LIFE-SAVING stations, life-boat stations, and houses of refuge are located upon the Atlantic and Pacific seaboard of the United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Lake coasts. Their positions are given in the List of Lights supplied to every vessel of war.

All stations on the Atlantic coast from the eastern extremity of the State of Maine to Cape Fear, North Carolina, are manned annually by crews of experienced surfmen from the 1st of September until the 1st of May following.

Upon the Lake coasts the stations are manned from the opening until the close of navigation, and upon the Pacific coast they are open the year round, but, with the exception of stations at San Francisco, Cal., and at Baker’s Bay, Wash. Ter., are not manned, depending upon volunteer effort from the neighboring people in case of shipwreck.

All life-saving and life-boat stations are fully supplied with boats, wreck-gun, beach apparatus, restoratives, &c.

Houses of refuge are supplied with boats, provisions, and restoratives, but not manned by crews; a keeper, however, resides in each throughout the year, who after every storm is required to make extended excursions along the coast with a view of ascertaining if any shipwreck has occurred and finding and succoring any persons that may have been cast ashore.

Houses of refuge are located exclusively upon the Florida coast, where the requirements of relief are widely different from those of any other portion of the seaboard.

Most of the life-saving and life-boat stations are provided with the International Code of Signals, and vessels can, by opening communication, be reported, or obtain the latitude and longitude of the station where determined, information

* From “Instructions to Mariners in Case of Shipwreck,” Treasury Department Doc. No. 75. For the organization of the Life-Saving Service of the United States the nation is chiefly indebted to S. I. Kimball, the present Superintendent of that service.


as to the weather probabilities in most cases, or, if crippled or disabled, a steam tug or revenue cutter will be telegraphed for, where facilities for telegraphing exist, to the nearest port if requested.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 into 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 her 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 the other end 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 a dangerous surf is running which is not perceptible four hundred yards off shore, and the surf when viewed from a vessel never appears as 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 the 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 Life-Boat or Surf-Boat. 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 life-boat is launched from its ways in the station and proceeds to the wreck by water, or the lighter surf-boat 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.

Rescue with the Breeches-Buoy or Life-Car. Should it be inexpedient to use either the life-boat or surf-boat, recourse will be had to the wreck-gun and beach apparatus for the rescue by the breeches-buoy or the life-car.

A shot with a small line attached will be fired across your vessel.

Get hold of the line as soon as possible and haul on board until you get a tail-block with a whip or endless line rove through it. This tail-block should be hauled on board as quickly as possible to prevent the whip drifting off with the set or fouling with wreckage, &c. Therefore, if you have been driven into the rigging where but one or two men can work to advantage, cut the shot-line and run it through some available block, such as the throat or peak halliards block or any block which will afford a clear lead, or even between the ratlines, that as many as possible may assist in hauling.

Attached to the tail-block will be a tally-board with the following directions in English on one side and French on the other:

Fig 1, Tail block made fast to mast.“Make the tail of the block fast to the lower mast, well up. If the masts are gone, then to the best place you can find. Cast off shot-line, see that the rope in the block runs free, and show signal to the shore.”

The above instructions being complied with, the result will be as shown in Fig. 1.

As soon as your signal is seen a three-inch hawser will be bent on to the whip and hauled off to your ship by the life-saving crew.

If circumstances will admit, you can assist the life-saving


crew by manning that part of the whip to which the hawser is bent and hauling with them.When the end of the hawser is got on board a tally-board will be found attached, bearing the following directions in English on one side and French on the other:

“Make this hawser fast about two feet above the tail-block, see all clear, and that the rope in the block runs free, and show signal to the shore.”

These instructions being obeyed, the result will be as shown in Figure 2.


Hawser and whip fast on the mast.
Take particular care that there are no turns of the whip line round the hawser before making the hawser fast.When the hawser is made fast, the whip cast off from the hawser, and your signal seen by the life-saving crew, they will haul the hawser taut and by means of the whip will haul off to your ship a breeches-buoy suspended from a traveller-block, or a life-car from rings, running on the hawser.

Figure 3 represents the apparatus rigged, with the breeches-buoy hauled off to the ship.

If the breeches-buoy be sent, let one man immediately get into it, thrusting his legs through the breeches. If the life-car, remove the hatch, place as many persons into it as it will hold (four to six), and secure the hatch on the outside by the hatch-bar and hook, signal as before, and the buoy or car will be hauled ashore. This will be repeated until all are landed. On the last trip of the life-car the hatch must be secured by the inside hatch-bar.

In many instances two men can be landed in the breeches-buoy at the same time by each putting a leg through a leg of the breeches and holding on to the lifts of the buoy.


Children, when brought ashore by the buoy, should be in the arms of older persons or securely lashed to the buoy. Women and children should be landed first.In signalling as directed in the foregoing instructions, if in the daytime, let one man separate himself from the rest and swing his hat, a handkerchief, or his hand; if at night, the showing of a light, and concealing it once or twice, will be understood; and like signals will be made from the shore.

Circumstances may arise, owing to the strength of the current or set, or the danger of the wreck breaking up immediately, when it would be impossible to send off the hawser. In such a case a breeches-buoy or life-car will be hauled off instead by the whit, or sent off to you by the shot-line, and you will be hauled ashore through the surf.

Breeches buoy ready to go.
If your vessel is stranded during the night and discovered by the patrolman, which you will know by his burning a brilliant red light, keep a bright lookout for signs of the arrival of the life-saving crew abreast of your vessel.From one to four hours may intervene between the burning of the light and their arrival, as the patrolman will have to return to his station, perhaps three or four miles distant, and the life-saving crew draw the apparatus or surfboat through the sand or over bad roads to where your vessel is stranded.

Lights on the beach will indicate their arrival, and the sound of cannon-firing from the shore may be taken as evidence that a line has been fired across your vessel. Therefore upon hearing the cannon make strict search aloft, fore and aft, for the shot-line, for it is almost certain to be


there. Though the movements of the life-saving crew may not be perceptible to you, owing to the darkness, your ship will be a good mark for the men experienced in the use of the wreck-gun, and the first shot seldom fails.


Remain by the wreck until assistance arrives from the shore, unless your vessel shows signs of immediately breaking up.

If not discovered immediately by the patrol, burn rockets, flare-up, or other lights, or, if the weather be foggy, fire guns.

Take particular care that there are no turns of the whip line round the hawser before making the hawser fast.

Send the women, children, helpless persons, and passengers ashore first.

Make yourself thoroughly familiar with these instructions, and remember that on your coolness and strict attention to them will greatly depend the chances of success in bringing you and your people safely to land.

NOTE.-Similar rules apply to the use of the rocket apparatus on the shores of Great Britain.

In the British instructions the signals made from on shore (to haul in, &c.) are made by a man, separated from the rest, waving a red flag in the day time or flashing a red light at night.


1st. When you approach a person drowning, in the water, assure him with a loud and firm voice that he is safe.

2d. Before jumping in to save him, divest yourself as far and as quickly as possible of all clothes; tear them off if necessary, but if there is not time, loose, at all events, the foot of your drawers if they are tied, as, if you do not do so, they fill with water and drag you.

3d. On swimming to a person in the sea, if he be struggling do not seize him then, but keep off a few seconds till he gets quiet; for it is sheer madness to take hold of a man when he is struggling in the water, and if you do so you run a great risk.

4th. Then get close to him and take fast hold of the hair of his head, turn him as quickly as possible on to his back, give him a sudden pull and this will cause him to float;

* From a letter addressed by Joseph R. Hodgson, of Sunderland, to the Royal Humane Society.


then throw yourself on your back also, and swim for the shore, both hands having hold of his hair, you on your back and he also on his, and of course his back to your stomach. In this way you will get sooner and safer ashore than by any other means, and you can easily thus swim with two or three persons; the writer has often, as an experiment, done it with four, and gone with them forty or fifty yards in the sea. One great advantage of this method is that it enables you to keep your head up, and also to hold the person’s head up you are trying to save. It is of primary importance that you take fast hold of the hair, and throw both the person and yourself on your backs. After many experiments, I find this vastly preferable to all other methods. You can, in this manner, float nearly as long as you please, or until a boat or other help can be obtained.5th. I believe there is no such a thing as a death-grasp; at least, it must be unusual, for I have seen many persons drowned, and have never witnessed it. As soon as a drowning man begins to get feeble and to lose his recollection, he gradually slackens his hold, until he quits it altogether. No apprehension need, therefore, be felt on that head when attempting to rescue a drowning person.

6th. After a person has sunk to the bottom, if the water be smooth, the exact position where the body lies may be known by the air-bubbles, which will occasionally rise to the surface, allowance being of course made for the motion of the water, if in a tide-way or stream, which will have carried the bubbles out of a perpendicular course in rising to the surface. A body may be often regained from the bottom before too late for recovery, by diving for it in the direction indicated by these bubbles.

7th. On rescuing a person by diving to the bottom, the hair of the head should be seized by one hand only, and the other used in conjunction with the feet in raising yourself and the drowning person to the surface.

8th. If in the sea, it may sometimes be a great error to try to get to land. If there be a strong outsetting tide, and you are swimming either by yourself, or having hold of a. person who cannot swim, then get on to your back, and float till help comes. Many a man exhausts himself by stemming the billows for the shore on a back-going tide, and sinks in the effort, when, if he had floated, a boat or other aid might have been obtained.

9th. These instructions apply alike to all circumstances, whether the roughest sea or smooth water.


Important to Bathers. Avoid bathing within TWO hours after a meal.

Avoid bathing when exhausted by fatigue or from any other cause.

Plate 128, Fig 523-524. Performing chest compressions.


Avoid bathing when the body is cooling after perspiration.Avoid bathing altogether in the open air if, after having been a short time in the water, there is a sense of chilliness with numbness of the hands and feet; but

Bathe when the body is of normal warmth, and not overheated.

Avoid chilling the body by sitting or standing UNDRESSED on the banks or in boats after having been in the water.

Avoid remaining too long in the water-leave the water immediately there is the slightest feeling of chilliness.

The vigorous and strong may bathe early in the morning on an empty stomach.

The young, and those who are weak, had better bathe two or three hours after a meal-the best time for such is from two to three hours after breakfast.

Those who are subject to attacks of giddiness or faintness, and those who suffer from palpitation and other sense of discomfort at the heart, should not bathe without medical advice.


1st. INSTANTLY turn patient downward, with a firm roll of clothing under the stomach and chest. Place one of his arms under his forehead, so as to keep his mouth off the ground.

Press with all your weight (placing the hands on each side of the chest), two or three times, for four or five seconds each time, so that the water is pressed out of the lungs and stomach and drains freely out of the mouth. Fig. 523, Plate 128.

2nd. THEN QUICKLY turn patient face upward, with roll of clothing under the back, just below the shoulder blades, and make the head hang as low as possible.

Place patient’s hands above his head. Draw the tongue out of the mouth, using forceps, a noose of string or a handkerchief.

Kneel with patient’s hips between your knees, and fix your elbows firmly against your hips.

Now, grasping lower part of patient’s naked chest, squeezing his two sides together, press gradually forward with all your weight, for about three seconds, until your mouth is nearly over mouth of patient-then with a push, suddenly jerk yourself back. Fig. 524, Plate 128.

Rest about five seconds, then begin again, repeating these bellows-blowing movements with perfect regularity, so that foul air may be pressed out and pure air be drawn into the lungs about eight or ten times a minute, for at least one hour, or until patient breathes naturally.


NOTE. Operate on the spot and at once. Prevent crowding around the patient.Do not interrupt the first natural effort at breathing. After breathing is regular, rub dry and give hot water and spirits, in small doses.*

The coxswain of each boat should be instructed in the above method, or some other one equally good, and be required to pass quarterly inspection as to proficiency in performing the operation.


I. If from Intense Cold. Rub the body with snow, ice, or cold water. Restore warmth by slow degrees, and give stimulants as soon as they can be swallowed. In these accidents it is highly dangerous to apply heat too early.

II. If from Intoxication. Lay the individual on his side on a bed with his head raised. The patient should be induced to vomit, for which purpose emetics may be given. Avoid stimulants.

III. If from Sunstroke. The term may represent one of two conditions, viz.: heat apoplexy and heat exhaustion, requiring different methods for relief. They are thus contrasted:

Heat apoplexy is distinguished by a flushed face, unconsciousness, throbbing temples, heat of head and body, snoring respiration and strong pulse. Treat it by raising the head and shoulders, applying ice or cold cloths to the head and leeches behind the ears, mustard to the lower limbs, no stimulants.

Heat exhaustion is distinguished by a pale face, unconsciousness if present, is partial, no unusual heat of head; body cold, perspiring, or both; breathing quick but not noisy; pulse feeble. Treat it by applying ammonia carefully to the nostrils, administering hot whiskey and water in table-spoonfuls, leaving the head on a level with the body, and applying ice or cold cloths to the head and mustard to the spine, stomach and limbs.

Prevention. Wear, loose and light clothing, with a wet paper or sponge in the hat; avoid the use of spirits, overexertion, over-use of cold water, and exposure in the sun when the thermometer is above 85°, especially if the relative humidity of the air is great.

NOTE. A person who has simply fainted from exhaustion, etc., should be placed flat and the head should not be raised; cold water should be sprinkled liberally on the face, and the extremities chafed to restore circulation.

* Method suggested by Benjamin Howard, M. D., F. R. C. S.



“There is no breathing or heart’s action; the eyelids are generally half closed; the pupils dilated; the jaws clenched; the fingers semi-contracted; the tongue appearing between the teeth, and the mouth and nostrils are covered with a frothy mucus. Coldness and pallor of surface increase.”

The above remarks are copied from the instructions of the Royal Humane Society. Recent experiments, notably those of the late Dr. De Labordette, of the French Life Saving Association, tend to disprove the belief that “clenching of the jaws” is a sign of death. According to that authority, the first clenching of the jaws after a few minutes of immersion is a proof that life still exists. At any rate, it should not be accepted by an unprofessional person as a sign of death.

It is presumed that in no case efforts to restore life will be abandoned excepting by competent medical advice.