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Volunteers needed for summer history program at Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum

January 9, 2018

The Indian River Life-Saving Station, located 1.5 miles north of the Indian River Inlet in Delaware Seashore State Park, is one of the few places left in the country that continues to tell the story of the brave surfmen who responded to hundreds of shipwrecks and saved countless lives off local coasts over 100 years ago.

The U.S. Life-Saving Service was formed in 1871 to respond to numerous shipwrecks that were occurring all up and down the Atlantic coast and around the Great Lakes. The service consisted of an entire network of Life-Saving Stations, housing surfmen who would conduct nightly beach patrols and perform heroic rescues in the harshest of weather conditions.

The Indian River Life-Saving Station was built in 1876, and it is run and maintained by Delaware State Parks. It is now restored as a museum to its 1905 appearance, and it is still in its original location. State park staff hold guided tours, historic reenactments and other maritime-themed events all throughout the year.

One of the most notable programs that takes place at Station Indian River is the Breeches Buoy Rescue Drill. This drill was developed as a means of rescuing shipwreck victims without putting the surfmen’s lives in danger. Instead of launching the heavy surfboat into angry seas, the surfmen would fire a line out to a ship in distress using a small cannon known as the Lyle gun.

From there, a series of ropes and pulleys would be rigged up between the ship and the shore, and the surfmen could rescue sailors by sending out the "breeches buoy" to the ship and then pulling them safely to shore. The breeches buoy was essentially a life ring buoy with a pair of pants sewn into the middle.

State park staff are now searching for a dedicated team of volunteers to help perform the famous Breeches Buoy Rescue Drill. Potential volunteers must be available for several days of training in the spring, and multiple dates throughout the summer to perform the reenactment. Volunteers must also be prepared for a physically demanding experience.

For more information, or to apply to be a volunteer, email IRLSS@state.de.us or go to destateparks.com to fill out the Delaware State Parks volunteer application.