Monday, June 06, 2011


Among the most compelling and dramatic stories from the Outer Banks of North Carolina are accounts of shipwrecks...and the rescues performed by the men of the US Life Saving Service.

Tales of bravery and courage include stories of the "Mighty Midgettes" of Hatteras Island, the accounts of the wrecks of the George W. Wells and the Ariosto on Ocracoke, the rescue of more than 400 people from the Vera Cruz at Portsmouth, and the awarding of gold life saving medals to the surfmen at Cape Lookout for the rescue of the six crewmen from the Sarah D. J. Rawson.

The history of the US Life Saving Service has for too long been neglected. For more information visit your local library, or search the Internet for any of the stories above. You might want to begin your search here: The Chicamacomico Life Saving Station on Hatteras Island -- Be sure to check out the photo gallery of pictures and videos.

A list of books about the USLSS is available here: If you have a local independent book store in your area, ask them to order one or more of these books for you. Books to be Red, on Ocracoke (252-928-3936), and Manteo Booksellers on Roanoke Island ( can also help you. I especially recommend "U.S. Life Saving Service: Heroes, Rescues, and Architecture of the Early Coast Guard" & "Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers."

Philip standing beside the Surf Boat at Portsmouth:

The Interior of the 26' long Rowing Surf Boat:

(Click on either photo, by Jim Fineman, to view a larger image.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the autobiography of Frank Treat Fulcher. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:38 AM

    If one boards a ship back in the days of the men who rescued passengers on a shipwreck--do you suppose the thought --gee what do I do If i go overboard? do you think this notion ever crossed their minds?. It sounds as if passengers boarded a ship with no life saving devices or if they existed there weren't enough to go around. To think 400 people were rescued. that boat the life saving boat is big but I dare say many many trips back into the sea were needed to bring 400 half drowned people to shore. Are there any dramatic readings of rescue accounts or d I need to click on the links. thank you

  2. Here is one account of a dramatic, courageous, and remarkable NC rescue in February, 1905:

    In case the entire link does not show up here is the first part:

    And here is the second part: