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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/360

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

must be of good character and habits, sound, able-bodied, and a master of boatcraft and "surfing" He must live at the station, exercise absolute control over the crew, and direct all operations. In times of danger he must lead where duty calls, sharing with the men all the perils of wind and wave. The crew usually numbers six or seven, who are selected with especial reference to their fitness for the service required of them. It is indispensable that they be experienced surf men and skilled in the handling of boats. It may be here remarked that political considerations have not the slightest influence in the life-saving service from its chief down. If politics were permitted to dictate appointments, a serious impairment of the service would speedily result.

A surfman is paid sixty-five dollars per month, with no allowances except quarters at the station. He provides his own food and clothing. No man or officer is permitted to have an interest in any wrecking apparatus, or to be connected with any wrecking company; nor is he entitled to salvage upon any property saved. If disabled in the line of duty, a member of the crew receives full pay during such disability, not exceeding one year. If he loses his—life and this is not infrequent—his widow or children under the age of sixteen are entitled to his pay for two years.

When the season of active duty begins, the men establish themselves at the station for a residence of eight months, embracing on the sea-coast the autumn, winter, and spring seasons. On the Great Lakes their active service is from the opening to the close of navigation. For domestic convenience they resolve themselves into a committee of the whole which they term a "mess."

They take weekly turns in catering and cooking. The keeper organizes his crew for the season, designating them as Number 1, Number 2, etc., in the order of merit and efficiency. Each man holds rank according to his number. Watches are kept by day and patrols by night. If two stations are within communicating distance, the patrols meet midway each time they traverse their beats. Every patrolman is equipped with signal lights with which to warn vessels or to give an alarm in case a vessel in distress is discovered.

The members of the crew are drilled daily in the handling of boats and life-saving appliances. By practice they acquire agility and expertness that are almost incredible. The highest possible efficiency in times of actual service is thus secured. The men are also instructed and practiced in applying the most approved methods for the restoration of persons apparently drowned. In some cases this is accomplished after twenty or thirty minutes of unconsciousness. It will be readily understood that these men must possess great courage and powers of endurance. Their service is full of danger and often their lives are in extreme