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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/363

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351
UNCLE SAM'S LIFE SAVERS.

crew, from ten to fifteen persons. The excellence of these boats is shown by the record during the eighteen years they have been used in the hands of the life-saving crews. They have been launched in actual service six thousand seven hundred and thirty times, and have safely landed from wrecked vessels six thousand seven hundred and thirty-five persons. They have capsized but fourteen times, six of these accidents being attended with loss of life. Of the boats' crews, twenty-seven were drowned, being one for every two hundred and forty lives saved.

A "self-righting" lifeboat is largely used in the English service, and in our own to a limited extent by way of experiment. This boat is constructed with air-chambers at the bow and stern and several hundred pounds of iron in the keel. These cause the boat to "right" itself when capsized by the waves. It is of necessity heavy and cumbersome, and the record for actual service is on the whole favorable to the smaller and lighter surfboats adopted by our own Government. The proportionate loss of life from capsizing is considerably less with the surfboats. The self-righting boat is fourfold heavier than the other, weighing about four thousand pounds. Boats are being constantly improved and perfected, one of the latest devices being for self-bailing, by which water that may be "shipped," or fills the boat as the result of a capsize, is instantly expelled. A boat combining successfully the properties of self-righting and self-bailing would seem to be the nearest possible approach to the ideal.

The "Lyle gun" is the means adopted for effecting line communication with stranded vessels. It is of bronze, and of 2i-inch bore. It weighs with its carriage but a hundred and eighty-five pounds, and throws a shot weighing seventeen pounds. This projectile is a solid cylinder fourteen inches and a half in length, into the base of which is fixed an eyebolt for attaching the shot-line. The latter is from an eighth to a quarter of an inch in diameter, and pays out from a coil as the projectile flies upon its way. The aim is to carry the projectile directly over the vessel in distress. The line falling upon the deck is seized by the sailors, and by it a large line is hauled from the shore and made fast, affording means for the immediate use of the life-saving appliances. The Lyle gun will project a line, under favorable conditions, a distance of seven hundred yards. It is easily operated by day or night. During a storm at night great skillfulness of aim is necessary, as there is no guide save the dim light upon the swaying vessel. When the distance is not too great, the practiced eye rarely fails.

The vehicle in most common use, in this and other countries, for transporting persons to the shore, is the "breeches buoy." It is a primitive, simple, and yet most effectual means of saving life.