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to reward persons who render assistance to distressed ships or mariners ; and to encourage the invention of new or improved boats, buoys, belts, rocket apparatus, and other means for saving life. To further this end, as just observed, the Society commenced a litile work, in Numbers at twopence each, which, at intervals of threc months, gives an epitome of all that is worth knowing on this matter.
A deserved meed of praise has lately been given by a Quarterly reviewer to the Duke of Northumberland, in that he has established, at his own cost, at the principal stations off the coast of his native county,“ life-boats of an improved construction, and supplied with all the necessary apparatus and appendages—a picce of munificence which has acted most favourably in stimulating the humanity and activity of the neighbouring peasantry, and from which the tourist, without being unseasonably sentimental, may derive his full share of satisfaction. The grave-yards which surround the striking ruins and picturesque churches of mountainous Northumbertand,' are full of the mournful records of youth cut off in its bloom, and manhood in its prinie, by the tempestuous waves. Each stone has its own sad tale-of brothers found locked in each other's embraceof a father who perished in a vain attempt to save his son-of whole families, united in industry and affection, and undivided in death, swallowed up in the little craft that constituted the whole of their worldly wcalth. He must be duller than Lethe's dull weed' whose heart does not swell as he reads the simple tale of their struggles and their fate, and whose eye does not glisten when he hears of the munificence which has done all that on that dangerous coast can be done to avert such catastrophes in future.”—Quarterly Review, No. 194. It is too much, however, to say that all has been done that can be done; this is to put a limit to man's ingenuity and forethought, which we should be sorry to admit until the desired end has been more fully attained.
As an example—not of the means for preventing shipwrecks, or for saving the lives of those who may be endangered by wreck-but for rendering aid to the poor fellows who may have lost all but life by such calamities, the * Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society" deserves a word of notice. The scheme was formed at Bath in 1839 by Mr. Rye, who was impressed with the importance of affording relief to the widow's and orphans of fishermen and mariners who might be drowned, and of assisting with clothes, food, and money, those who might be cast ashore from a wreck--alive, it is true, but deprived at once of all the necessaries of life. Aided by Sir Jahleel Brenton, at that time Governor of Greenwich Hospital, Mr. Rye succeeded in establishing a society, and of collecting a respectable sim as a first subscription. On the Eth of May, in that same year, three fishing-boats were lost in Mount's Bay, involving the death of 20 persons, and the sudden impoverishing of 7 aged persons, 12 widows, and 35 children. A sum of money contributed to the bereaved survivors served to bring the usefulness of the Society into notice. The Society progressed steadily. Between the years 1839 and 1854, it afforded relief to 30,000 shipwrecked persons, and to more than 14,000 widows,
children, and dependants of fishermen and mariners, who had been drowned. The aid is not wholly eleemosynary: it partakes in some degree of the character of a provident fund. Primarily, the Society “ board, lodges, and conveys to their homes all destitute shipwrecked persons to whatever country they may belong, through the instrumentality of the agents of the Society;" but aid beyond this limit depends upon membership. All fishermen and mariners may become members by the payment of 2s, 6d. per annum. The Society affords temporary assistance to the widows, parents, and children of all such members as may have been drowned ; and gives a gratuity to such members as, without losing life, lose or damage their apparel or boats by wreck or similar calamity. The larger the period during which a fisherman or mariner has been a member of the Society, the larger is the allowance to his widow and children in the event of his death by wreck or drowning. Every institution which fosters habits of provident forethought is worthy of respect and support; and the Society now under notice does this by the system just described. As to the purely charitable part of the plan, it ranks with a multitude of other praiseworthy modes of helping those who cannot help themselves.
It was found, however, in the course of years, that two societies— bearing the titles “National Shipwreck Institution,” and “Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Royal Benevolent Society,”—were liable to be confused in the public mind; and a union or amalgamation became desirable. Accordingly, in the early part of 1855, the latter-named society transferred to the former nine life-boats, eight boat-houses, and five life-boat carriages; in order that one society might have the sole management of the life-boat department of those benevolent schemes; while the other might continue to attend to the wants of shipwrecked mariners, or their widows 'and children, The “National Shipwreck Institution” at the same time changed its name to the “ National Life-Boat Institution,'' to define more clearly the objects aimed at.
That there is a positive amount of good work rendered by the LifeBoat Institution is made manifest by the simple fact, that in 1854 alone the life-boats belonging to, or in connexion with, the Institution, were the means of saving the lives of 132 persons on board 13 vessels, all of whom would probably have been lost but for such aid. The list of lives saved, during a course of 31 years, is indeed most creditable to the Society and to all connected with it. In the Year No. of Lives
No. of Lives s In the Year No. of Livesinema
in the Year
134 1825 218 1836 225 1847
157 1826 175 1837 272 1848
123 1827 163 1838 456 1849
209 1828 301 1839
1850 470 1829 463
353 1851 230 1830 372 1841 128
1852 773 1831 287 1842 276
1853 678 1832 310 1843 236
355 1833 449 1844
235 Total . . 9222
It may not be that these lives were all saved by the instru. mentality of the Society : indeed such was not the case; but the list includes all the cases of lives saved from shipwreck on our coast, in which the Society gave honorary or pecuniary rewards.
The life-boats belonging to, or in connexion with, the Institution, in April 1855, were no less than 50 in number. Considering that the boats usually cost from 1501. to 2001. each, the boat-carriages about an equal sum, and the boat-houses about 1001., it will be seen that the amount of money thus sunk is something considerable. Northumberland, Suffolk, and Anglesea are the three counties most liberally provided. These boats, on an average, appear to be about 30 feet long, 8 feet broad, 31 feet deep, weigh 40 cwt., and are rowed by 8, 10, or 12 oars. The largest at Pakefield, on the Suffolk coast, has the dimensions 46 feet, 12 feet, and 5 feet; but this is 15 years old; and recent experience has led to the adoption of a smaller model.
The life-boats, above adverted to, are purposely so constructed as to brave the peculiar dangers of a coast where shipwrecks are liable. Seventy years ago the construction of such boats began to attract attention; and in 1789 Mr. Greathead, of South Shields, constructed what may be deemed the original of all the life-boats since made. Cork was largely used in Greathead's boat to render it more buoyant ; and since his time air-tight cases, formed of india-rubber cloth, bave been a favourite feature in many of the inventions. When the Duke of Northumberland offered the prize in 1850, no fewer than 280 plans and models were sent in, exemplifying numerous modes of combining buoyancy with stability in boats. About 50 of the best of these models were placed in the Hyde-Park Exhibition. The prize was given to Mr. Beeching, of Yarmouth, as the constructor of the boat which seemed to combine the greatest number of good qualities. Since that time a boat, invented by Mr. Peake, of Her Majesty's Dock-yard at Woolwich, has been more frequently adopted as a model than any other.
A boat being the first requisite for such service, there are numerous fittings necessary to render it workable: there must be a boat-house, in which to keep it sheltered from the weather when out of use; and a carriage whereon to wheel it to the part of the coast most adjacent to the wrecked or stranded ship. Moreover, there must be a crew of trusty men, able and willing to brave a raging sea, strong and resolute to pull the oar under any stress of weather; and there must be a master or coxswain exercising sufficient control to command the men, and direct their energies in a proper channel. It is in this direction, quite as much as in the provision of life-boats and buoys, that the Life-Boat Institution has rendered service. A system of payment, partly in the nature of a salary, partly as a reward, is adopted, such as may induce steady men to render aid; and the Local Committees assist in collecting the means whereby the outlay is to be defrayed, and in laying down the rules which are to govern the movements of the life-boat corps.
The exact mode in which a life-boat renders its useful service must depend, of course, on many contingencies of winds, waves,
shoals, réels, rocks, &e. The following is an example :-On the 2nd of May, 1855, in early morn, the beachmen at Ransgate heard alarins given, and saw signal-rockets fired on board the light-Fessels moored off the Goodwin Sands, indicating that a vessel was in danger or distress in that perilous region. The Ramsgate life-boat (the property of the Ramsgate Harbour Commissioners) was speedily inanned and equipped, and taken in tor by the Samson steam-tug against a rough sea and an adverse wind and tide. The hapless ship was seen from the steamer with signals of distress fying, and appa. rently high and dry on the further edge of the Goodwin; the tide being low at the time, and a heavy sea on the edge of the sand, At a particular point the life-boat left the steam-tug, and steered towards the stranded vessel ; but it was speedily found that the depth of water around the vessel was too small to permit a close approach by the boat. The men, therefore, waited until the in-coming tide favoured them a little; they went on; they ran on shore among the breakers; and the master and four of the crew, jamping overboard into the surf, waded to the ship, which they reached in an exhausted state. The ship was the Queen of the Teigm, bound from Antwerp to Liverpool with a valuable cargo of sugar, bark, and seeds. When the crew of the ship saw the exertions of those who had undertaken to aid them, they descended from their vessel into a boat, jumped on the lee-side of the sand, and thence got into the life-boat. As soon as the tide had risen sufficiently to allow the steamer to approach, a line was thrown on board her; and a communication being thus established, she was enabled to lay out an anchor to leeward, and subsequently to get her own large tow-rope fast to the vessel. By these means the vessel was hove off from her dangerous position, and taken, in a leaky state, with four feet water in her hold, into Ramsgate Harbour.
Another example is worth noticing, as showing the recklessness of crews, and the probability that such recklessness frequently occasions loss of ships. On October 7th, 1854, signals of distress were observed in the direction of the Holm Sand, off the Suffolk coast, during a strong easterly gale. The Pakefield life-boat immediately put off, towed by the Lowestoft steam-tug. Finding that it could not reach the vessel to leeward, the boat weathered the sand, and then observed the sea breaking heavily over the ship, a Norwegian brig, of 180 tons. With some difficulty the boatmen succeeded in getting on board, where they found a crew of eight men, all drunk; the besotted seamen, though in imminent peril of being drowned, and without the possibility of seeing their vessel got off, obstinately refused to leave. The boatmen, finding persuasion to be useless, and knowing that the life-boat itself was in a perilous position on the verge of the shoal, with the waves constantly breaking over it, returned to Lowestoft Harbour. At day break on the next morning, another crew from Pakefield manned the life-boat, and succeeded in reaching the vessel, where the crew, sobered during the night, were glad to avail themselves of this second offer to aid them. They were all brought safely to land.
No part of our maritime system has, in recent years, attracted
more attention than that which has just been illustrated—the personal character and conduct of the men employed. Who can tell the amount of misery which one hour of inebriety, one display of incompetency, may produce? The ship may be all that human art can effect, in strength and efficiency; the fittings and stores may be all that could be needed; the provisions may be good in kind, and ample in quantity_and yet one slight manifestation of indiscretion or of unskilfulness, may give room for a catastrophe which will plunge scores or hundreds of human beings into a watery grave. This matter was taken up by the Legislature many years ago; but it is to be treated in a more direct way by the system established in virtue of a statute presently to be noticed.
The life-boats of which we have spoken, are not the only means necessary for affording aid to stranded or wrecked ships. There are times when other aid is needed; when a ship is in distress so near the shore as to be within reach of a rope, if means were at hand to throw it—while, perhaps, no boats are near the spot fitted to render the required service. The name of Captain Manby is intimately associated with the history of this part of the subject. Captain Manby's ingenuity was excited by a terribly distressing scene which he witnessed in 1807; when the Snipe, a gun-brig, was lost off Yarmouth; when sixty-seven persons were drowned within sixty yards of the beach, after remaining five or six hours on the wreck, without a possibility of receiving assistance. Long before this, he had thought on the subject. He had, in 1783, thrown a line, by means of a small mortar, over Downham Church, in Norfolk; and it struck him that he might, by the same means, throw a line over a stranded vessel. During many subsequent years he made repeated experi. ments; his main difficulty consisted in securing the shot to the rope; iron chains were liable to break on the discharge ; but at length he found that stout strips of closely-plạited raw hide would answer the purpose. In 1792 the Society of Arts gave a premium of fifty guineas to Lieutenant Bell for " a plan for throwing a rope on shore by means of a shell from a mortar on board a vessel in distress ;" but Captain Manby was the first to put in practice a really available plan.
Let us see what is the end to be attained, that we may understand the mode of attaining it. A ship is stranded near the shore, say two or three hundred yards off, where no boat, perhaps, is available. What are the crew to do? Sailors, unfortunately for themselves, are in too few cases swimmers; and even a swimmer has a poor chance for his life in such weather and such a sea as usually accompany these strandings of ships. The men generally cling to their vessel as long as her timbers will hold together, rather than strike out and endeavour to swim to shore. In such case their safety mainly depends on the establishment of some communication with the shore. Such communication was the object of Captain Manby's attention. On February 12th, 1808, a brig ran aground within a hundred and fifty yards of the Yarmouth coast; the crew lashed themselves to the rigging, and bore up against a furious storm as best they mighthoping almost against hope. All attempts to send off a boat to them