THE LIFE SAVERS OF LONE HILL
 IT was midwinter when the schooner Louis V. Place
weighed anchor and started on its last voyage from
Baltimore to New York. From the first day out the
weather was uncommonly severe. The wind was strong,
sometimes rising to a gale. The waves buffeted the
little vessel unmercifully. But the captain, hoping
that the morrow would bring fairer skies and smoother
seas, held manfully on his course.
As the schooner advanced northward the weather grew
colder. A drizzling rain set in, which turned to sleet
as it fell. Soon the sails were stiff as boards, the
ropes were frozen and unmanageable, the decks were
coated with ice, the schooner was drifting at the mercy
of the winds and the waves.
No land was in sight, but the captain supposed that the
vessel was not far off Sandy Hook. Soundings were
made, and it was found that the sea was not deep. The
schooner was being rapidly carried toward the shore.
 The captain ordered the anchors to be let go. But
these also were covered with ice, the cables were
frozen stiff; it was impossible for the crew to move
them. As a last resort the halyards were cut; but the
sails were so stiff with ice that they held to their
places. The rudder also was unmanageable. Nothing
could check the onward course of the vessel.
The crew, half-frozen and hopeless after four days and
nights of exposure, held on to whatever supports were
at hand, and gazed helplessly at the raging sea before
them. Then land was seen—a long, low shore, with
lines of furious breakers dashing against it. It was
not Sandy Hook, but the opposite coast of Long Island.
Scarcely had the men had time to realize their danger
before the schooner was in the midst of the breakers.
There was a terrific shock. The vessel trembled like a
leaf, careened to one side, and came to a sudden stop.
The breakers flooded the decks.
The crew, eight men in all, climbed with such speed as
they could into the rigging, where they held on to the
icy ropes, scarcely hoping that any succor would ever
 The schooner was still about four hundred yards from
the shore, wedged fast upon a rock. The waves swept
over her from stem to stern. The surf was full of
broken ice. Huge cakes of ice were piled upon the
beach. Flurries of snow filled the air and sometimes
hid the shore from view. How hopeless, indeed, was the
case of those eight men clinging for life to the
ice-covered rigging of that doomed vessel!
The Life Savers at Lone Hill station, not far away,
were soon aware of the wreck, and every man hastened to
the shore, eager to lend a helping hand to the crew.
To send a boat out through that icy surf in the midst
of those furious breakers, was plainly impossible. The
only chance was to throw a line out over the wreck in
such a way that the sailors could grasp it and then be
drawn over it to the shore.
The wreck gun that is used for throwing such lines was
hastily put in readiness. But before it could be
fired, two of the sailors, overcome by their terrible
privations, relaxed their hold upon the rigging and
dropped into the merciless sea. The snow flurries were
now so frequent that the wreck
 could be seen only at rare intervals. The first line
that was thrown fell far away from the mark and was
drawn in without having touched the vessel.
THE FIST LINE FELL FAR AWAY FROM THE MARK.
The second shot was better aimed. It carries the line
directly into the rigging and right into the midst of
the clinging sailors. They were so stiff with the
cold, however, that not one of them could move
sufficiently to reach it. A third line and then a
fourth were thrown with the same result. The poor
fellows in the rigging were plainly unable to help
The snow fell faster. The mist from the raging
breakers was frozen in mid-air. For three hours the
Life Savers were unable to catch even a glimpse of the
wreck. When at last the snow ceased falling and the
clouds began to scatter, the ice-covered masts were
again seen pointing upward above the surf. But instead
of six men clinging there, there were now only four;
the other two and silently dropped into the sea.
And now night came—night of storm and peril and
nameless dread. The Life Savers built a beacon fire on
the shore and anxiously watched for any clearing of the
weather or any abatement in the
 fury of the waves. The hours passed, oh so slowly,
with only the roaring of the sea and the fearful
dashing of the waves!
The gray dawn at last began to dispel the darkness, and
all eyes were turned toward the wreck. Had any of the
sailors lived through that dreadful night? Yes, there
was one with his arm around the mizzenmast. And there
was another in the rigging close by him. Both of these
moved and were alive. The bodies of the other two
sailors were also there; but they were frozen stiff and
motionless among the ropes and cordage. The life had
gone out of them in the night.
The sailor in the rigging seemed to be trying to cheer
his comrade by the mast. Now and then he would strike
him with the end of a rope. Now and then he would
seize him by the shoulders and shake him. The Life
Savers imagined they could hear him saying: "Don't give
up, old fellow! Help is at hand. We'll soon be
But the mizzenmast was plainly giving way. Every time
the waves washed up against it, it would tremble and
lean a little farther over. The sailor in the rigging
noticed this. He looked over
 to the mainmast and saw that it was a much safer
place. But he would not go there alone. He seized his
comrade's arm and tore it loose from the ice around the
mizzen. Then, partly by coaxing and partly by force,
he caused him to follow him down to the wave-swept deck
and across the perilous way to the mainmast. Creeping,
tottering, groping, the two sailors at last climbed
into the main rigging, and waited there for whatever
fate might be in store for them.
All day long, the Life Savers upon the beach tried
every device to rescue the shipwrecked men. Just
before sunset the ninth line was shot out. It fell
squarely across the wreck, just in front of the
mainmast. If this failed, there would be no further
The sailor who had shown so much care for his comrade
climbed slowly down through the rigging. He was so
stiffened with the cold that he could scarcely bend
over to pick up the line. He slipped. He fell. Then
he crept carefully, painfully, back into the rigging.
The line was lost.
"The last chance, and it has failed," said the men on
shore; and some of them burst into tears.
 Another beacon fire was built, and the men prepared for
a second night of watching. But hope had gone out of
It was nearly midnight when they noticed that the storm
had abated. The surf was not so strong; the breakers
were less furious; the sea was clearer of ice.
"It's now or never, boys!" cried the keeper.
All hands together laid hold of the surfboat. They
launched her amid the rushing waves. With willing
hands and strong arms her brave-hearted crew drive her
right out through the boiling, roaring, dashing
breakers, and at last brought her alongside the
ice-covered wreck. The two sailors were taken off, and
the boat with all on board was driven safely to the
After forty hours of heroic effort the Life Savers of
Lone Hill returned to their station. Their toil had
not been in vain, for they carried the two rescued
sailors with them.
The brave fellow who had done so much to encourage and
help his shipmate soon recovered and was able to take
care of himself. He gave his name as William Stevens,
and he was but a common
 sailor. His unselfish heroism in behalf of his
companion had doubtless been the means of saving his
own life. Few men have better merited knighthood.
His comrade was too far gone to be much benefited by
any help that could be given him. He died a few days
later in a hospital, whither his rescuers had sent him.
As for the Life Savers, the legislature of New York
passed resolutions in praise of their heroism, and each
one received a suitable medal of honor "Such a
service," said the legislature, "belongs to humanity,
and deserves universal admiration."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics