Life Boat, a boat constructed specially for the preservation of life in cases of shipwreck. The first patent for a life boat was granted in England in 1785 to Lionel Lukin, a coach builder of London. His boat was protected by bands of cork around the gunwales, with air cases in the bow and stern, and was ballasted by an iron keel; appliances which are found in the best life boats at the present day.
English Life Boat. - Fig. 1. Sheer Plan. FIG,. 2. Deck Plan: a, delivering tubes; b. air cases;, c. well; d, air cases; e, empty air cases under deck; f; fore air compartment; g, after air compartment; h, air cases; k, mast thwart; s, scuttles for air.
Lukin's boat was subsequently improved by Admiral Graves and Henry Greathead. This was the first step ever made toward an organized plan for the preservation of life from shipwreck. Four years later George Palmer, an active member of the life-boat institution, produced a plan for a boat which was adopted and used for more than 20 years with very successful results. In 1850 the duke of Northumberland, then president of the institution, offered a premium of 100 guineas for the best model of a life boat. The defects of the then existing ones were pointed out to guide inventors, chiefly as follows: 1. They do not right themselves when upset. 2. They are too heavy to be readily launched or transported along the coast. 3. They do not free themselves from water fast enough. 4. They are too expensive. A committee was formed to examine and report upon the models, and a regular competitive examination was organized, marks being assigned to the different necessary qualifications as follows: 1, rowing boat in all weathers, 20; 2, sailing boat in all weathers, 18; 3, sea boat, i. e., stability, safety, buoyancy forward for launching through surf, 10; 4, means of freeing from water readily, 8; 5, extra buoyancy, nature, amount, distribution, mode of application, 7; 6, power of self-righting, 9; 7, suitableness for beaching, 4; 8, room and power of carrying passengers, 6; 9, moderate weight for transport along shore, 3; 10, protection from injury to bottom, 3; 11, ballast, as iron (1), water (2), cork (3), 6; 12, access to stem and stern, 3; 13, timber heads for securing warps, 2; 14, fenders, life lines, etc, 1; total, 100. In the following year the committee patiently examined 280 models and plans, and awarded the prize to James Beech-ing of Great Yarmouth, his boat having received 86 out of the 100 marks.
A fine boat was built upon Beeching's plan, and being tested by severe trials proved the correctness of the committee's award. This boat was afterward improved under the auspices of the life-boat institution, and became its standard boat. Its general arrangement is shown in figs. 1, 2, and 3. The important properties of this boat are: 1, maximum of stability; it can only be capsized under extraordinary circumstances; 2, rights instantly after being upset; 3, when filled with water, it will discharge the same in 25 seconds; 4, is easily handled under canvas or with oars. The boat is transported on a carriage so arranged that it may be launched as from a marine railway, with the crew in place and ready for service. The royal national life-boat institute has 240 of these boats on the coast of the United Kingdom and the Channel islands, and similar boats are used on the coasts of France, Germany, and Russia, - Although many patents for life boats have been applied for in the United States, nothing has been produced which possesses the excellent qualities of the English life boat.
The boats used at the life-saving stations of the United States are ordinary surf boats of cedar, upon the plan most in favor with the surfmen on the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey. These boats are light, weighing about 700 lbs., and are easily transported on their simple carriages along our sandy beaches. It is proposed to provide many of the life-saving stations with boats after the plan of the English life boats, but slightly modified to suit the various localities. - Life-Saving Apparatus. During heavy gales the surf sometimes breaks against our shores with such fury that it is frequently impossible to reach a wreck with the life boat. On such occasions communication is established between the shore and the wreck by means of a line carried over the wreck by projectiles thrown from a small piece of ordnance or by rockets designed for the purpose. Under favorable circumstances at least 400 yards of the line can be carried out by either method. An eprouvette mortar of 5 1/2-inch calibre is used in the United States life-saving stations, throwing an iron ball of 20 lbs. weight, to which the line (one inch in circumference) is attached by a spiral wire to take up the jerk.
To facilitate the clear run of the line it is peculiarly coiled in a box, or laid down in long fakes on the ground. When the shot or rocket line has been successfully thrown over the wreck (fig. 8), a larger line (two-inch manila) is then attached to the shore end, and hauled off by the people on the wreck; and with that line a still larger one (four-inch hawser) is hauled on board and made fast to the wreck, as directed by those on shore by means of tallies attached to the line. The hawser being thus made fast, it is set up taut by the people on shore, with tackles, sand anchors, and crotches; and with the second, or hauling line, various appliances may be hauled back and forth until all hands are saved. Themethod of transporting persons from a wreck to the shore, used exclusively on the coast of the United States, is by means of a covered metallic boat, known as the life car, which is sufficiently large to contain four grown persons or eight small children. It is made of light galvanized iron, and when the hatchway is closed is nearly watertight.
The time usually occupied in arranging the lines and sending off the car, after firing the mortar, is about 30 minutes; and with the apparatus in proper order the car can make the passage from the wreck to the shore, traversing in each trip a distance of 350 yards through a raging surf, within ten minutes. The life car was introduced into the United States service in 1849, and in the following year was instrumental in saving 201 lives from the British emigrant ship Ayrshire, cast away on Squam Beach, N. J., during a fearful snow storm. This mode for conveyance of passengers from wrecked vessels was the invention of Capt. Ottinger, of the United States revenue marine. Its advantage over every other plan consists in landing women and children in perfect safety, and often without even getting wet. - Life-Saving Service. There are regular organizations, or societies, for the preservation of life from shipwrecked vessels in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia, supported by voluntary contributions, but under the patronage of their respective governments, and receiving aid in the way of public ordnance stores, while naval and military officers are detailed to act in various capacities in the proper management of the stations and apparatus.
Humane societies having similar objects in view have long been in operation in the maritime countries of Europe; and a few years since a humane society was instituted, and is now admirably conducted, in China. The first step in the United States toward an organized effort for assisting the shipwrecked, was the establishment, early in the present century, of the humane society of Massachusetts; and its huts of refuge and volunteer life-boatmen, rendered incalculable service to the unfortunate mariners whose vessels were stranded upon that bleak and rugged coast during the stormy winter months. This society was at first supported by voluntary contributions, but at last received the aid of congress, which on March 3, 1847, initiated the establishment of the present life-saving service of the United States, by appropriating $5,000 for providing the lighthouses "on the Atlantic coast with means of rendering assistance to shipwrecked mariners." On May 11, 1848, the sum of $10,000 was appropriated for providing rockets, carronades, and surf boats.
On Dec. 14 of the same year the authority of congress was given for the regular organization of the life-saving service, and 54 stations were established on the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey, from Montauk Point to Cape May. Annual appropriations were thereafter made for the maintenance of the stations, and in 1871 a liberal appropriation of $200,000 was granted for increasing the number of stations and improving the apparatus on the above coasts. With this sum, and further annual appropriations, the service was reorganized, and extended to the coast of Massachusetts in 1872; and there are now 104 stations on the Atlantic coast, as follows: Maine, 5; New Hampshire, 1; Massachusetts, 14; Rhode Island, 3; Long Island, 31; New Jersey, 40; Virginia, 3; North Carolina, 7. Congress passed an act, June 23, 1874, authorizing the additional establishment of 23 complete life-saving stations, 22 life-boat stations, and 5 houses of refuge upon the Atlantic, Pacific, and lake coasts. Since the first establishment of the service, the records of the treasury de-partment, although the returns are incomplete up to 1872, show that 5,604 lives have been saved in 25 years, an average of 224 per annum.
During the same period the service has preserved from wrecks property to the amount of $1,116,000. According to the last annual report of the royal national life-boat institution of Great Britain, 22,153 lives have been saved during the 49 years (1824 to 1873) of its existence, making an average of 452 per annum. When it is considered how greatly the commerce of Great Britain exceeds our own, and that she has more than double the number of life-boat stations, the comparison of the number of lives saved results favorably to the United States life-saving service, which has annually rescued nearly half as many lives as the older and more perfectly organized British institution. - Life-Sating Stations. The houses for the stations on the coast of the United States are neat and substantial frame buildings, of one story and a half, and 40 ft. long by 20 ft. wide. They afford ample room for the boats, wagon, lines, and other apparatus, with comfortable apartments for the surfmen and such persons as it may be necessary to shelter after being rescued from shipwreck. At each stationsix experienced surfmen are employed, who remain constantly on duty during the winter months, and are in charge of a competent person, regularly appointed by the secretary of the treasury, and known as the keeper.
During the winter months (from December 1 to April 1) the beaches are patrolled night and day by the surfmen, and the discovery of a wreck is instantly made known by means of a system of signals (flags by day and colored lights at night). On the coasts of Long Island and New Jersey the stations are at an average distance of four miles from each other, and on the occurrence of a disaster near one station the neighboring stations soon render assistance. The coast is divided into districts, each being in charge of a superintendent appointed by the secretary of the treasury; and the whole coast is under the general supervision of an inspector, designated from the list of captains in the revenue marine service by the secretary of the treasury, who has charge of the whole service and alone authorizes all expenditures. Connected with the life-saving service is the storm signal system of the United States signal service; and on the approach of a storm danger signals are displayed upon the flag staffs of the stations along the coast, warning all vessels in sight to seek a harbor or gain a safe offing. - Life Preservers. There are many devices for the purpose of buoying persons in water; the form most commonly in use is in the shape of a jacket, made of light canvas with cork attached.
The most of those commonly furnished to sea-going vessels are untrustworthy on account of the inferiority of the cork used in their manufacture. The best cork jacket is that known as the "life belt," invented by Capt. Ward of the British navy, and adopted by the royal national life-boat institution and the United States life-saving service, also in general use by European life-boat institutions. The body of the belt is composed of light flax canvas, tarred to prevent mildewing, and the best of cork is firmly sewn on in slabs without covering. It sustains a dead weight of 28 lbs., a buoyancy of 16 lbs. only being necessary to support a living man in water, the requisite qualities of a life-boatman's life belt are: 1, sufficient extra buoyancy to support a man heavily clothed, with his head and shoulders above the water, or to enable him to support another person besides himself; 2, perfect flexibility, so as to readily conform to the shape of the wearer; 3, a division into two zones, an upper and lower, so that between the two it may be secured tightly round the waist; for in no other manner can it be confined sufficiently close and secure round the body without such pressure over the chest and ribs as to materially affect the free action of the lungs, impede the muscular movement of the chest and arms, and thereby diminish the power of endurance of fatigue, which, in rowing boats, is a matter of vital importance; 4, strength, durability, and nonliability to injury.
Life preservers have been made of various other forms and materials, the object in view being to furnish a very buoyant article that can be readily and securely attached to the upper part of the person, or seized and held by those in the water. Hollow vessels of wood or tinned iron, made air-tight, and shaped so as to serve on board the vessel as seats, have been much used. In one form the seat is made double, and opening on hinges forms a rectangular float, in the centre of which is an aperture sufficient to admit the body of a man, his arms hanging over the sides. Bags of caoutchouc, so made as to be readily filled with air by blowing into them, and shaped for fitting round the neck or body, have also been largely employed for life preservers; and they have been made into vests, shirts, and jackets, which can be distended with air, giving great buoyancy to the person wearing them. By the law of the United States, and also of some of the separate states, steamboats are required to cany a certain number of life preservers, proportionate to their passenger capacity.
Fig. 3. - Cross Section.
Fig. 4. - Carriage for Life Boat.
American Life Boat. - Fig. 5. Sheer Plan. Fig. 6. Deck Plan. Fig. 7. Cross Section.
Fig. 8. - Shooting the Rope to a Wrecked Vessel.
Fig. 9. - Life Car.
Fig. 10. - The Car on the Rope.
Fig. 11. - Life-Saving Station.
Fig. 12. - Life Belt.