The Wreck of the Kate Harding

On Nov. 30, 1892, the British bark Kate Harding ran aground on Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass during a fierce gale and dangerous seas.

The Kate Harding

The Kate Harding

Surfmen from the Life-Saving stations Highland and High Head in Truro rescued the crew of 10 with a breeches buoy.

They shot a life line to the vessel, probably using a Lyle gun, and one by one pulled the crew from the wreck. They rode the sailors to safety along the lifeline in a leg harness. (Winslow Homer shows how it’s done in his painting The Life Line.)

According to the 1892 Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service, the surfmen fed the British sailors and cared for them for four days before sending them home.

The Life-Line, by Winslow Homer

The Life-Line, by Winslow Homer

“No letter of acknowledgment,” the Life-Saving Service reported.

This story updated in 2022.


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