Chicamacomico Life-saving Station
Visitors will find heroes, the early history of US Life-Saving Service/US Coast Guard in North Carolina and the home of the state’s first trained, shore-based rescue responders at Rodanthe’s Chicamacomico Life-saving Station. Chicamacomico was the first of seven Life-Saving Stations built in North Carolina in 1874 and is one of the most unique historical maritime sites on the East coast. The original building at Chicamacomico, commissioned Dec. 4, 1874, was the first Life-Saving Service staffed in North Carolina. It houses all of the equipment for fundamental Life-Saving Service training, such as drill pole, breeches buoy and cart, a rare life-car and original surfboat.
Chicamacomico features two original Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard station buildings and their accompanying structures, such as cook houses, stable, water towers, a potable water beehive cistern, and assorted period rescue equipment. The unique historic site is carefully preserved and protected by the Chicamacomico Historical Association with help of dedicated local volunteers and generous contributors.
The US Coast Guard recognizes the 1918 “Mirlo” rescue by the Chicamacomico station as one of the top rescues in maritime service’s history. Late in World War I, daring, well-trained Chicamacomico surfmen, led by the station’s Keeper John Allen Midgett, saved 42 sailors of the British tanker Mirlo from a fiery Atlantic after the ship was struck by a torpedo from German U-boat 117. The actual surfboat No. 1046 used in the Mirlo rescue, photos, interviews, period and replica equipment which would have been used by these heroes and a sense of their daily lives can be found at the Chicamacomico site.
Another Surfman, Rasmus Midgett, who trained at Chicamacomico in 1888-90, was riding his horse on patrol for Gull Shoal Station in Aug. 1899,when he single-handedly rescued ten victims from the barkentine Priscilla. The Coast Guard recognizes that rescue as one of the top ten in the Coast Guard’s long history. Photos, a door from the “Priscilla,” given to Rasmus for his heroism, a replica of Rasmus’ gold life-saving medal, and furniture from Rasmus’ house are on display at the Chicamacomico museum. A great, great grandson, Ernie Foster, provided Chicamacomico with a photo of the gold medal that Rasmus received for the daring rescue and an inspiring, heartfelt oral history of his great, great grandfather’s extraordinary “presence of mind”.
Dozens of courageous rescues took place at Chicamacomico between 1874 and 1954. Both stations, the 1874 and the1911, which replaced it were built to withstand storms, shifting sand, the ravages of time and to provide a safe haven for lifesaver and wreck victims. The Chicamacomico site is lovingly preserved and today provides a window into the history of the ordinary and heroic lifesavers of the Outer Banks
Visitors get a chance to tour the site at their own pace. Each room displays maritime artifacts and stories. The self-bailing motor surfboat No. 1046, the boat from the famous 1918 “Mirlo” rescue is housed in the original Chicamacomico 1874 building. Artifacts from Rasmus Midgett’s family are here. Dailys, Hoopers, Pughs, O’neals, Grays, Wescotts, Williams and many other Hatteras Island families served at this Life-Saving/Coast Guard station and are represented here. The lives of Hatteras Island Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard stalwarts, the Midgett family, are intricately woven into the stories of Chicamacomico.