Scenic USA - North Carolina
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station
|Photo by Jack Ryan
Jack's Zenfolio Gallery
Inset photos courtesy of the NPS
North Carolina's Outer Banks, a thin chain of barrier islands only three miles at its widest point, serve as a unique recreational mecca for thousands of tourists and vacationers. Well known for its string of famous lighthouses, the Outer Banks is also a haven for bird watching, sport fishing and enjoying the surf. A group of villages are spread out along the barrier island chain, providing hotels, cottages and campgrounds.
Here at the town of Rodanthe, vacationers will find the most complete U.S. Lifesaving Station in America. First built and manned in 1874, its fascinating history includes the development of a North Carolina's lifesaving facilities and many heroic sea rescues. A precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Lifesaving Service established stations up and down the Cape Hatteras beaches, watching over some of the most treacherous shoals on the east coast. During its 44 year history over 177,000 lives had been saved, and the stand-out Chicamacomico (chik a ma COM i co) rescuers received an elite award, the Grand Crosses of the American Cross of Honor. In 1918, a British tanker, the Mirlo, was sunk by a mine laid by German U-Boat. A six member team of the Chicamacomico Station pulled 47 crewmen from the fiery wreckage, saving all but ten. The courageous team was also honored with British Gold Lifesaving Metals.
When a new station was established, the head lifesaver was given charge of the station and a group of surfmen usually selected from the local community. A shipwreck was often a chaotic scene and the men saw hours of training to prepare for these hazardous rescues. During a gale, surfman Rasmus S. Midgett was on patrol three miles south of the Gulf Shoal Station and discovered the Priscilla as it began to break into pieces in the surf. Without sufficient time to summon help or retrieved equipment, Midgett fought the wind and powerful waves to rescue the crewmen from the floundering ship, one by one. This was perhaps the greatest individual effort in the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. For his heroic efforts, Midgett received the Gold Lifesaving Medal of Honor.
The Chicamacomico, a board and batten rescue station, dates back to 1911 when the previous 1874 station was in need of replacement. The compound was one of twelve rescue stations built in seven mile intervals along the Outer Banks shoreline. The station is now listed on North Carolina's Register of Historic Places and is open to visitors from mid April through November.
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