In 1874, the U.S. Life-Saving Service was begun with the building a chain of stations along the Outer Banks and Virginia coastlines, at the points of greatest danger to ocean-going vessels. The U.S. Life-Saving Service was the forerunner to today’s U.S. Coast Guard.
A visit to the Chicamacomico (chick-a-ma-co-mick-o) Life-Saving Station on Hatteras Island is an eye-opening glimpse into an early era of U.S. maritime history. Bring your family and be transported back in time as you visit the seven historical buildings including the 1874 station, the 1911 Life-Saving Station, the Museum, and some out-buildings including two cookhouses, stables, and a tractor shed.
Videos chronicling the treacherous rescues performed by the brave surf men in small rowed lifeboats will hold you spellbound. As you let your imagination roam you’ll marvel at the tremendous obstacles facing these men who were determined to row out into the breakers to rescue people in distress with no guarantee of returning.
Just one of the fascinating rescues happened on August 16, 1918, just off the Outer Banks, when the British tanker SS Mirlo was torpedoed by a German submarine almost directly opposite the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station. Surfboat #1046 made 4 attempts to launch into the surf. Finally afloat, the crew rowed 6 miles out to sea, continued through a wall of flame, and made one of the most heroic water rescues of WWI.
The Life-Saving Station offers a number of programs, the most unique of which is the Beach Apparatus Drill which is performed each Thursday. Chicamacomico is one of only two places in the country that performs the complete Drill, including live black powder firing and live shot. The Life-Saving Station is the ONLY one in the country where the Beach Apparatus Drill is still performed by active-duty US Coast Guard personnel. Popularly known as the “Breeches Buoy Rescue Reenactment,” it is considered to be the best show on the Outer Banks!
Don’t miss this special place where your family can learn about the bravery of the surf men who first protected these shores and feel what life was like long ago on the Outer Banks.