Station by the capsizing of the
Vol. IV— 5

pregnant with warning, are as fol-
lows :

It is the duty of the captain of every
life-saving station to drill his men
whenever the conditions of weather
and sea are favorable, and Captain
George Jorgensen, in command of the
Point Reyes station, considering that
such conditions existed on the morning
of March 1st, last, launched the boat
without encountering the least diffi-
culty in the surf, and exercised the
crew for half an hour or more. When
the practice drill was ended, the boat
was headed toward the beach and had
reached within thirty yards of the
landing-place when an immense roller



Kl Al>\ 1 OR 1 III

or heavy wave, struck her on the side
and tossed her completely over. The
entire crew was buried beneath the
boat, but all with the exception of
George L,arsen managed to get clear
and reach the shore. The unfortunate
man was almost immediately rescued
from the breakers but in an uncon-
scious state. Before medical aid could
reach him, he was dead. He had not
been drowned, but died from the in-
juries inflicted by the life-boat striking
him as it rolled over.

Two independent investigations were
made into the circumstances attending
the lamentable occurrence, one con-
ducted by Coroner Edward Eden of
Marin County, and the other by Cap-
tain W. C. Coulson, acting assistant-
inspector of the Twelfth District of the
Life-Saving Service. Both investiga-
tions terminated in the same conclu-
sions, namely that the death of Larsen
was entirely accidental, and that no
blame was attached to Captain Jorgen-
sen. All the members of the crew
testified that the sea was unusually
smooth on the morning of March ist,

and that for months previous, it had
not been so favorable for practice drill.
During the time they were out and on
their return it had remained so, and it
was only when they were close to shore
that the big sea struck them. They
were unanimous in their statement
that the accident was unavoidable, and
that Captain Jorgensen displayed a
high degree of skill and cool courage
during the crisis.

Though the surfman on these west-
ern shores is not called upon so fre-
quently to risk his life as his confrere
of the Atlantic Coast, his position is
no sinecure, nor is his occupation a
pleasing pastime. He has to patrol
in all kinds of weather the desolate
beach by night, and keep incessant
watch by day over the wide waste of
waters before him, ever on the alert to
hasten to the assistance of vessels in
distress, while at the same time he is
almost as lonely in his surroundings
as the lighthouse man in his isolated
home. Nor let it be supposed that
the records of assistance given by him
to the shipwrecked form the sum

7 o


total of his services. " Prevention is
better than cure," is an old adage,
and has a wonderful elasticity with
regard to its application . Its practical
bearing is well held to view by the
Life-Saving Service. By the vigilance
of surfmen and their timely warnings,
many and many a vessel is saved from
shipwreck, while others are towed by
tugs away from the vortex of destruc-
tion into which they would have been
drawn, but for the aid sent to them
through the watchful care of the life-
boat man. At most lifeboat stations
in the vicinity of sea-ports, telephonic
communication has been established
with the Maritime Exchanges, and
this rapid means of forwarding in-
formation of a vessel's danger enables
tug-boats to prevent disasters which
it would be impossible for the lifeboat
to avert. Let us take one instance of
such an occasion which happened near
the Golden Gate.

On March 9, 1890, half a dozen out-
ward bound vessels were becalmed
late in the afternoon at the entrance to
the harbor. A heavy sea was running,
and they drifted helplessly before it
toward the beach, being finally com-
pelled to anchor in order to prevent
going ashore. They had been driven
so close together, that when they
brought up, they were in imminent
danger of fouling one another. The
keeper of the Golden Gate Station
observed their perilous position and
caused a telephonic message to be
sent from the signal station to the
City for assistance. Three tugs soon
steamed out, towed the three most
exposed vessels to a good offing, and a
disaster was avoided. Let us now see
the surfmen at work.

About half past four o'clock on the
21st of the same month, the small
sloop Mystery was observed from the
Humboldt Bay Station to be becalmed
and drifting out toward the bar. In
a short time, the life-savers were along-
side of her in their surf boat. There
were six people aboard, but having
neither oars nor anchors they were at
the mercy of the waves and tide, and

were being slowly drifted to destruc-
tion. The station men took the craft
in tow to the nearest beach, landed her
crew, and wading near the shore
hauled the sloop and their own surf-
boat round a point to a place of safety.
But for the prompt aid of the life-
savers, there at be little doubt that
the Mystery woidd have been swamped
on the bar and ever}- soul on board of
her have been lost.

On the 27th of the same month the
station men at Shoalwater Bay took off
the passengers from the steamer Tom
Mom's which had stranded on Empire
vSkit, and by their ready aid and exer-
tions the Morris, which was begin-
ning to pound under the actions of a
heavy sea, was got afloat and saved
from other damage than a slight injury
to her rudder. On this occasion, the
life-savers toiled for eleven hours. The
same lifeboat crew were instrumental
in saving the steamer Dolphin of Port-
land, Oregon, from destruction. She
had stranded in a thick fog on Sand
[stand near the bar, and her danger-
ous position being noticed by the life-
savers, the keeper, knowing that in
face of the strong flood-tide that was
running, and a fresh westerly wind
that was blowing, his crew could do
nothing unaided, applied to the Cap-
tain of the tug 7\ J/. Colanan, for
assistance. About three o'clock in
the afternoon the tug, with the life-
boat in tow, was in the vicinity of the
stranded steamer. The sea was rising
and the vessel was being worked farther
and farther on to the dangerous shoal,
but the tug could not approach nearer
to her than three hundred yards. The
station men, however, soon stretched
a hawser between the two vessels, and
the Dolphin was afloat again in less
than an hour. Besides her crew, she
had twenty-four passengers on board,
and as the sea was fast increasing in
violence at the time of her release, she
would undoubtedly have become a
total wreck, with loss of life, but for
the prompt assistance of the surfmen.

But occasions occur when the toil-
some efforts of the life-saver fail to



reward him with success. Such an
instance happened on the 3d of Jan-
uary, 1890. On the evening of that
day, about six o'clock, five fishermen,
in a lateen-rigged boat, were returning
after dark to San Francisco, when
they were capsized close to the high
precipitous bluff, Point Bonita. Only
one of them survived to tell the story
of the deplorable accident. The
night was dark and squally, and the
smack being struck by a strong puff,
careened over and sunk by the stern,
leaving the bow out of water. There

fact. He lost no time in reporting
the matter to the keeper of the station
who immediately ordered the lifeboat
to be run out on its wagon. It was im-
possible to launch the boat in the
terrible surf in front of the station ;
the only thing to be done was to haul
the boat to Baker's Beach inside Point
Lobos, several miles to the north.

The labor which the surfmen of the
Golden Gate station performed on
that dark, stormy night of January
was herculean in its victory over dif-
ficulties. Dragging the boat carriage


the men took refuge, and presently
two of them threw off their clothes
and swam for the rocks off the point.
One of them, Antonio Nicolas, suc-
ceeded in gaining a rock ; the other
sank, and the remaining three were
also drowned. The light keepers on
the point heard the cries of the cast-
away, and made efforts to attract the
attention of a passing craft to him. In
time, a message was sent by telephone
from the military headquarters at the
Presidio to the Maritime Exchange,
conveying information of the man's
perilous situation. Then the news
spread, somewhat vaguely, and about
9 o'clock the surfman on the north
patrol was positively informed of the

at first along a road of steep grade,
they had finally to abandon the high-
way and cross a tract of sandhills,
brush and mud. The toil was ter-
rible, but only the prelude of that to
follow. Having arrived at a deep
gully which extended down to the
water's edge, beset with swamp-beds,
chaparral and rocks, they could no
longer avail themselves of the boat
carriage, and down that steep, dark
ravine the surfmen carried the life-
boat by hand, and launched it about
midnight. Then the tide was not in
their favor, and they pulled hard for
an hour or more before they crossed
the Golden Gate and were in the
gloom beneath Point Bonita, search-

7 2



ing the rocks for the castaway. Hav-
ing satisfied themselves that no living
being was on any of them, the boat
was headed inshore, and one of the
crew sent np the bluff to the light-
house, where he was informed that
the man had been rescued by a tug.

The crew then
pulled back to
Baker's Beach.
Then leaving
their boat in
charge of one of
their number,
and exhausted
with their
night's labor,
they wended
their way to
they reached at



the station, which
five o'clock in the
morning. It only remains to add
that the editor of one of the principal
daily papers, hearing of Antonio
Nicolas' desperate strait, had sent a
tug to his rescue, which took him off
the rock about an hour before the
surfmen arrived at it.

According to the "Annual Report
of the Operations of the United States
Life-Saving Service" for the fiscal
year ending June 30, 1890, there were
at that date ten stations 011 the Pacific
Coast, which constitutes the Twelfth
District. They are as follows : Neah
Bay, Shoalwater Bay and Cape Dis-
appointment Stations in Washington ;
Point Adams and Cape Arago Sta-
tions in Oregon ; and Humboldt Bay,
Point Reyes, Bolinas Bay, Fort Point,



i nw~


and Golden Gate Park Stations in
California. On April 15th, 1885,
Bolinas Bay Station was destroyed by
fire and has never been re-established.
There is reason to suppose that the
destruction of the station was the
work of an incendiary. A strong
north wind was blowing at the time,
which caused the flames to increase
with such rapidity and violence as to
render futile all efforts on the part of
the keeper and others to arrest them.

The building and contents were soon
consumed, nor is there any probability
that they will be replaced, the loca-
tion being of little importance as a
position for a life-saving station.

The first station to be opened was
that of Shoalwater Bay, November
26th, 1877 ; then followed the stations
at Cape Disappointment and Neah
Bay, February 15th and September
5th, 1878, respectively ; while that at
Golden Gate Park was opened 011 the




13th of August following. Since the
publication of that report, three more
stations have been established in
Oregon, namely at Coos Bay and at
the mouths of the Umpqua and Co-
quille Rivers, so that the Twelfth
District now contains the names of
thirteen stations on its list, though
for all practical purposes one of them
is abandoned.

A few brief statistics will give the
reader an idea of the amount of sea-
eoast disaster on the Pacific shores of

the United States. During the ten
years ending June 30th, 1890, on the
coasts of California, Oregon and
Washington, 3 1 7 vessels were stranded,
the respective numbers being Cali-
fornia, 204; Washington, 61 ; Oregon,
36 ; and 16 at the mouth of the Col-

With regard to comparative local
danger to shipping, Humboldt Bay
follows the mouth of the Columbia
with thirteen, and Shoalwater Bay
with eleven casualties.

ALL Caufornian readers are
familiar with the magnificent
telescope and observatory situ-
ated on Mount Hamilton, and known
universally as the " Lick," in memory
of its generous founder, James Lick,
long since deceased. But, although a
comparatively free-for-all institution,
it cannot, unfortunately, be the privi-
lege of all to examine the fine observa-
tory, and look through the grand
instrument, resting grim and silently
over all that is mortal of its generous
donator. Fitting, indeed, is so noble
and unique a monument, enjoying, as it
does a far closer communion with the
Heavens above than can any other edi-
fice ever erected over the tomb of man.

Although isolated to a considerable
extent from all ordinary routes of
travel — being twenty-six miles from
the nearest railroad — it is surprising
how great a number of visitors to
California avail themselves of the
weekly privilege of a gratuitous peep
through the wonderful lens of this
space-annihilating instrument; 150 be-
ing the average number of pilgrims who
hebdomadally wend their way to the
illustrious shrine of the immortal Lick.

San Jose is the nearest city to the
observatory, the latter being reached
from that place only by private con-
veyance, or by taking seat in a daily
stage plying between the mount and
San Jose ; unless, indeed, as in our
own case, you happen to be the owner
and rider of that surprisingly con-
venient article of travel — the modern

cycle. The way our trip was made
was as follows :

Leaving Alameda on a beautiful
July morning, we trundled leisurely to
San Jose, forty-eight miles distant.
The country road along which we pro-
pelled our noiseless vehicles is level
almost the whole distance to San Jose,

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 10 of 120)