Lighthouses and Life Saving.

Feb 10 2017, 12:23 pm

I associate lighthouses with the Coast Guard because before automation the Coasties maintained the lights. I associate the Coast Guard with protecting our shores and water rescues. After the Civil War the public demanded the government do something about the loss of lives and property at sea and the precursor to our modern Coast Guard was born, the US Revenue Cutter Service.  Today the Coast Guard has cutting edge equipment, fast boats, helicopters, highly trained and dedicated men and women with grit and courage. Lifesaving rescues are made weekly.  

Travel back to the late 1800s when the service first operated.  In 1897, eight whaling ships were trapped in Arctic ice surrounding Point Barrow, the northernmost point of Alaska. With a dwindling food supply, the whalers had little chance of surviving.

The Bear, a cutter commanded by Captain Francis Tuttle, sailed from Port Townsend, Washington. It was too late in the year for the cutter to push through the ice, so it was decided a rescue must go overland. The rescue party led by Lieutenant Jarvis traveled the distance to Point Barrow overland from Cape Vancouver, roughly 1,500 miles. They traveled on snowshoes and skis and carried the provisions using sleds pulled by dogs and reindeer. 1,500 miles with temperatures below zero! No down coats, hand and feet warmers, super-duper tents camping heaters and stoves. They saved the lives of 265 whalers. Now that’s courage and dedication.  

The rescue team.


In 1880 the service appointed Captain Richard Etheridge, a Union Army veteran, as the keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station in North Carolina. This station is a few miles north of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. Soon after Etheridge’s appointment, the station burned down. Determined to execute his duties Etheridge supervised the construction of a new station. He also drilled his crews in rigorously enabling them to tackle all lifesaving tasks. His station earned the reputation of “one of the tautest on the Carolina Coast,” with its keeper well-known as one of the most courageous and ingenious lifesavers in the Service.

On October 11, 1896, Etheridge’s rigorous training drills proved to be invaluable. A three-masted schooner, caught in a terrific storm was blown a 100 miles south off course and grounded two miles south of the Pea Island station. The storm was so severe that normal beach patrols were suspended and it was by chance one of the station crew saw the ships distress flare.

Etheridge and his crew hitched mules to the beach cart and hurried toward the vessel. They found the ship’s captain and eight others clinging to the wreckage. Unable to fire a rescue line because of high water Etheridge directed two surfmen to tie themselves together with a line. Grasping another rope, the pair moved into the breakers while the remaining surfmen secured the shore end. The men reached the wreck, tied the line around one of the crewmen, and all three were pulled back through the surf by the crew on the beach. They did this until the all nine were safely on shore. Can you imagine going into what had to be a hurricane surf with nothing but a rope for safety? What incredible courage. It also makes me very glad that the Coasties of today are better equipped so they can go home safely to their families every day.

The Pea Island Crew.


Here are a few of the rescues made in the last week bu our Coasties .

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The Coast Guard rescued three fishermen Tuesday after the fishing vessel they were on caught fire 1 mile east of St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia.

02/06 SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Coast Guard rescued two teenagers and their dog Monday after their canoe became stuck in a marsh on Wilmington Island.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of a Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod rescued an Austrian boater Sunday from a life raft in the Atlantic Ocean.

NEW ORLEANS – The Coast Guard medevaced a 76-year-old male aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Dawn approximately 10 nautical miles south of Southwest Pass,

WARRENTON, Ore. – The Coast Guard rescued three commercial fishermen after their vessel began taking on water at the mouth of the Columbia River early Sunday morning. MIAMI – Coast Guard rescued seven people Wednesday from a 180-foot motor vessel taking on water about 46 miles west of Great Inagua, Bahamas. At 5:20 a.m.


Thank you United States Coast Guard for the lives you’ve saved and all you do.   




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