Chicamacomico Life Saving Station

I have always been fascinated by the lifeguards in the Outer Banks’ ocean rescue.  When I was little, I wanted to be a lifeguard at the beach, getting paid to stay out in the sun, listening to the relaxing sounds of the ocean.  Thinking about it now, though, I don’t think I’d be physically up to the task set before the ocean rescue team.  This doesn’t stop my fascination, though.

Today’s ocean rescue services occupy a completely different role than they did when they were first started in the 1840s.  In response to an alarming number of shipwrecks along the Outer Banks coast, the U.S. government authorized seven life saving stations to be built in order to provide land based ocean rescue: aiding shipwrecked crews stranded out on the shoals, as well as providing a safe haven after rescue.  Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, established in 1874, was the first in North Carolina, and today stands as one of the most complete lifesaving station complexes on the Atlantic Coast.

1874 station

1911 station

Nestled between the dunes and overlooking the ocean, the quaint Chicamacomico Life Saving Station contains 8 original buildings from the 1874 and 1911 stations, and displays a number of life saving devices, such as a restored Beebe-McLellan Self-Bailing Surfboat.

Chicamacomico Historical Society

Lifeboat at Chicamacomico. © Chicamacomico Historical Society

The Coast Guard decommissioned and subsequently abandoned the Chicamacomico site in 1954.  The National Parks Service took over its operation, but the stations and property were eventually sold and/or given to the Chicamacomico Historical Association, who now runs the property as a museum.

Further Reading:
Chambers, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class L.F. ‘Coast Guard Auxiliarist keeps graveyard surfmen’s history alive.’ A Ghost Station’s Keeper. 2011.  Web. 24 July 2013. http://www.coastalguide.com/helmsman/ghost-stations-keeper.shtml

Chicamacomico Life Saving Station. ‘Chicamacomico Station History.’ Chicamacomico Life Saving Station. 5 April 2013. Web. 23 July 2013 http://www.chicamacomico.net/Station_History.htm

‘Chicamacomico Life Saving Station.’ National Marine Sanctuaries. Youtube. 12 October 2012. Web. 24 July 2013. http://monitor.noaa.gov/obxtrail/videos_lss.html

Historic Albemarle Tour. ‘Historic Albemarle Tours- Chicamacomico.’ Historic Albemarle Tours. 17 March 2013. Image. 24 July 2013 http://historicalbemarletour.org/north-carolina-chicamacomico-lifesaving-station.htm

Mosher, Katie. ‘TREASURES OF CHICAMACOMICO: Architectural Gem Yields Rich Historical Bounty.’ Coastwatch 24 September 2011. Web. 23 July 2013 http://www.coastalguide.com/nc/seagrant/chicamacomico01.htm

NC Beaches. ‘U.S. Lifesaving Service and U.S. Coast Guard.’ NC Beaches. 2007. Web. 24 July 2013 http://www.ncbeaches.com/Features/History/GraveyardOfTheAtlantic/LifesavingServiceAndCoastGuard/

North Carolina’s Outer Banks. ‘Chicamacomico: A Testimony of Heritage.’ North Carolina’s Outer Banks. 2013. Web. 23 July 2013 http://www.outer-banks.com/history.asp

U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association. ‘Pulling Surfboats.’ U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association. 24 July 2013. Image. 24 July 2013 http://www.uslife-savingservice.org/pulling_surfboats

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