If the wreck was close to shore, a line was shot out to the vessel (lyle gun) and the survivors brought ashore in a breeches buoy--think of it as a rescue by clothesline, getting this equipment close to the wreck could be a problem.

A breeches buoy was simply a pair of canvas pants sewed onto a life preserver.
If the wreck was close to shore, a line was shot out to the vessel (lyle gun) and the survivors brought ashore in a breeches buoy--think of it as a rescue by clothesline, getting this equipment close to the wreck could be a problem.

A breeches buoy was simply a pair of canvas pants sewed onto a life preserver.

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Breeches buoy

Breeches buoy

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


The Raphaele D. went aground in 1896. Superintendent Bouteilliers described the rescue in a report to his supervisor in Halifax:

"The wreck was discovered and the lifesaving crew alerted quickly. The crew had to haul a cart carrying the line-throwing gun nearly 12 miles up the beach on one side of the island, then across a shallow ford in the Wallace Lake, then back down the beach on the other side of the island.

When they finally arrived at the wreck site, they found 5 men still on board "sitting in the outside holding on by the mizzen chain plates". The crew shot a line out to the ship and the survivors were safely landed in the breeches buoy before dark. "The whole crew all wet, some nearly naked, were sent to No. 2 and No.3 where they were provided for during the night".
The Raphaele D. went aground in 1896. Superintendent Bouteilliers described the rescue in a report to his supervisor in Halifax:

"The wreck was discovered and the lifesaving crew alerted quickly. The crew had to haul a cart carrying the line-throwing gun nearly 12 miles up the beach on one side of the island, then across a shallow ford in the Wallace Lake, then back down the beach on the other side of the island.

When they finally arrived at the wreck site, they found 5 men still on board "sitting in the outside holding on by the mizzen chain plates". The crew shot a line out to the ship and the survivors were safely landed in the breeches buoy before dark. "The whole crew all wet, some nearly naked, were sent to No. 2 and No.3 where they were provided for during the night".

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Lightweight rope was shot out to the wreck with the Lyle gun.

It was carefully wound on a rope-board so it would uncoil without snagging. The crews would then use this rope to haul out the heavier lines which actually carried the breeches buoy.

The Lyle gun replaced the rocket apparatus used on Sable before 1896. It could send a line out to wrecks within 200 m. off shore.

Superintendent Bouteilliers praised in 1897: "The Lyle gun has been tried and is preferred before all the rest. It possess accuracy, simplicity, handiness and cheapness".
Lightweight rope was shot out to the wreck with the Lyle gun.

It was carefully wound on a rope-board so it would uncoil without snagging. The crews would then use this rope to haul out the heavier lines which actually carried the breeches buoy.

The Lyle gun replaced the rocket apparatus used on Sable before 1896. It could send a line out to wrecks within 200 m. off shore.

Superintendent Bouteilliers praised in 1897: "The Lyle gun has been tried and is preferred before all the rest. It possess accuracy, simplicity, handiness and cheapness".

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

The Lyle Gun

Lightweight rope was shot out to the wreck with the Lyle gun.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Sable Island Preservation Trust, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic,

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


Rope Board

Rope Board.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Sable Island Preservation Trust, Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic,

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


Lifeboat work called for discipline, sound judgment and punishing physical effort. When possible, a line was shot out to the vessel in distress to avoid battling the dangerous surf in small boats.
Lifeboat work called for discipline, sound judgment and punishing physical effort. When possible, a line was shot out to the vessel in distress to avoid battling the dangerous surf in small boats.

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

The Gerda went aground on Sable in July 1890. Superintendent Bouteilliers described the lifesaving crew’s actions in his diary:

"We did not succeed to get hawser on board on account of the tide and the fog being too thick to clearly see what we were doing. At this juncture night set in and we suspended operations."

Next day, "the surf was breaking too heavy to launch a boat and the staff remained on the beach through the night."

"At 3 am, got all hands and hauled the Life Boat Grace Darling from the Lake to the South Side and launched her....Broke steering iron and lost steering oar getting off. Approached the wreck as nearly as possible and on account of spars and rigging laying alongside, the balance of crew on board were hauled off through the sea with a heaving line. All landed safe and well at 5am (nearly all hands lost their clothes)."
The Gerda went aground on Sable in July 1890. Superintendent Bouteilliers described the lifesaving crew’s actions in his diary:

"We did not succeed to get hawser on board on account of the tide and the fog being too thick to clearly see what we were doing. At this juncture night set in and we suspended operations."

Next day, "the surf was breaking too heavy to launch a boat and the staff remained on the beach through the night."

"At 3 am, got all hands and hauled the Life Boat Grace Darling from the Lake to the South Side and launched her....Broke steering iron and lost steering oar getting off. Approached the wreck as nearly as possible and on account of spars and rigging laying alongside, the balance of crew on board were hauled off through the sea with a heaving line. All landed safe and well at 5am (nearly all hands lost their clothes)."

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Reliance

Lifesaving crew with the Beebe surfboat Reliance, 1895

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001. All Rights Reserved.


Beebe McLellan self-bailing lifeboat, in use from 1892 and now on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This type of boat replaced metal lifeboats donated in 1854 by American humanitarian Dorothea Dix.
Beebe McLellan self-bailing lifeboat, in use from 1892 and now on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This type of boat replaced metal lifeboats donated in 1854 by American humanitarian Dorothea Dix.

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Beebe McLellan lifeboat

On display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


Beebe McLellan lifeboat

On display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

© Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History 2001 All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify some of the methods used to save sailors who became shipwrecked
  • Describe a shipwreck rescue
  • Explain how technology was used to help prevent shipwrecks and prevent deaths

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