Diamond City, NC Lifesaving Stations

Gold Medal Winners

Arthur T. Moore

At about noon at a change of shifts, Station Keeper of the Life Saving Service (now Coast Guard) at Cape Lookout, went to the lookout tower to observe off shore conditions and look for ships in possible distress. The weather was cold, foggy and generally stormy with rough seas. He and his men were, and had been, suffering with the influenza for several days. While gazing off shore through the glass a temporary break occurred in the fog and Keeper William H. Gaskill glimpsed a mast, well off shore, where no mast should be on the Lookout Shoals. To him that meant only one thing; they had to go see. That was what they were there for.

It mattered not that the sea was raging and the men weakened by the flu. They had to go. The following eight men would man the oars while Gaskill would be on the tiller. The Surfmen selected were Kilby Guthrie, Walter M. Yeomans, Tyre Moore, John A. Guthrie, James W. Fulcher, John E. Kirkman, Calupt T. Jarvis and Joseph L. Lewis. (Tyre Moore was probably the smallest man in the crew. He was the son of Aldin and Polly and the father of Eugene O. Moore, 25 years county Tax Collector, Dr. Laurie W. Moore and others.)

Even in their weakened condition they bundled up in clothing commensurate with the weather, then pulled on their oilskins. They then hauled down their life boat, launched it through very rough seas and breakers and were underway to find the ship belonging to the mast glimpsed by Gaskill. After about four hours of steady rowing through the rough seas of the Lookout Shoals they found the ship. It was hard and fast aground.

One crewman, parts of the ship’s lifeboats and most of the deckload of lumber had been washed overboard from the three-masted schooner. Six crewmen were still aboard, clinging to the lurching, canting deck.

The lifesaving boat could not get close enough to the ship to get the six sailors because of the rough seas and the drifting lumber and parts of the ship which greatly increased the danger to them.

Even under these conditions, Keeper Gaskill had his life boat to the leeward of the ship to be on hand if any of the men were washed off of the ship. Soon after dark they dropped anchor to be on hand for any eventuality.

At times it seemed the lifeboat would be up-ended or turned over by the wind and rough seas or it would be crushed by the drifting parts of lumber as they were anchored in the eddy to the leeward of the grounded vessel.

No sleep came for either crew that night. All were wet and cold and endeavoring to stay alive. It was probably the longest night of their lives. No food, no water, nor nourishment of any kind but cold, coughing, sneezing and cramps of the flu sufferers.

At dawn the life saving crew tried again and again to get the men but were driven back. Early in the morning the wind shifted and the seas calmed a bit, enough for the lifeboat to get close enough for a hand line to be thrown to the ship.

All six men were pulled through the seas to the lifeboat, one at a time. Each time a sailor was aboard the lifeboat, all wet, nearly drowned and freezing, he was wrapped in the oilskins of a crew member of the lifeboat. Flue or no flue, take care of the needy.

After all six sailors were aboard and wrapped in the oilskins, the nine-mile trip back to the Cape started. The crewmen, without their oilskins, would be kept warm by their continuous rowing.

Twenty-eight hours after they left, they were back at their station, all nine of them plus the rescued six crew men. All got their needed nourishment and sleep. The sick and those not sick.

Each member of the lifesaving crew received a Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroic work. It was one of the most daring ever recorded. The vessel was a three-masted school, a 292 ton vessel from Camden, Maine named Sarah D. J. Rawson.

From "Our Shared Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August 1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the story of the Banks communities.
Copyright 1995, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
All rights reserved.

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