U.S.L.S.S.

2009 May 15
by Brandon Sargent

“You have to go out, but you do not have to come back.”

Motto, United States Life-Saving Service

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As children, my brother and I would bug my mother each summer to leave the beach early and head over to the Old Harbor Life-Saving Service Station to see the beach apparatus and surf boat drills.  The Service was formally organized by the U.S. government in the middle of the nineteenth century, however local efforts began as early as the turn of the century.  By the time the Service was formed, the section of the Atlantic off of modern day Truro (High Head through Nauset) was already home to dozens of shipwrecks due to  constantly shifting shoals, giving it the nickname of “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  In fact, the town was known as Dangerfield up until its incorporation because of the difficulty to navigate this area off the coast.

This particular station was built later than the original stations on the Cape (1897) and was moved to its present location from Chatham in the seventies.  The earlier stations, such as the one at High Head, were much simpler- more of a rectangular shed- than this one.  This station, I think, inspired me in some part to pursue architecture.  The station’s simple geometry and functional organization, clad in weather-beaten cedar shakes are a pure statements of Cape architecture buy generic viagra 100mg.   Essentially a large dune shack with a lookout tower, the building served as a storage facility for rescue equipment and as barracks for the six Surfmen and Keeper during the winter months when shipwrecks were most likely.  The wreck of the Jason off Nauset on December 6, 1893 was one of the most tragic in the area with 25 lives lost.  Read the NY Times account here.  Be sure to click through the links, they describe U.S.L.S.S. history and rescue procedures better than I can.

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Photo by nsub1 via flickr

All of the images (except the one above) can be found on the US Coast Guard’s website here.  Take a few minutes (or hours) to poke around, there are a whole lot of incredible images spanning the entire history of the Coast Guard and its predecessors- including the Lighthouse Service and Revenue Cutter Service.

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more links:

http://www.lifesavingservice.org/index.html

http://www.mychatham.com/capecodlifesavers.html

http://www.nps.gov/caco/historyculture/life-savers.htm

http://www.nps.gov/caco/historyculture/old-harbor-life-saving-station.htm

One Response
  1. 2009 May 25

    I want to try out for a play in which I could wear that light colored outfit with ALEXANDER printed on the top.

    I don’t think I could swing that ensemble in real life…

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