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No Lives Saved?

Forum dedicated to photos and information regarding history of lights, life-saving stations, keepers, lost lighthouses and more.

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Postby island » Fri Jan 16, 2009 12:38 am


In reading the annual reports of the Life-Saving Service it was noted that tables of statistics were included. These statisitics were; number of disasters, value of property involved, value of property saved, value of cargo saved, number of persons involved, number of lives lost, etc. But these statistics did not report the number of lives saved by the Life-Saving Service. Would anyone care to guess why the service did not report number of lives saved?
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Postby Grover1 » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:42 am


I dont have the factual answer ...

My gut is saying the LSS, much like lighthouses, was, at first purpose, to protect commerce ... being a Judeo-Christian country we took death solemnly, but saving lives was a secondary purpose to saving "value of property involved, value of property saved, value of cargo saved"
Believe those who search for the truth ...
Doubt those who find it ...
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Postby island » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:08 am


You are correct about lighthouses in that the purpose was to support development of commerce and industry, to save not lives but livelyhoods, by making ports more safely and easily accessed by coastal and foreign ships on which this country at that time in our history was entirely dependant.

The mission of the Life-Saving Service from day one was saving both lives and property and with the emphasis on lives. In fact, the LSS, was originally part of the Revenue Marine but later became a distinct entity with Sumner Kimball as General Supt. as a result of significant loss of life from two shipwrecks.
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Postby LighthouseNews » Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:07 am


A question for you, island. I've read that the LSS was originally started as a part of the Humane Society, whose original purpose was not saving dogs and cats but people. In which case it would be clear that providing help to people rather than ships would be their priority, the property being only a secondary consideration. So it was their mission, not their side job, to save the lives and therefore it wouldn't necessarily be reported.

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it until you prove me wrong (easy enough to do! :P )
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Postby island » Fri Jan 16, 2009 1:54 pm


A quote from a Revenue Cutter officer who investigated a wreck and rescue in December 1885:

"I do not believe that a greater act of heroism is recorded than that of Keeper Dailey and his crew on this momentous occasion. These poor, plain men, dwellers upon the lonely sands of Hatteras, took their lives in their hands, and, at the most imminent risk , crossed the most tumultuous sea that any boat within memory of man had ever attempted on that bleak coast, and all for what? That others might live to see home and friends. The thought of reward or mercenary appeal never once entered their minds. Duty, their sense of obligation, and the credit of the Service impelled them on to do their mighty best."

Yes, Sue, it was their mission. And those who did this dangerous work did not do it for the publicity. It was at times extremely dangerous. Many surfmen and station keepers went out in their little white surfboats but did not come back alive to ever again see homes and friends.

There is another much less profound reason why the LSS did not run a talley of lives saved and did not report such to Congress and to the public in the Service annual reports. They did report the number of people saved but not lives saved.
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Postby island » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:09 pm


No question shall remain unanswered---

The Life-Saving Service did not report the number of lives saved because they did not know. There was no way to know how many of the great number of people saved, those rescued from perilous situations, would have perished. There is no doubt many would have died if not not having been timely rescued but some of those if not rescued might have survived even the most extreme of perilous conditions.
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Postby island » Sat Feb 14, 2009 11:27 am


I note in a publication I just received today that the Coast Guard public relations folks have issued an announcement that over one million lives have been saved by the Coast Guard since 1790. I wonder if they might not have said people rescued, not lives saved if those p.r. people had read this forum topic.
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