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Suddenly a light other than the lighthouse, flashes on the scene, faint at first, then brighter, then obscured by the flying spray and foam. It is an appeal to the shore from
the crew of some helpless craft which has glass, and discussing the chances of the struck on one of the outlying reefs, who weather with many weatherwise looks at the have lighted a flare (see frontispiece), and, sky.
momentarily secure in the rigging, flash Evening draws on, the sun has set in a forth their message for help, until a wave lurid bank of clouds, throwing a momentary higher than the rest extinguishes their torch light as of fire over the town, intensifying but not their hopes, for they know that the colour on the old red roofs until they glow there is a lifeboat station on shore, and that as if lit with internal fires. But only momen that means rescue if rescue is within human tarily—the flying scud comes driving up over power. Hardly is their flare quenched, when the sunset, and everything settles down into a report from the lightship on the other side cold, dreary grey, soon to vanish in the of the headland and the flash and fire-stream blackness of a moonless and starless night. of a rocket hissing up from behind the dark
The boatmen go home; the town settles mass of cliff and making visible for the down into quiet and into sleep; the lights one moment the cruel rocks and leaping surf by one are extinguished, until at last the round its base, tell them that their appeal revolving light at the lighthouse is the only has been heard ; then another flash and break in the darkness, flashing out periodi- report from the shore show that the coxcally and on its disappearance making the swain of the lifeboat is on the alert, and is blackness blacker; and the only sound is the calling his crew together. rush of the breakers up the steep beach, and The crew gather, the boathouse is unlocked their swish and rattle as they recoil dragging and the boat on its carriage run out, the down the loose shingle in their clutches, only horses are brought and harnessed, and, folto return it in their next mad rush.
lowed by scores of helpers and idlers who
have sprung up as if by magic, the boat is waters swirling round the bow and stern of taken at full gallop along the quiet parade, the wreck strive in their recoil to dash the now lit faintly by the grey light of morning, boat against her, pull for their lives and keep and down to the beach. The carriage is her out. The shipwrecked crew make a rush backed by the horses and willing strong arms for the boat as she hauls in. The foremast, through the shingle, so that the rear of the sorely tried, goes by the board with a crash, carriage from which the boat is launched and the flying, whirling ropes sweep overboard shall face the sea; the crew clamber into two of the crew and hurl them into the the boat and take their places, each man seething water. But the lifeboat-men are with oar in hand and equipped with his cork ready and prompt : by a sharp sheer they life-belt; the coxswain takes his place at avoid, by an apparent miracle, the falling the stern and grips the tiller lines (see foremast and its gear, then dart on one man illustration, p. 336); some of the men with a and drag him on board, and as the second, look of grim determination on their faces, blindly struggling, goes down to his death, an some slightly pale, others joking and chaffing iron grip seizes him by the hair and swings each other. The wind seems armed with him back to safety. Then fending off the shafts of ice, the yeasty, porter-coloured tangle of timber and hemp churning in foam lies in masses, rolling and tumbling up this devil's caldron, they haul into the wreck the shingle and flying far over the land to once again and succeed in rescuing the leeward. But calmly sit the lifeboat crew remainder of the crew, and sheer off, as with gripping their oars and waiting for a chance, crack and wrench the wreck lifts and then and many thinking no doubt of those they have melts away as it were into a confusion of left at home. At last the chance comes, the black ugly timbers, planking, knees, doors, coxswain gives the word, the idlers and boat- and spars, in the white yeast and froth men who have manned the launching ropes around them. run them up the beach and away goes the One of the men is nearly spent, and but lifeboat on its noble errand, followed by the for the rum, carried in the lifeboat for the cheers and prayers of the shore crowd. purpose, the chances are that he would have
As the lifeboat meets the first shock of the been a dead man before the beach was breakers she seems for a moment to hang reached. Then away they go, rescuers and and hesitate, but the gallant fellows “put rescued, for the shore, where they are eagerly their backs in it" and as she gathers way waited for by a crowd, in which the anxious and clears the worst of the broken water on faces of the wives and daughters and sisters the beach, she speeds on through masses of of the gallant crew are conspicuous, and the green water that tumble on board burying cheer which breaks forth and rings out again for the moment men and boat, but only for and again as the boat is sighted on its return, the moment; the lifeboat shakes herself free, brings a light into the pale faces- pale discharges the water shipped, and again indeed in the early dawn--that have waited struggles forward to her goal. The light of patiently for the return in safety of their dawn is yet faint, and the smother of driving bread-winners. Alas, sometimes they wait spray and drift is so great that had not the in vain. coxswain taken the bearings of the wreck The boat is beached, willing hands helping ; before the flare was quenched they might the rescued men are taken to the Sailors' have searched for hours for the wreck. At Home, where every comfort awaits them. last, amidst the hurly-burly, a faint shout is The carriage is brought down again, the fore heard and answered, and amidst the ghastly carriage is disconnected and the end of the ghostly white of the tumbling leaping foam keelway rested on the ground, thus forming on the reef is seen the black mass of the an inclined plane up which the boat is easily wreck. Her main topmast is gone, and groan drawn. The forecarriage replaced, the horses ing and creaking like a living thing in are again harnessed and the boat drawn back torture, the wind shrieking and howling to its shed followed by a cheering crowd. through her remaining rigging, she grinds The determination of the crews of the lifeand thumps on the black jagged teeth of boats, the number of attempts that they will rock that are tearing her to pieces. The whole make at a rescue, never losing pluck until sea between the lifeboat and the wreck is a all chance is gone, may perhaps be better snarl of broken timber and ropes, the wreck- realised by the perusal of some reports of age of the vessel. The lifeboat waits a lifeboat services taken from the Lifeboat chance, and then backs in ; the grapple is Journal. thrown and holds ; part of the crew in with “Holyhead.—On the morning of the 30th their oars, the remainder, as the mad rush of March, 1883, it was reported that a barque
was ashore on Cymeran Beach with all hands was obliged to return to Holyhead. Other in the fore rigging, the vessel having sunk unsuccessful attempts to reach the vessel and her mainmast having been carried away were subsequently made by the Rhosneigir during a heavy S.S.W. gale. The Rhosneigir lifeboat, but they failed, and endeavours to lifeboat went to her assistance but being rescue the crew by means of the rocket disabled by the breaking of several rowing apparatus also failed. crutches, was compelled to return to the shore, “As the Rhosneigir men were reported to one of the boat's crew being washed overboard be exhausted by their exertions, it was sugby a heavy sea and rescued with some diffi- gested that the Holyhead crew should proceed culty. The Holyhead lifeboat was then to Rhosneigir and try to get to the vessel in launched, and at about 11 o'clock was taken in that lifeboat. An application was accordingly tow by the ss. George Elliott to the N.W. of the made to the railway authorities for a special South Stack. Here the lifeboat was cast off, engine, which was at once granted, and the and proceeded under canvas until about Holyhead crew were thus conveyed to the spot 12.30, when she fell in with the steam-tug nearest to the wreck. It was now quite dark, Challenger, by which she was towed in the and the men had scarcely any knowledge of direction of the stranded vessel. Owing the position of hidden rocks on that coast, but however, to the heavy sea, the tug could not they nevertheless gallantly took out the go within a mile of the wreck, and the life boat and succeeded in reaching the wrecked boat, being obliged to continue her course vessel and in rescuing the twenty men who under oars, made three fruitless attempts to were on board.” reach the wreck owing to the broken water To show the difficulties in connection with and the heavy surf. As the wind was rising the transportation of lifeboats, the following and there was no place to beach the boat she report will be interesting :
“On Sunday, the 25th of November, intel- the boat was by great exertions got safely ligence was received at Eastbourne that a down to the beach, and was launched at 1.15. large foreign barque was riding at her The wind was blowing a gale from the S.S.W. anchors off Beachy Head lighthouse in a very and a tremendous sea was rolling in. At dangerous position, with a signal of distress about two o'clock, after a very hard struggle flying. With as little delay as possible the against the bead sea, the midship oars being crew of the William and Mary lifeboat was double banked, the vessel was reached; she mustered and the boat, mounted on its was then opposite the Gap, about a mile from transporting carriage, started for Birling Gap, shore, labouring heavily in the seas with two drawn by seven horses. The route taken anchors down, sails torn, and spars carried was through Meads, where three additional away. horses were procured, and with this extra “A storm of rain then came on, and the
a fracture of the ribs-were taken to the coastguard station, where they received every attention from the chief officer and the coast guardsmen. The lifeboat was got up the Gap with considerable difficulty, and arrived back at her station about 7.30. The distressed vessel was the barque New Brunswick of Brevig, 480 tons, bound from Quebec to West Hartlepool with a cargo of deals. Subsequently, on the weather moderating, the ship and cargo were taken safely to Newhaven by the tug and lifeboat from there."
To show the way in which the lifeboat men rescue a crew when the boat is unable, owing to heavy seas, to run alongside the wreck, the following report is quoted:
“Holy Island, Northumberland. — The ketch, Mary Tweedlie, of Berwick, was seen running before the wind under bare poles at 3 p.m. on the 6th March, 1883, during a fearful gale of wind from N. to N.E. and a very heavy sea, the whole bar and the sea as far as the eye could reach being one mass of broken water. The No. 1 lifeboat, Grace Darling, was launched and was more than three hours in reaching the vessel. The crew pulled bravely until almost exhausted, but every time they seemed to be near enough to throw a line on board a huge wave washed them about a hundred yards astern. This was repeated ten or twelve times before the lifeboat-men were able to get a rope fast to the vessel, after which they took two men
into the boat by means of the life buoy in a very exhausted and benumbed condition; one of the crew had received a blow on the head from a falling spar at about twelve o'clock and had died soon afterwards."
The drawing, p. 341, represents the life boat, having got under the lee of a wreck, keeping out under her jib-boom, and the crew dropping one by one down a rope into the arms of the lifeboat-men.
The National Lifeboat Institution has up to date 267 of these self-righting boats dis tributed at their stations round the coast. The Institution has at Poplar, Limehouse, London, a store yard. It comprises sheds for stowage of lifeboats and their carriages, ample store-rooms, an office for the storekeeper in charge, and two cottages for the chief and senior assistant riggers. The yard opens on to the banks of the Limehouse Cut Canal, and on the bank is a large crane used to hoist boats in and out of the canal.
Every lifeboat before it leaves the yard is tested in the canal as to its stability, selfrighting, and other qualities (see illustration p. 340); by means of a rope attached to the crane she is hauled over on her beam ends and upset, when she rights herself. She is also tested as to stability by means of a number of weights and men standing on her gunwale so as to bring her down to the water's edge.
C. J. STANILAND.