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charles ellms : lifeboats and preservers, 1836 

Charles Ellms : Lifeboats and Life Preservers, 1836.

[Ellms, Charles]: Lifeboats and Life Preservers.
in Ellms, Charles (compiled by):
Shipwrecks and disasters at sea,

 or Historical narratives of the most noted calamities, and providential deliverances from fire and famine on the ocean ...
S.N. Dickinson, Boston, 1836.

Haithi Trust


Page 416

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Expedients for the Preservation of Mariners.

Though man be a helpless and perishable creature when
removed from the element appropriated for his existence, he is not altogether unprovided by nature with powers for contributing towards his own safety.
Strong, nervous, and
resolute, he may long contend with danger; and notwithstanding the preponderance of untoward circumstances may often effect his destruction, he is placed in many situations where exertions may be successfully used for self-preservation.
In the first place, every one liable to the casualties of the sea, ought to acquire the art of swimming.
This is
not difficult of attainment, and among the South Sea Islanders, water is an element as familiar as the air.
human body is in itself, somewhat lighter than the same bulk of water; and we can float conveniently for a considerable length of time, if we are possessed of sufficient self-confidence, and some art in balancing the body.
always long enough, it must be admitted, for complete protection against the disasters which happen on the ocean, or
even on rivers or canals, on all of which such multitudes are scattered by the industrious and adventurous spirit of the age.

Nor, in cases of shipwreck, does the casual additional support of a mast, an oar, or a plank, always suffice to lend that buoyancy, on account of this unsteadiness, which the perils of the deep often demand.
More fixed appen
dages, of various descriptions, have at different periods been introduced to the notice of the public, under the appellation of life preservers; and boats upon a similar principle under the name of life boats, have been constructed, so as to be secured against, even when filled with water, and in the most tempestuous weather for the purpose of rescuing from destruction those who are ready to perish.

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The most simple Life Preserver, is a small square open wooden frame, used by the Chinese, and other oriental nations, and so common that few vessels venture to sea without several of them.

Fig. 9

The frame is formed of four pieces of bamboo with projecting ends, united together by cords or jointers into a hollow square, which is drawn up from the feet to below the arms.
There it remains secure
from its own buoyancy pressing upwards, and it supports the head and shoulders above water.
Another simple ex
pedient is the cork jacket.
Its structure is of great sim
plicity, consisting merely of a canvass jacket with a number of pieces of cork sewed within or fastened to it.
The buoyancy of these supports the human body floating on the waves, while their thickness affords a defence against the rocks whereon a turbulent sea may dash the sufferer.But the buoyancy of cork has given way to the superior buoyancy of air, and jackets distended with this very light fluid, or attached vessels of other forms filled with it have been occasionally adopted. The simplicity and convenience of the life preserver invented by Schoffer must at once be perceived.
It consists of
a hollow cylinder, formed without a seam, and perfectly air tight, bent when distended with air and ready for use, as in figure 2; or it is what may be termed a cylindrical ring, also without the break which appears in the former, represented in figure 1;

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of this ring the external diameter is generally about 92 inches, the internal diameter about 12, and the diameter of the part containing the air about 5 1/2, the dimensions varying of course, by being specially adapted to the size of the person by whom it is designed to be employed.
its form, it is well fitted for the place which it occupies, being situated beneath the arms; it does not press painfully upon the chest, and the suspension or support being placed so high, enables the lower part of the body and extremities, to act as a pendulum, in keeping the wearer vertical or restoring him to that position, if thrown aside by the force of the waves.
The two holes are in one ring,
the only openings, and receive a stop-cock to which an ivory pipe is fixed.
Through this pipe the air is injected by the
mouth, and retained by the stop cock, the adjustment and inflation only occupying the short space of one minute: when unexpanded, it folds up into a very small compass, so as to be conveyed in the pocket: and is also very portable, its weight being about a pound.
They are made
of cloth and leather made air tight, but india rubber is the best article to make them of.
Mattresses filled with cork
shavings have been recommended as a necessary precaution in cases of shipwreck, as they can be strapped on to persons.
Less attention, however, seems to have been excited by these and analogous expedients, than to the construction of vessels, which should either be capable of resisting the effects of a stormy sea, or adapted to bring the crew of a stranded vessel to a level shore.
Even the rudest savages
have constructed boats better calculated for the safety ;of mariners than those which are by far the most part, employed by civilized nations acquainted with all the mechanical arts.
The canoes of the South Sea islanders, for example, are provided with wooden frames, by us called out-riggers, extending from each side between the prow and the stern, which preserve their equilibrium in the sea.
Though these
vessels, being long and narrow, are incapable of resisting the sudden influence of the wind, and would heel to art
alarming degree, the dipping of the out-rigger counterbalances the pressure, and restores the canoe to its proper position.
Boats of a construction widely different, that

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equally adapted for preservation, are used by the savage inhabitants of the northern regions.
The Greenlanders,
with ribs of whalebone, form a kind of frame, which is covered with the skins of animals stitched together with
sinews, instead of planks, for a boat.
A deck is made
also of skins, wherein there is a single round hole to admit the body of the savage occupying it.
The hole is carefully
stuffed, or the edges drawn up around him, and here he gits with a paddle to guide his course, while his slight embarkation excludes the water, and from the buoyancy of its materials, is securely borne over the loftiest wave.

The real origin of the life boat is probably unknown.

It is extremely probable that the earlier navigators were not unacquainted with boats somewhat resembling certain parts of the structure of those which are now most approved.
The curved keel, the application of cork, or con
fined air, and boats fashioned so as to row either way, are not entirely new inventions; and the construction of a boat peculiarly adapted to keep the sea has been longer a desideratum than is generally supposed.
A life boat in
vented by Mr. Greathead, has obtained great and deserved celebrity.
Its invention originated from a deplorable ca
tastrophe which happened near Tynemouth, England, in 1789.
A vessel struck on the Herd Sands during a storm,
when owing to the imminent danger, it proved impossible to relieve them from the shore; and the unfortunate crew dropped one after another into the sea, in sight of numerous spectators.
Deeply affected by their fate, the principa
l inhabitants offered a premium for the invention of a life boat.
Mr. Henry Greathead, had remarked that if a
spheroid be divided into quarters these will float on the curvature; that they cannot be overset or sunk, and will be safely borne over broken water.
He thence conceived
that a boat, of a figure somewhat analogous, would possess the same properties, and be profitably employed in the deliverance of the shipwrecked persons.
The first attempt
to render it serviceable was successful in 1790.
And it has
since contributed to the preservation of thousands of valuable lives.
Though more generally recommended to be thirty feet long, ten broad, and three feet four inches deep in the

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centre, the size must be considered arbitrary, and unquestionably it is not that on which its properties depend.
keel is a curving beam of great convexity downwards; fore and aft the boat is flat below, and the stem and stern rake towards each other.
It is probably on this figure, that any
properties possessed by the boats depends, and from the complete buoyancy obtained by the sides being cased with seven hundred pounds of cork, four inches thick, proceeding sixteen inches down from the gunwale. The oars are short, and adapted in an iron thole, with a grammet, which enables the rowers, on facing round to row either way ; and steering is accomplished by an oar at each end.
peculiar figure of this boat is conceived to be well adapted for a stormy sea; the cork on the sides affords perfect security against its being immerged, and also proves a mutual defence on approaching the vessel which is to be relieved, or in landing the crew on a rocky shore.
clergyman of the Orkney Islands, named Bremner, proposed a method of fitting up any boat so as to be a preservative in time of danger.
This plan is extremely simple.

One common empty cask is to be secured by lashings with- in the bow of the boat, and others within the stern in the same manner, besides which, vacant spaces close to their place are to be filled up with bags or bundles of cork.
horizontal bar of iron or lead is also to be attached to the keel within the boat.
If a boat be purposely prepared,
ring-bolts are to be fixed to the keel, through which the ropes are passed within, and through augur holes bored in the keel without; and if the casks be purposely prepared likewise, they have slings with two eyes on each end, the great object being to retain them exactly in their places.
But if there are no ring-bolts, the inventor of this method advises that holes be immediately bored in the sides, or the
bottom of the boat to pass through the ropes securing the casks, because no danger will be produced, as the buoyancy
immediately begins to be exhibited on the water reaching the casks.
The boat is always supposed to be full of
water, and to float by means of the united levity of the casks and cork contained in it; therefore, though people sitting in midships, be in the water, they will not increase the weight, or sink her deeper, but the reverse. One great

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recommendation of this plan, is the facility with which it may be adopted; for there are scarce any ships unprovided with empty casks, and means may always be found to secure them in the boat, when extreme necessity shall induce the crew thus to trust themselves to the waves.

We have given an engraving of a boat fitted up for a life boat on the principle invented by Mr. Bray by means of air boxes secured, under the thwarts.
Its simplicity is
conspicuous in the circumstance of its being applicable to all boats without the introduction of any incumbrance or inconvenient fitting up, and its extensive utility appears to be sufficiently evident from its being applicable to all boats of whatever form or dimensions; and by its affording the opportunity of bringing into operation, without any attendant inconvenience, a very great body of confined air, the superior buoyancy of which is well known, one cubic foot of air being capable of supporting 50 lbs.

Capt. G. TV. Manly, invented the following plan for the preservation of shipwrecked seamen, which has been attended with signal success on the coast of Great Britain, where it has been adopted.
After the means
of communication have been effected between a stranded vessel and the shore. by a rope attached to a shot projected from a mortar, it is often found a matter of great difficulty to make the persons on board understand how they are to

Mr. Burn's Life Boat.

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act, and many lives have been lost through this cause alone.
In order to remedy this evil, and to render this
system of relief mutually and immediately understood, the following instructions are submitted :
Directions to persons on board Vessels stranded on a Lee-Shore.
It is your duty, as well, no doubt, as your inclina
tion, to use every honorable and manly endeavor to save the vessel and cargo committed to your care, and to satisfy yourself that these have failed before it is a justifiable resource to run the ship on shore, for the preservation of your own lives.
On the determination being made to run
for the beach, every exertion should be made to keep your vessel off the shore till high water, and then if canvass is or can be set, steer your vessel stem on, with as much force as possible, making signals of distress to attract the notice of the people on shore, who will collect at the point most favorable for the purpose, and prepare to assist you; endeavor to run for the spot where they are collected.
Shipmasters, on these occasions must enforce their authority more than ever, and seamen must be more than usually obedient, as the safety of all on board will frequently depend on this.
Whether a vessel is thus run on shore, or is
stranded, without any chance of time or place, the following directions will equally apply, and must be minutely observed and practised :-
Collect in some safe part of the
vessel, ready to apply as occasion may require, all your small lines and ropes, buoys, pieces of cork, or small kegs, (such as seamen keep spirits in,) snatch, tail, and other blocks, with a warp or hawser clear, axes, knives, &c.; all these may be of great use.
Attend to the people on shore,
and observe if they have a boat, or are getting one to the

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spot, as their first object would be to launch it to you, and to throw a line on board to you, to haul her off with; in that case they will make signal No. 1.
The signals, illus
trated by representations and their distinct meanings, will be hereafter described.
On receiving the line, you will secure
the end to such part of the vessel as may best draw the boat into a safe lee.
If the people on shore, after you have
received the line, make signal No. 2, you will bend the warp or hawser to the line, and they will draw it on shore, fearing to trust the boat to the small line.
When the bend
is made, and you are ready, make your signal No. 1. (which will be hereafter described, expressing yes.)
If, when you 
have got the line, the people on shore find you have not a warp ready, and wish you to haul on board by it a stouter
rope to haul the boat off with, they will make signal No. 3, to haul away, for you to receive a stout rope; secure it as before directed, and make your signal number one, which is also to denote you are ready, or their direction is complied with.

A boat, when it can be applied, is the prompt
est method of bringing a crew on shore.
Upwards of
twenty crews have been saved by them.
If, when you have received the line, and observe there is no boat at hand, and the signal on shore (No. 3) is made, you will haul in, and receive by it the end of a stout rope, and a tail-block rove with a small line, both ends of which are kept on shore; make the stout rope and the tail of the block well fast round your mast, higher or lower, as circumstances may require, and the tail-block close below the large rope.
On your making signal No. 1, denoting to have
complied with the directions of having carefully secured the stout rope and tail-block, the people on shore will haul taut the stout rope, and place on it a snatch-block, (with a sling hanging to it large enough to hold a man;) and making the ends of the small line fast to the lower part. of the snatch-block, they will work it to the ship, when
on a man getting into the sling, he will, by pulling down the slide or button, secure himself by the waist to the upper part of the sling, prevent the possibility of falling

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out; and on seeing the clasp* of the block forelocked, make signal No. 1, that all is ready, the people on shore will haul the man to the land, and in the same manner will travel the snatch-block back, until every person is got from the wreck, as here represented.
Crews have thus been brought
in safety from distances exceeding 240 yards from the shore, and also from wrecks to the top of a cliff.
If the vessel stranded have women, children, sick or infirm persons on board, who could
not go aloft, instead of a snatch-block and sling, a cot, with lashings, to prevent persons being washed out maybe worked in the manner just described.

If the stranded vessel is driven among the rocks, and the persons in danger of being killed, or severely wounded from the surf dashing them with force against the rocky beach, a hammock, stuffed with cork parings or shavings, as here represented, would protect them from injury.

If the people on shore have only the means of projecting a line for your preservation, they will make signal No 4, for you to secure it, and draw on board so much as will fully reach from the vessel to the shore, to ensure a continued communication; with it make a clove hitch, which is to be put over the shoulders and arms of those to be brought on shore, and draw it tight in the manner here

This remark is necessary, from the omission of the clasp being here represented, that should cross the mouth of the block.

[Ellms, Charles]: Lifeboats and Life Preservers.
Ellms, Charles (compiled by):

Shipwrecks and disasters at sea,

 or Historical narratives of the most noted calamities, and providential deliverances from fire and famine on the ocean ...
S.N. Dickinson, Boston, 1836.

Haithi Trust

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Geoff Cater (2014) : Charles Ellms : Lifeboats and Preservers, 1836.