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Reading 1
Reading 3



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Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Instructions to Mariners in
Case of Shipwreck, 1894

Following is a portion of the material provided to mariners concerning the operations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. The ship's captain was responsible for preparing his vessel and crew in the event of a disaster. By the time of this report in 1894, the U.S.L.S.S. maintained stations on the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Great Lakes coasts. In addition to patrol and rescue operations, crews at these stations communicated with vessels offshore, using the flag system known as the International Code of Signals or hand held flares of different colors called Coston lights. Weather predictions, location (latitude and longitude) of the station, or ship damage were common types of information conveyed.

Instructions to Mariners in Case of Shipwreck, with Information Concerning the Life-Saving Stations Upon the Coasts of the United States. Prepared by Lieutenant C. H. MCLELLAN, U.S.R.C.S., Assistant Inspector Life-Saving Stations, under the Direction of the General Superintendent

General Information
All life-saving stations on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are manned annually by crews of experienced surfmen from the 1st of August to the 1st of June following. Upon the lake coasts the stations are manned from the opening until the close of navigation, and upon the Pacific coast they are opened and manned the year round

All life-saving stations are fully supplied with boats, wreck guns, beach apparatus, restoratives, etc.

All services are performed by the life-saving crews without other compensation than their wages from the Government, and they are strictly forbidden to solicit or receive rewards.

Destitute seafarers are provided with food and lodgings at the nearest station by the Government as long as necessarily detained by the circumstances of shipwreck. The station crews patrol the beach from two to four miles each side of their stations four times between sunset and sunrise, and if the weather is foggy the patrol is continued through the day.

Each patrolman carries Coston signals. Upon discovering a vessel standing in danger he ignites one of them, which emits a brilliant red flame of about two minutes' duration, to warn her off, or should the vessel be ashore, to let the crew know that they are discovered and assistance is at hand.

If the vessel is not discovered by the patrol, immediately after striking, rockets or flare-up lights should be burned, or if the weather be foggy, guns should be fired to attract attention, as the patrolman may be some distance away on another part of his beat.

Masters are particularly cautioned, if they should be driven ashore anywhere in the neighborhood of the stations, especially on any of the sandy coasts, where there is not much danger of vessels breaking up immediately, to remain on board until assistance arrives, and under no circumstances should they attempt to land through the surf in their own boats until the last hope of assistance from the shore has vanished. Often when comparatively smooth at sea dangerous surf is running, which is not perceptible four hundred yards offshore, and the surf, when viewed from the vessel, never appears so dangerous as it is. Many lives have unnecessarily been lost by the crews of stranded vessels being thus deceived and attempting to land in the ship's boats.

The difficulties of rescue by operations from shore are greatly increased in cases where the anchors are let go after entering the breakers, as is frequently done, and the chances of saving life correspondingly lessened.

Rescue with the Lifeboat or Surfboat
The patrolman, after discovering your vessel ashore and burning a Coston signal, hastens to his station for assistance. If the use of a boat is practicable, either the large lifeboat is launched from its ways in the station and proceeds to the wreck by water or the lighter surfboat is hauled overland to a point opposite the wreck and launched, as circumstances may require.

Upon the boat reaching your vessel the directions and orders of the keeper (who always commands and steers the boat) should be implicitly obeyed. Any headlong rushing and crowding should be prevented, and the captain of the vessel should remain on board to preserve order until every other person has left.

Women, children, helpless persons, and passengers should be passed into the boat first. Goods or baggage will not be taken into the boat under any circumstances until all persons are landed. If any be passed in against the keeper's remonstrance he is fully authorized to throw it overboard.

Questions for Reading 2

1. What supplies did each lifesaving station have? Can you figure out the purpose of each item?

2. How could a ship in distress and lifesavers on shore communicate?

3. Under what circumstances should a ship's master (captain) and crew remain on board the wrecked vessel? Why?

4. What part of a lifeboat rescue do you think would be the most difficult? Why?

5. As a ship's captain, what information about the U.S.L.S.S. would you have considered the most important for your crew to know? If you were reading this information for the first time, what general opinion would you have about the U.S.L.S.S.?

Reading 2 was excerpted from Annual Report of the United States Life-Saving Service for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1894 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1895).


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