FRANCIS’ METALLIC LIFE-BOAT COMPANY
President GEORGE F. ALLEN
Executive Committee FRED. H. WOLCOTT, N. BLISS
Director Treasurer JOSEPH FRANCIS MARSHALL LEFFERTS
Communication to be address to the Director or Treasurer, at the office of the company, 10 Broadway
WILLIAM C. BRYANT & CO., PRINTERS, 18 NASSAU STREET.
FRANCIS’S LIFE-BOATS AND LIFE-CARS.
Whilst Science has her ardent votaries, Genius her brilliant scholars, and Commerce her generous advocates, the progress of the age in which we live, illumined, brightened, and exalted by the investigations of the scientific mind, fostered and encouraged by the enterprise of an active people, spreads a halo of undiminished beauty around the path of the philanthropist, and invests his pursuits with an interest which kindles Within our hearts the germs of benevolence, and turns the current of our thoughts in a channel of noble and generous ambition.
Who does not feel his bosom swell with enthusiastic pride, as he contemplates the path that science has marked out:—the laws of gravitation-the mariner’s compass-the Napier
press-the electric telegraph—although conceived and formed by great minds, at periods remote from each other, yet forming the links of a mighty chain which was to regulate the
motions of earth—steer the frail bark of commerce—circulate the news of her triumphs and girdle the world in an instant with the thoughts of man.
Science, with renewed sagacity, points out new paths of wealth for adventurous commerce; and mankind have reaped the golden fruits of its energy and pursuits. No more in in fancy-it advances with gigantic strides, and we see every portion of our happy land teeming with usefulness and intelligence, pouring in its floods of wealth to the sagacious and enterprising merchant. And yet our country has scarcely unfolded half of its hidden treasures; and while we enjoy the blessings of peace, the mountains and our verdant valleys will unfold new stores of wealth for the efforts of genius and untiring industry. The iron arms of progressive civilisation stretch out upon our plains, encircle our inland seas, penetrate our hills of granite, and divide the prairies of our far western lands.
The massive forms of our steamships part the waters of our distant but friendly neighbours; thousands of sails, burdened with peace offerings, make their way to other shores, while the stars and stripes of a proud, powerful and respected nation, float upon the breeze of the most distant climes.
What happy changes may not the world promise itself from the commercial spirit, now so active, if purified by good and noble impulses. Should not, and will not the moral action of this spirit be the ground-work of its future reputation? The busy pursuits of our people must, of necessity, be very engrossing, but they need not, and ought not to be so to the exclusion of those actions of benevolence and mercy which refine and elevate our nature. The great social and moral interests of our country and the world should be, with us, an abiding disposition to maintain and help them on.
The almost boundless extent of our sea-girt coast, the extensive shores of our lakes, and far stretching courses of our mighty rivers, present a field for the exercise of these noble feelings, in devising and executing plans for the preservation of human life exposed to the perils of shipwreck or disaster. There too often fatal occurrences calls aloud for the strong arm of the law to interfere for the correction of the abuses; whilst the melancholy testimony of the number of lives lost, appeals in earnest and urgent tones to the owners and agents of vessels, to furnish themselves with the means which have been provided for the security of the lives of passengers committed to their charge.
With a sad heart, memory still cherishes the awful fate of those who perished by the fire of the ill-fated steamboat, Griffith on one of our lakes. The Atlantic and Lexington, on the Sound-the ship Bristol, on our coast—the steamers Henry Clay and Atlantic, Amazon and Birkenhead, with many others which could be mentioned to fill up the painful list. The following is taken from an English journal:
Statistics of Disasters at Sea — From a return ordered by the House of Commons, we gather that from Jan., 1847, to Dec, 1850, there happened at sea, upwards of 12,000
casualties, varying in magnitude, from the shipwreck in the dead of the night, with all its horrors, to a clumsy collision in the Channel, and a hasty refit in the nearest port. The annual loss of life averages 1,074, the gross number for the four years being 4,298. One of the chief features in this catalogue of disasters, is the consoling fact that but few accidents have occurred to ships ably manned and commanded. Out of the 12,000 odd casualties, only sixty-five are recorded against ships above 700 tons.
The loss of life upon our waters, has been unfortunately much greater. Mr. Seymour, chairman of Committee on Commerce, upon introducing the bill “ for the better security of the lives of passengers, &c.,” into the House of Representatives, stated as a reason for its immediate passage, that during the time the bill had been pending, there had been 721 lives lost; and we are satisfied that Mr. Seymour even then told but half the truth.
Within a few hours past, the steamboat Henry Clay, running between Albany and New York—near the latter place—within a few hundred feet of the shore, has consigned to an untimely end, some eighty human souls. This floating palace, in one of the most crowded and busy rivers—gliding along with some four hundred person in the enjoyment of life and pleasure- dreaming in fancied security of happy homes—of pleasant greetings of perhaps long-parted friends, and in an instant their fancied joy and smiling dreams are passed to present grief. The cry of “Fire!” strikes upon the ear, and sends the terror stricken passengers frantically to seek refuge in the most remote portions of the shipparents calling for their little ones-husband for their wives-old and venerable age for help; the horrors of their situation drawn upon every lineament-the resistless, sweeping flames pressing nearer and nearer to where retreat is no longer possible-stalwart man, unused to fears, is aimless now the agonising cry of pain—-the very prayer for mercy hushed in death, as the flames, prancing--hissing-in fury rushing—-to embrace the trembling forms within their fiery grasp.
Said a gentleman who witnessed the scene just described - “I saw a little girl: scarce eight summers had shed its warmth upon her bright and childish brow, her ringlets streaming in the air, her mild and soft blue eyes dilated and starting from their sockets with fright; the sweet and winning smile lost in the intense agony of a certain and dreadful death. She held by the hand her little brother—about four or five years old—and although the sister was acting the part of protector, yet the little fellow tried to comfort, and even spoke words of encouragement, promising that father would return. Father and mother had disappeared; their cries had been unheard and unavailing; clasping her brother in her arms, the little ones retreated as the flames pressed on, the while imploring for some helping hand; but there was none to save. They could not, had not the courage to trust themselves upon the - water, and as those older, one by one, dropped from the burning wreck, leaving those two helpless ones alone to their fate, they sought refuge within the coils of a large rope, in the far stern of the boat. Poor little ones! The very security thus sought, soon formed the ashes to cover their charred and disfigured remains. We could stand and see man, strong and powerful, struggling for life, we had almost said, without emotion; but to see these delicate and feeble little ones, as they sought the coil of rope for safety, and with their tiny hands stretched upward,
and their eyes suffused with tears, forever swept from mortal sight. It was indeed a heartrending instance, to be added to the many of this ill-fated vessel.
Scarcely had this scene closed, and friends had buried their dead, when the stillness of their homes was again broken by the telegraphic recital of yet another disaster. The
steamboat Atlantic, on Lake Erie, had come in collision with another vessel, and amid scenes too horrible to be described, two hundred souls sank to rise no more. The head
grows weary and the heart sickens at the recital of these scenes, so familiar, be it said with regret, to almost every mind.
In consequence of these few, though awful, disasters here mentioned, not less than 1,500 hundred human beings were hurried to another world. Perchance, reader, the recital of such scenes, but of yesterday, may bring back some painful remembrance of the death of one beloved—perhaps a father, mother, sister, or some dear friend, who found a death amongst the dashing breakers of the shore; or, worse than it, an awful grave within the charred hulk of the once proud ship. These are realities, perhaps too soon to be realised by one of us, and does it not behove each and every one to use their feeble influence in behalf of such measures as will guard against their repetition, by the use of all and every means which ingenuity, labor and philanthropy have placed within our reach?
We hope, by the introduction of a few testimonials of the value of Francis’s Metallic Lifeboats, and of the services performed by them, to enlist the interests of agents, but particularly of those who have a deeper interest at stake, “ the preservation of their own lives.” Certainly, the Life-boat is the best and most capable of all the means of saving life, and should, therefore, be the first to claim our attention. We have many evidences of the generous and noble exertions of those who command and steer our vessels through the dark and gloomy night, whose feelings have been called into action by melancholy disasters; but too often their exertions and noble conduct have proved of no avail, because their vessels have been unsupplied with life-saving apparatus. If you would know the value of a Metallic Life-boat, refer to the letter of Capt. Lawless, and to the reports of the passengers accompanying the same, and you will see that to these Life-boats, and the courage of those who manned them, is due the immortal praise of saving 159 souls from a premature death; and yet how trifling the cost of Fire-proof Lifeboats, lifepreservers, and many other means of rescue, compared to the expensive furniture and gilded trappings of what, to the passengers, may become a gilded sepulchre. If competition and custom has introduced into our passenger vessels all the comforts and luxuries of a home, for the pleasure of the travelling public, does not humanity and self interest also require that the most approved means of safety should be provided in case of accident? Something has been done by our local legislators; Government has done
much; and the means of saving life from shipwrecks upon our coast is still receiving their attention. The following outline of the action and purpose of the “Life Saving and Benevolent Association,” of which Walter R. Jones, Esq., is president, provided with means of the Government specially appropriated for this purpose, will give the reader some idea of the plan which it is proposed should be carried out upon our entire coast:
Upon reference to the above map, small houses will be seen, situated upon the sound, as well as upon the Atlantic coast, and show the situations where a life-boat, life-car, and all
the necessary apparatus, is ready for action
It is to be regretted that no record has been kept of the number of lives already saved by these humane and benevolent , arrangements. We can confidently state, however, that
not less than 2000 human beings have by these arrangements been rescued from a watery grave. Yet how much is left to be done; and we trust the Association will press forward the good work. No labour of pure philanthropy, undertaken in the right spirit, was ever allowed to languish for want of means, and it cannot be supposed that the cause of the preservation of life from shipwreck will not find a hearty support. But this only applies to our coast, and after all we look to the owners - and captains of vessels for their interest in the cause, to their sound discretion and to their humanity of purpose. To them we would say, the Metallic Life-boat commends itself to their consideration for the following, among numerous other, reasons. Next to the ship the Life-boat is the only means of safety to the crew and passengers, says Captain Charles L. Moses, of the Bark Henry, in his letter to his owners, dated San Francisco, March 22, 1852.
I am sorry to inform you of the loss of the bark Henry. We sailed from Valparaiso on the 28th Nov. last, and when in latitude 22.47 south, longitude 151.07 west, December 31st, I struck upon a coral reef and swung to it, broadside on. In two hours my bark fall over seaward, thereby bringing her starboard side near eight feet under water ; all efforts to get her off proved unavailing. At 5.30 P. M. I left the bark in one of Francis‘s Metallic Life boots, taking in her my crew, thirteen in number, besides myself. Being to windward in one continual gale from S. S. E., worked that Life-boat three hundred miles through a very heavy sea. Indeed, too much cannot be said in praise of Francis‘ Metallic Life-boats. I shall consider myself under obligations to Mr. Francis as long as my life exists. I judge, &c., &c.
The Metallic Life-boat is stronger and lighter than any other, and cannot become nailsick, worm-eaten, or water-soaked. They are unaffected by the heat of the sun, or by fire; in either case there can be no shrinkage, but can be relied on as a safe retreat in any emergency. A great loss of life has occurred from time to time in the shrinkage of wooden boats. Two such instances have occurred "within a very short time; in the one case twenty-four persons, and in the other some seven or eight persons were drowned, solely in consequence of the heat of the sun having opened the seams of the boats. The necessity of having a fire-proof boat is fully demonstrated by reference to the burning of the steamer Griffith, when the wooden boats were burned and thereby all hope of deliverance cut off. The Metallic Life-boat is not liable to be broken, or its safety impaired by any violence, such as striking against the vessel or rocks, as the testimonials will satisfactorily show. Indentation: may be made, and that to a considerable extent; but with a hammer, or even a stone, they may be forced out without injury to the boat; whereas the same casualty occurring to a wooden boat would be attended, in most cases, with an inevitable destruction to all on board. Instructions to repair a Metallic boat, will be found in another part of the work.
The metal boat is more economical, no repairs being required, and the first cost is no more than for a common one of wood; if the attempt be made to render it a life boat, with air chambers of sufficient capacity to sustain passengers. We would here insert a testimonial, from one thoroughly and practically acquainted with the subject:
Charles V. Morris, U.S.N.
Washington, August, 1852.
I have been in possession of three of Francis‘s Metallic Life-boats, for a length of time, and have tested them in the severest manner. They are fire-proof, worm-proof, will not corrode or rot and are always tight and ready for service in every climate, and when hung to the Davits six months or a year, they are than ready for lowering in the water. The concussion of cannon has no effect upon them. They are superior to wooden boats in every sense—more buoyant—more economical—and cannot become water soaked.
I am, Dear Sir,
Your most ob't servant,
Charles V. Morris, U. S. N.
To Joseph Francis, Esq.,
Instead of continuing our remarks upon the value of the Metallic Life-boat, we would beg all those interested to refer to the testimonials: they will, no doubt, prove much more satisfactory, coming as they do from disinterested parties, while their high standing with the public, offer a guarantee to those who have not yet purchased these boats, of their true value, and of their high confidence in them. And it is certainly worthy of remark, that we are now supplying some of the lines of English Steamers with these boats. We have also received orders from Portugal, Peru, Denmark and Sicily, the latter country having ordered a Naval Commission to examine and report upon their merits, which resulted in their adoption for their Navy. Applications have also been made by other governments, and through the agency of our own, they are now to be introduced into the Japanese islands. A curious instance occurred during the late war with Mexico which illustrates the almost indestructible character of these Metallic boats.
The reader is probably aware that the city of Vera Cruz is situated upon a low and sandy coast, and that the only port which exist there, formed by a small island which lies at a
little distance from the shore, and a mole or pier built out from it into the water. The island is almost wholly covered by the celebrated fortress of San Juan de Ulloa. Ships obtain something like shelter under the lee of this island and mole, and sometimes moored to iron rings set in the castle walls. At one time while the American forces were in possession of the city, an officer of the army had occasion to use a boat for some purpose of transportation from the island to the shore, he applied to the naval authorities in order to spared for such a purpose. In this dilemma the officer accidentally learned that there was an old copper life-boat lying in the water near the castle landing, dismantled, sunk and useless.
The officer resolved, as a last resort, to examine this wreck, in hopes to find that it might possibly be raised and repaired. He found that the boat was lying in the water and half filled with rocks and masses of old iron, which had been thrown into her to sink and destroy her. Among the masses of iron there was a heavy bar, which had been used apparently in the attempt to punch holes in the boat, by those who had undertaken to sink her. These attempts had been generally fruitless, the blows having only made indentations in the copper, on account of the yielding nature of the metal. In one place, however, in the bottom of the boat, the work had been done effectually, for five large holes were discovered there, at a place where the bottom of the boat rested upon the rocks, so as to furnish such points of resistance below as prevented the copper from yield-to the blows. The officer set his men at work to attempt to repair the damage. They first took out the sand and stones and iron with which the boat was encumbered, and then raising her, they dragged her up out of the water to the landing. Here the men lifted her up upon her side, and began to beat back the indentations which had been made in the metal, by holding a heavy sledge-hammer on the inside, to serve as an anvil, and then striking with a hand hammer upon the protuberances on the outside. In the same manner they beat back the burrs or protrusions formed where the holes had been punched through the bottom of the boat; and they found, much to their satisfaction, that when the metal was thus brought back into its place, the holes were closed again, and the boat became whole and tight as before. When this work was done, the men put the boat back again in her proper position, replaced and fastened the seats, and then launched her into the water. They found her staunch and tight, and seemingly good as new. The whole work of repairing her did not occupy more than one hour—much less time, 'he officer thought, than had
been spent in the attempt to destroy her.
The boat thus restored was immediately put to service, and she performed the work required of her admirably well. She was often out on the open sea in very rough weather, but always rode over the billows in safety, and in the end proved to be the strongest, swiftest, and safest boat in the gulf squadron.
Very heavy expense has attended the perfection of the machinery and manufacture of the Metallic Life-boat and Life-car, and although this is a matter in which the proprietors alone are concerned, still, when an improvement is made, which has for its object the preservation of life, should it not be duly appreciated by those whose safety is secured by the invention, and by every philanthropic mind?
In many cases of distress and disaster befalling ships on the coast, it is not necessary to use the Life-car, (reference to which will be made hereafter,) the state of the sea being such that it is possible to go out in a boat to furnish the necessary succour.
The boats, however, which are destined to this service, must be of a peculiar construction, for no ordinary boat can live a moment in the surf which rolls in, in storms, upon shelving or rocky shores. A great many different modes have been adopted for the construction of surf boats, each liable to its own peculiar objections. The principle on which Mr. Francis relies in his life and surf boats, is to give them an extreme lightness and buoyancy, so as to keep them always upon the top of the sea. Formerly, it was expected that a boat in such a service must necessarily take in great quantities of water, and the object of all the contrivances for securing its safety was to expel the water after it was admitted. In the plan now adopted, the design is to exclude the water altogether, by making the structure so light, and forming it on such a model, that it shall always rise above the wave, and thus glide safely over it. This result is obtained partly by means of the model of the boat, and partly by the lightness of the material of which it is composed. The reader may perhaps be surprised to hear after this, that the material used for this purpose is iron.
Iron, or copper—Which, in this respect, possesses the same properties as iron—though absolutely heavier than wood, is in fact much lighter as a material for the construction of receptacles of all kinds, on account of its great strength and tenacity, which allow of its being used in plates so thin that the quantity of the material employed is diminished much more than the specific gravity is increased by using the metal. There has been, hitherto, a great practical difficulty in the way of using iron for such a purpose, namely: that of giving to these metal plates a sufficient stillness. A sheet of tin, for example, though stronger than a board—-that is, requiring a greater force to break or rupture it-is still very flexible, while the board is still. In other words, in the case of a thin plate of metal, the parts yield readily to any slight force, so far as to bend under the pressure, but it requires a very great force to separate them entirely; whereas, in the case of wood, the slight force is at first resisted, but on a moderate increase of it, the structure breaks down altogether. The great thing to be desired, therefore, in a material for the construction of boats, is to secure the stiffness of the wood in conjunction with the thinness and tenacity of iron.
This object is attained in the manufacture of Mr. Francis’s boats, by plaiting or corrugating the sheets of metal of which the sides of the boat are to be made. A familiar illustration of the principle on which this stiffening is effected, is furnished by the common table waiter, which is made usually of a thin plate of tinned iron, stiffened by being turned up at the edges all around, the upturned part serving, also, at the same time, the purpose of forming a margin.
The plaitings or corrugations of the metal in these iron boats, pass along the sheets in lines, instead of being, as in the case of the waiter, confined to the margin. The lines which they form can be seen in the drawing of the surf boat, given on a previous page. The idea of thus corrugating or plaiting the metal, was a very simple one; the main difficulty in the invention came, after getting the idea, in devising the ways and means by which such a corrugation could be made. It is a curious circumstance in the history of modern inventions, that it often requires much more ingenuity and effort to contrive a way to make the article when invented, than it did to invent the article itself. It was, for instance, much easier, doubtless, to invent pins, than to invent the machinery for making pins.
The machinery for making the corrugations in the sides of these metallic boats, consists of a hydraulic press and a set of enormous dies. These dies are grooved to fit each other, and shut together; and the plate of iron which is to be corrugated, being placed between them, is pressed into the requisite form, with all the force of the hydraulic piston-—the greatest force, altogether, that is ever employed in the service of man.
The machinery referred to will be easily understood by the above engraving. On the left are the pumps, worked, as represented in the engraving, by four men, though more are often required. By alternately raising and depressing the break or handle, they work two small but very solid pistons, which play within cylinders of corresponding bore, in the manner of any common forcing pump.
By means of these pistons the water is driven, in small quantities, but with prodigious force, along through the horizontal tube seen passing across, in the middle of the picture, from the forcing-pump to the great cylinders on the right hand. Here the water presses upward upon the under surfaces of the pistons working within the great cylinders, with a force proportioned to the ratio of the area of those pistons compared with that of one of the pistons in the pump. Now the piston in the force-pump is about one inch in diameter. Those in the great cylinders are about twelve inches in diameter, and as there are four of the great cylinders, the ratio is as 1 to 576*.
* Areas being as the squares of homologous lines, the ratio would be, mathematically expressed as:
This is a great multiplication, and it is found that the force which the men can exert upon the piston within the small cylinder, by the aid of the long lever with which they work it, is so great, that when multiplied by 576, as it is by being expanded over the surface of the large pistons, an upward pressure results of about eight hundred tons. This is a force ten times as great in intensity as that exerted by steam in the most powerful sea-going engines. It would be sufficient to lift a block of granite five or six feet square at the base, and as high as the Bunker Hill Monument. Superior, however, as this force is, in one point of view, to that of steam, it is very inferior to it in other respects. It is great, so to speak, in intensity, but it is very small in extent and amount. It is capable indeed of lifting a very great weight, but it can raise it only an exceedingly little way. Were the force of such an engine to be brought into action beneath such a block of granite as we have described, the enormous burden would rise, but it would rise by a motion almost inconceivably slow, and after going up perhaps as high as the thickness of a sheet of paper, the force would be spent, and no further effect would be produced without a new exertion of the motive power. In other words, the whole amount of the force of a hydraulic engine, vastly concentrated as it is, and irresistible within the narrow limits within which it works, is but the force of four or five men after all; while the power of the engines of a Collins’ steamer, is equal to that of four or five thousand men. The steam-engine can do an abundance of great work; while, on the other hand, what the hydraulic press can do is very little in amount, and only great in view of its concentrated intensity.
Hydraulic presses are consequently very often used, in such cases and for such purposes as require a great force within very narrow limits. The indentations made by the type in printing the pages of a book or magazine, are taken out, and the sheet rendered smooth again, by hydraulic presses exerting a force of twelve hundred tons. At least such is the power of the presses used in the immense establishment of the Messrs, Harper & Brothers.
In Mr. Francis’s presses, the dies between which the sheets of iron or copper are pressed are directly above the four cylinders which we have described, as will be seen by referring
once more to the drawing. The upper die is fixed-—being firmly attached to the top of the frame, and held securely down by the rows of iron pillars on the two side, and by the massive iron caps called platens, which may be seen passing across at the top from pillar to pillar. These caps are held by large iron nuts, which are screwed down over the ends of the pillars above. The lower die is movable. It is attached by massive iron work to the ends of piston rods, and of course it rises when the pistons are driven upward by the pressure of the water. The plate of metal, when the dies approach each other, is bent and drawn into the intended shape by the force of the pressure, receiving not only the corrugations which are designed to stiffen it, but also the general shaping necessary to give it the proper form or the side, or the portion of a side, of a boat.
It is obviously necessary that these dies should fit each other in a very accurate manner, so as to compress the iron equally in every part. To make them fit thus exactly, massive as they are in magnitude, and irregular in form, is a work of immense labor. They are first cast as nearly as possible to the form intended, but as such castings always warp more or less in cooling, there is a great deal of fitting afterwards required to make them come rightly together. This could easily be done by machinery, if the surfaces were square or cylindrical, or if any other mathematical form to which the working of machinery could be adopted. But the curved and winding surfaces which form the hull of a boat or vessel, smooth and flowing as they are, and controlled too by established and well known laws, bid defiance to all the attempts of mere mechanical motion to follow them. The superfluous iron, therefore, of these dies must all be cut away by chisels, driven by a hammer held in the hand, and so great is the labor required to fit and smooth and polish them, that a pair of them costs many thousand dollars before they are completed and ready to fulfil their function.
The superiority of metallic boats, whether of copper or iron, made in the manner above described, over those of any other construction is growing every year more and more apparent. They are more light and more easily managed; they require far less repair from year to year, and are very much longer lived. When iron is used for this purpose, a preparation is used called Galvanised Iron. This manufacture consists of plates of iron of the requisite thickness coated on each side, first with tin and then with zinc; the tin being used as an intermediate coating to preserve the malleability of the iron. The plate presents therefore to the water only a surface of zinc, which resists all action, so that the boats thus made are subject to no species of decay. They cannot be injured or destroyed except by violence, and even violent acts at a very great disadvantage in attacking them. The stroke of a shot or a concussion of any kind, that would split or shiver a wooden boat, so as to damage it past repair, would only indent or at most perforate an iron one. And a perforation, when made, is very easily repaired, even by the navigators themselves under circumstances however unfavourable. With a smooth and heavy stone placed upon the outside for an anvil, and another used on the inside as a hammer, the protrusion is easily beaten down, the opening is closed, the continuity of surface is restored, and the damaged boat becomes, excepting perhaps in the imagination of the navigator, as good once more as ever.
Metallic boats of this character were employed by the party under Lieut. Lynch in making, some years ago, their celebrated voyage down the river Jordan to the Dead Sea. The navigation of this stream was difficult and perilous in the highest degree. The boats were subject to the severest possible tests and trials. They were impelled against rocks, they were dragged over shoals, they were swept down cataracts and cascades. There was one wooden boat in the little squadron, but this was soon so strained and battered that it could be no longer kept afloat, and it was abandoned. The metallic boats however lived through the whole, and finally floated in peace on the heavy waters of the Dead Sea in nearly as good a condition as when they first came from the dies.
It is thus shown, that the seams of a metallic boat will not open by exposure to the sun and rain when lying upon the deck of a ship, nor if transported from place to place, or hauled up upon a shore. Nor will such boats burn. If a ship takes fire at sea, the boats, if of iron, can never be injured by the conflagration. Nor can they be sunk, for they are provided with air chambers in various parts, each separate from the others, so that if the boat were bruised and jammed by violent concussions up to her utmost capacity of receiving injury, the shapeless mass would still float upon the sea and hold up with unconquerable buoyancy as many as could cling to her.
The surf-boats made in this way will ride safely in any sea, and though sometimes, after protracted storms, the surges roll in upon shelving or rocky shores with such terrific violence that it is almost impossible to get the boats off from the land, yet once they are off, they are safe, however wild the commotion. In fact, there is a certain charm in the graceful and life-like buoyancy with which they ride over the billows, and in the confidence and sense of security which they inspire in the hearts of those whom they bear, as they go bounding over the crests of the waves, while it awakens, in minds of a certain class, a high exhilaration and pleasure to go out in them upon stormy and tempestuous seas. Such statements will be found in the testimonials.
THE LIFE CAR Is a sort of boat formed of copper or iron and closed over above by a convex deck, with a sort of door or hatchway through it, by which the passengers, to he conveyed in it to the shore, are admitted. The car will hold from four to five persons; when the passengers are put in, the door or rather cover is shut down and bolted to its place, and the car is then drawn to the land, suspended by rings from a hawser, which has previously been stretched from the ship to the shore. To be shut up in this manner in so dark and gloomy a recepticle, for the purpose of being drawn, perhaps at midnight, through a surf of such terrific violence that no boat can live in it, cannot be a very agreeable alternative, but the emergencies in which the use of the Life-car is called for, are such as do not admit of hesitation or delay. There is no light within the car, and there are no openings for the admission of air. None such are in fact required, for the car itself contains air enough for the use of its passengers for a quarter of an hour, and there is rarely occupied more than a period of two or three minutes to pass it through the surf to the shore. It is subject, too, in its passage to the shore, to the most frightful shocks and concussions from the force of the breakers. The car as first made, too, was of such a form as required the passengers within it to be at length, in a recumbent position, which rendered them almost utterly helpless. The form, however, is now changed, the parts towards the ends, where the heads of the passengers would come, when placed in a sitting posture within, being made higher than the middle, and the opening or door placed in the depressed part of the centre. This arrangement is found to be much better than the former one, as it greatly facilitates the putting in of the passengers, who always require a greater or less degree of aid, and are often entirely insensible and helpless from the effects of fear, or of exposure to cold and hunger. Besides by this arrangement, those who have any strength remaining can take much more convenient and safer positions within the car in their progress to the shore than was possible under the old construction. The car, as will be seen by the foregoing drawing, is suspended from the hawser by means of short chains attached to the ends of it. These chains terminate in rings above, which rings ride upon the hawser, thus allowing the car to traverse to and fro from the vessel to the shore. The car is drawn along, in making these passages, by means of lines attached to the two ends of it, one of which passes to the ship, and the other to the shore. By means of these lines, the empty car is first drawn out to the wreck by the passengers and crew, and then, when loaded, it is drawn back to the land by the people assembled there, as represented in the engraving of the title-page.
Perhaps the most important and difficult part of the operation of saving the passengers and crew in such cases, is the getting the hawser out in the first instance, so as to form a
connection between the ship and the land. In fact, whenever a ship is stranded upon a coast, and people are assembled on the beach to assist the sufferers, the first thing to be done is always to “ get a line ashore.” On the success of the attempts made to accomplish this, all the hopes of the sufferers depend. Various methods are resorted to by the people on board the ship in order to attain this end, where there are no means at hand on the shore for effecting it. Perhaps the most common mode is to attach a small line to a cask, or to some other light and bulky substance which the surf can easily throw up upon the shore. The cask or float, whatever it may be, when attached to the line, is thrown into the water, and after being rolled and tossed hither and thither by the tumultuous waves—now advancing, now receding, and now sweeping madly around in endless gyrations, it at length reaches a point where some adventurous wrecker on the bench can seize it and pull it upon the land. The line is then drawn in, and a hawser being attached to the other end of it by the crew of the ship, the end of the hawser itself is then drawn to the shore.
This method, however, of making a communication with the shore from a distressed vessel, simple and sure as it may seem in description, proves generally extremely difficult and uncertain in actual practice. Sometimes, and that, too, not infrequently, when the billows are rolling in with most terrific violence upon the shore, the sea will carry nothing whatever to the land. The surges seem to pass under, and so to get beyond whatever objects lie floating upon the water, so that when a cask is thrown over to them they play beneath it, leaving it where it was, or even drive it out to sea, by not carrying it as forward on their advance as they bring it back by their recession. Even the lifeless body of the exhausted mariner, who, when his strength was gone and he could no longer cling to the rigging, fell into the sea, is not drawn to the beach, but, after surging to and fro for a short period about the vessel, it slowly disappears from view among the foam and the breakers toward the offing. In such cases, it is useless to attempt to get a line on shore from the ship by means of any aid from the sea. The cask entrusted with the commission of bearing it, is beaten hack against the vessel, or is drilled uselessly along the shore; rolling in and out upon the surges, but never approaching near enough to the beach to enable even the most daring adventurer to reach it.
In case of these life-cars, therefore, arrangements are made for sending the hawser out from the shore to the ship. The apparatus by which this is accomplished consists, first, of a piece of ordinance called a mortar, made large enough to throw a shot of about six inches in diameter; secondly, the shot itself, which has a small iron staple set in it; thirdly, a long line, one end of which is to be attached to the staple in the shot when the shot is thrown; and fourthly, a rack of a peculiar construction, to serve as a reel for winding the line upon. This rack consists of a small square frame, having rows of pegs inserted along the ends and sides of it. The line is wound upon these pegs in such a manner, that as the shot is projected thro’ the air, drawing the line with it, the pegs deliver the line as fat as it is required by the progress of the shot, and that with the least possible friction. Thus, the advance of the shot is unimpeded. The mortar from which the shot is fired is aimed in such a manner as to throw the missile over and beyond the ship, and thus when it falls into the water, the line attached to it comes down across the deck of the ship and is seized by the passengers and crew.
Sometimes, in consequence of the darkness of the night, the violence of the wind, and perhaps of the agitation and confusion of the scene, the first and even the second trial may not he successful in throwing the line across the wreck. The object is, however, generally attained on the second or third attempt, and then the end of the hawser is drawn out to the wreck by means of the small line which the shot had carried, and being made fast and “ drawn taut,” the bridge is complete on which the car is to traverse to and fro.
Reference has been made to the operations of our own government, and we would now state that Congress has already appropriated over $100,000 to establish stations along the coast of New Jersey and Long Island, as well as on other parts of the Atlantic seaboard, at which all the apparatus necessary for the service of these cars and of boats may be kept. These stations are maintained by the government, with the aid and cooperation of the Humane Society, before referred to, the object of which is to provide means for rescuing and saving persons in danger of drowning, and also of the New York Board of Underwriters, a body which, as its name imports, represents the principal Marine Insurance Companies; associations having a strong pecuniary interest in the saving of cargoes of merchandise, and other property endangered in shipwreck. These three parties, the Government, the Humane Society, and the Board of Underwriters, combine their efforts to establish and sustain these stations; though we cannot here stop to explain the details of the arrangement by which this co-operation is effected. In respect to the stations, however, we will say, that it awakens very strong and very peculiar emotions to visit one of them on some lonely and desolate coast, remote from human dwellings, and to observe the arrangements and preparations that have been made in them, all quietly awaiting the dreadful emergency which is to call them into action. The traveller stands, for example, on the Southern shore of the Island of Nantucket, and after looking over the boundless ocean which stretches in that direction, without limit or shore, for thousands of miles, and upon the surf, rolling incessantly on the beach, whose smooth expanse is dotted here and there with the skeleton remains of ships that were lost in former storms, and are now half buried in the sand; he sees, at length, a hut standing upon the shore just above the reach of the water, the only human structure to be seen. He enters the hut. The surf-boat is there, resting upon its rollers, all ready to be launched, and with its oars and all its furniture and appliances complete and ready for sea. The fireplace is there, with the wood laid and matches ready for the kindling. Supplies of food and clothing are also at hand, and a compass and on a placard conspicuously posted, are the words:
SHIPWRECKED MARINERS REACHING THIS HUT IN FOG, OR SNOW,
WILL FIND THE TOWN OF NANTUCKET TWO MILES DISTANT, DUE WEST
It is impossible to contemplate such a spectacle as this, without feeling a strong emotion, and a new and deeper interest in the superior excellency and nobleness of efforts made by man, for saving life and diminishing suffering, in comparison with the deeds of havoc and destruction which have been so much gloried in, in ages that are passed. The Lifeboat rests in its retreat, not like a ferocious beast of prey, crouching in its covert to seize and destroy its hapless victims, but like an angel of mercy, reposing upon her wings and watching for danger, that she may spring forth on the first warning, to rescue and save.
It was in the middle of January, and during a terrific snow storm, the ship Ayrshire, (referred to and represented in the frontispiece) with about two hundred passengers, was driven upon the shore by the storm and lay there stranded, the sea beating over her, and a surf so heavy rolling in, as made it impossible for any boat to reach her. It happened that one of the stations which we have described was near; the people on the shore assembled, and brought out the apparatus. They fired the shot, taking aim so well that the line fell directly across the wreck. It was caught by the crew on board and the hawser hauled off. The car was then attached, and in a short time every one of the two hundred passengers, men, women, children, and even infants in their mother’s arms, were brought safely through the foaming surges and landed at the station. The car which performed this service was considered as fully entitled to an honourable discharge from active duty, and it now rests in retirement and repose, though unconscious of its honours, in the factory of the “Francis’ Metallic Life-boat Co.,” at Green Point, Long Island.
As an instance of one of the many deeds of heroism manifested by those who have been deemed worthy of the honour of being entrusted with the almost sacred responsibility of a life-boat station, or in whom is vested the charge of the life saving apparatus, it may be interesting to notice the following :-
One dark and stormy night Mr. Richard C. Holmes, the Collector at the port of Cape May, a port situated on an exposed and dangerous part of the coast, was awakened from his
sleep by the violence of the storm, and listening, he thought he could hear at intervals the distant booming of a gun, which he supposed to be a signal of distress. He arose and hastened to the shore. The night was so dark that nothing could be seen, but the report of the gun was distinctly to be heard, at brief intervals, coming apparently from a great distance in the offing.
He aroused from the neighbouring houses a sufficient number of other persons to man his surf-boat, embarked on board, taking a compass for a guide, and put to sea. It was still so very dark, and the weather was so thick that nothing could be seen, but the crew of the boat pulled steadily on, guided only by the compass, and by the low and distant booming of the gun. They rowed in the direction of the sound, listening as they pulled; but the noise made by the winds and the waves, and the dashing of the water upon the boat and upon the oars was so loud and incessant, and the progress which they made against the heavy send of the surges was so slow, that it was for a long time doubtful whether they were advancing or not. After an hour or two, however, the sound of the gun seemed to come nearer, and at length they could see, faintly, the flash beaming out for an instant just before the report, in the midst of the driving rain and flying spray which filled the dark air before them.
Encouraged by this, the oarsmen pulled at their oars with new energy, and soon came in sight of the hull of the distressed vessel, which now began to rise before them a black and misshapen mass, scarcely distinguishable from the surrounding darkness and gloom. As they came nearer, they found that the vessel was a ship; that she had been beaten down upon her side by the sea, and was almost overwhelmed with the surges which were breaking over her. Every place upon the deck which afforded any possibility of shelter was crowded with men and women, all clinging to such supports as were within their reach, and vainly endeavouring to screen themselves from the dashing of the spray. The boat was to the leeward of the vessel, but so great was the commotion of the sea that it was not safe to approach even near enough to communicate with the people on board. After coming up among the heaving and tumbling surges as near as they dared to venture, the crew of the surf-boat found that all attempts to make their voices heard were unavailing, as their loudest shouts were wholly overpowered by the roaring of the sea, and the howling of the winds in the rigging.
Mr. Holmes gave up the attempt, and fell back again, intending to go round the windward side of the ship, in hopes to be able to communicate with the crew from that quarter. He could hear them while he was to the leeward of them, but they could not hear him; and his object in wishing to communicate with them was to give them directions in respect to what they were to do, in order to enable him to get on board.
In the meantime daylight began to appear. The position of the ship could be seen more distinctly. She lay upon a shoal, held partly by her anchor, which the crew had let go before she struck. Thus confined, she had been knocked down by the seas, and now lay thumping violently at every rising and falling of the surge, and in danger every moment of going to pieces. She was covered with human beings, who were seen clinging to her in every part, each separate group forming a sad and frightful spectacle of distress and terror.
Mr. Holmes succeeded in bringing the surf-boat so near to the ship on the windward side as to hail the crew, and he directed them to let down a line from the end of the main yard, to leeward. The main yard is a spar which lies horizontally at the head of the mainmast, and as the vessel was careened over to leeward, the end of the yard on that side would of course be depressed, and a line from it would hang down over the water, entirely clear of the vessel. The crew heard this order and let down the line. Mr. Holmes then ordered the surf-boat to be pulled away from the ship again, intending to drop to leeward once more, and there to get on board of it by means of the line. In doing this, however, the boat was assailed by the winds and waves with greater fury than ever, as if they now began to understand that it had come to rescue their victims from their power. The boat was swept so far away by this onset, that it was an hour before the oarsmen could get her back so as to approach the line. It seemed then extremely dangerous to approach it, as the end of it was flying hither and thither, whipping the surges which boiled beneath it, or whirling and curling in the air, as it was swung to and fro by the impulse of the wind, or by the swaying of the yard-arm from which it was suspended.
The boat however approached the line. Mr. Holmes, when he saw it within reach, sprang forward to the bows, and after a moment's contest between an instinctive shrinking from the gigantic lash which was brandished so furiously over his head, and his efforts to reach it, he at length succeeded in seizing it. He grasped it by both hands with all his force, and the next instant the boat was swept away from beneath him by the retreating billows, and he was left safely dangling in the air.
We say safely, for whenever any of these indomitable sea-kings, no matter in what circumstances of difficulty or danger, gets a rope that is well secured at its point of suspension, fairly within his iron gripe, we may at once dismiss all concern about his personal safety. In this case, the intrepid adventurer, when he found that the boat had surged away from beneath him and left him suspended in the air over the foaming and raging billows, felt that all danger was over. To mount the rope, hand over hand, till he gained the yard-arm; to clamber up the yard to the mast, and then descend to the deck by the shrouds, required only an ordinary exercise of nautical strength and courage. All this was done in a moment, and Mr. Holmes stood upon the deck speechless and entirely overcome by the appalling spectacle of terror and distress that met his view. The crew gathered round the stranger, whom they looked upon at once as their deliverer, and listened to hear what he had to say. He informed them that the ship was grounded on a narrow reef or bar running parallel with the coast, and that there was deeper water between them and the shore. He counselled them to cut loose from the anchor, in which case he presumed that the shocks of the seas would drive the ship over the bar, and that then she would drift rapidly in upon the shore, where, when she should strike upon the beach, they could probably find means to get the passengers to the land. This plan was decided upon. The cable was cut away by means of such instruments as came to hand. The ship was beaten over the bar, awakening, as she dashed along, new shrieks from the terrified passengers at the violence of the concussions. Once in the deep water, she moved on more smoothly, but was still driven at a fearful rate toward the land. The surf-boat accompanied her, hovering as near to her all the way as was consistent with safety. During their progress, the boat was watched by the passengers on board the ship with anxious eyes, as in her was centred all their hopes of escape from destruction. The conformation of this part of the coast, as in many other places along the shores of the United States, presents a range of low sandy islands, lying at a little distance from the land, and separated from it by a channel of sheltered water. These islands are long and narrow, and separated from each other by inlets or openings here and there, formed, apparently, by the breaking through of the sea. The crew of our ship would have been glad to have seen some possibility of their entering through one of these inlets. The ship could not, however, be guided, but must go wherever the winds and waves chose to impel her. This was to the outer shore of one of the long narrow islands, where at length she struck again, and was again overwhelmed with breakers and spray.
After much difficulty, the seamen succeeded with the help of the surf-boat in getting a line from the ship to the shore, by means of which, one party on the land and another on board the vessel could draw the surf-boat to and fro. In this way the passengers and crew were all safely landed. When the lives were thus all safe, sails and spars were brought on shore, and then, under Mr. Holmes’ directions, a great tent was constructed on the sand, which, though rude in form, was sufficient in size to shelter all the company. When all were assembled, the number of passengers saved was found to be 121.
They were German emigrants of the better class, and they gathered around their intrepid deliverer, when all was over, with such overwhelming manifestations of their admiration and gratitude as wholly unmanned him. They had saved money and jewels, and such other valuables as could be carried about the person, to a large amount, and they brought everything to him, pressing him most earnestly and with many tears to take it all for having saved them from such imminent and certain destruction. He was deeply moved by these expressions of gratitude, but he would receive no reward.
When the tent was completed, and the whole company were comfortably established under the shelter of it, the boat was passed to and fro again through the surf to bring provisions on shore. A party of seamen remained on board for this purpose, loading the boat at the ship and drawing it out again when unloaded on the shore. The company that were assembled under the tent, dried their clothes by fires built for the purpose there, and then made a rude breakfast from the provisions brought for them from the ship; and when thus in some degree rested and refreshed, they were all conveyed safely in boats to the main land. The hero of this adventure thus speaks of the value of the Metallic Lifeboats:
Cape May Court House, July 27th, 1852
Dear Sir, I perceive Congress is about passing a law requiring all steam vessels to be properly supplied with suitable small hosts for the better preservation of the lives of passengers. This is just as it should be, and I hope such a law may be established-
You know the deep interest I have for a long time felt upon the subject; you know how much experience I have had in saving lives and property, and you know whether my opinion on the subject is worth much or little. Now, my dear sir, I have no doubt there will be all kinds of boats recommended, for which reason I feel considerable delicacy to say any thing upon the subject myself, lest I should be suspected of being interested. The truth no one should fear to utter, and as those who know me know much of my life has been passed in working boats instead of manufacturing them, I feel as though I have a right to recommend that kind of boat which, in my opinion, will be least likely to get out of order, and most likely to perform the part for which the law intends her. Thus much I have written as a preface; I will now state why “Francis‘ Metallic Life-boat” is the best adapted for ships and steamers’ use, and why boats made of wood, floated by cork, gum elastic, canvas bags &c., &c. are not the thing needed.
lst. The metal boat is not affected by the sun, she is made of a material which will not warp and crack by being kept is open weather, she is always tight, which is not the case with boats made of wood. During the time which I have acted here on the coast of New Jersey as agent for the underwriters I do not remember to have ever found a wooden boat on board a stranded vessel which was fit to land the crew with, to the beach, a distance usually of some 200 yards. I have generally found them either entirely broken up, or so leaky that they would fill before they could reach the shore. At this moment there are two brigs within sight of me, neither of which has what I would risk my life in (the shape of a boat,) through the surf. So it generally is, and if you will examine the boats of half the ships which come into port, and half the steamers which are now running to our place from Philadelphia and New York, sometimes they have 2 or 300 persons on board, and if they were to catch on fire, they have not boats by which 40 could be saved, and unless they were near the shore, and the weather should be remarkably fine, all would be lost. Thus steamers, too, are much better provided with boats than you generally find them.
2nd. It costs much less to keep a metal boat in order. I have now had charge of six metal boats for nearly four years; they have cost almost nothing in that time to keep them tight
and fit for use.
3rd. They need no house over them to keep off the sun, but can hang at the davits ready to go into the water at a moment’s notice
4th They are less likely to be stove by concussion; they may bend but will not break. In fact they are the boats which in time will be universally used. They do not become heavy
by being left in the water, but are always one thing; as they have air tanks in each end, they will live if full of water, and carry their crew.
I have the honour to be your friend,
RICHARD C. HOLMES,
Agent for the Phil. and New York Insurance Cos.,
On the coast of New Jersey
Hon. Thos. J. Rusk,
We have taken the pains to describe, somewhat at length, the heroic action of Mr. Holmes in this scene of shipwreck, but there are many, very many others, the recital of whose
noble deeds of daring, in like cases of disaster, would do honour to a more graphic pen than ours. We again say, again: READ THE TESTIMONIALS, and you will find these very
persons who have, and who are contributing so largely to the cause of humanity, speak with bashfulness and diffidence of their own efforts ; whilst the memory of their services
in the time of need is kindly cherished and lives in the hearts of those who were saved.