The Lifesavers of Cape Cod
Cape Cod, United States
The Lifesavers of Cape Cod Reviews
The Lifesavers of Cape Cod Jun 06, 2008
In the past 300 years, more than 3,000 shipwrecks have been documented along Cape Cod shores.
In 1798, the Massachusetts Humane Society launched the nation's first organized life saving service by providing food and shelter in Boston Harbor for shipwreck victims. The Society eventually set up outposts on Cape Cod in the early 1800's where unpaid volunteers patrolled the shores to warn approaching ships of shallow sandbars several hundred yards offshore.
In 1872, Congress initiated the first federally funded and staffed life saving stations and they became the U.S. Life Saving Service. Nine of those first stations were built on Cape Cod and this at Nauset is one of them. The stations were usually manned by six Surfmen and an Officer-in-Charge who was known as the Keeper. When shipwrecks were most likely to occur - at night and during storms - they patrolled long stretches of shoreline between stations.
When a wreck was sighted the surfman on patrol would signal the ship with a red flare. "Ship Ashore!" was the verbal alarm. Specially designed surf boats would launch with five oarsmen and the Keeper at the helm. Only five victims could be rescued at a time requiring multiple trips in often treacherous waters. Hundreds of victims had been saved over the years and on only two tragic occasions did Cape Cod lifesavers lose their own lives.
Lifesaving methods and equipment advanced over time and the advancement of telegraphy, radio, and improved weather forecasting greatly reduced the number of shipwrecks. The opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914 dramatically reduced navigation hazards and in 1915 the U.S. Lifesaving Service was incorporated into the newly established U.S. Coast Guard. It was the end of a remarkable era of true heroes.
The Nauset Life Saving Station is located just south from the Nauset Light in Eastham.
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