Shipwrecks off the Moriches coast began with almost the first ships plying these waters. This area has the greatest number of shipwrecks of anywhere on Long Island.
The rising number of shipwrecks along the New Jersey and Long Island shores resulted in congress setting up the lifesaving stations along the beaches. They had a dory, line, some clothes and a stove. No one was hired to man them. They were manned by volunteers at first. In the Moriches area the sound of a cannon firing on a stormyor foggy night usually meant that there was a ship ashore. That meant that the local volunteers had to cross the bay in sailboats or rowboats before they could find the vessel and begin lifesaving operations.
The U.S. Lifesaving Service gradually came into being. The first beach huts with supplies and a boat were donated by the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York. These were often vandalized. After the 1854 stations werebuilt and a Superintendent for Long Island was hired. In 1856 keepers were appointed and surfmen hired.
In 1871, four maritime services were put under one superintendent, Sumner I. Kimball, namely Revenu-Marine,Steamboat Inspection, Marine Hospital, and Life Saving Services.
The Life-Saving Service was separated from the Revenue Service in 1878 with Kimball becoming head of the newly formed USLSS. It remained separate until 1915 when this service was combined with the Revenue Cutter Service to become the U.S. Coast Guard.
In these days the stations were built every 4 miles on the beach and were numbered. Moriches Station (#16), later #76 was located south of Swan Island on the dunes, just east of the present Moriches Inlet. The next station west was Forge River. The station dock is all that remains today. The building was damaged by the 1938 hurricane, but was used during WWII. It was sold by the GSA in the 1950s.
Potunk station was located a little east of the West Bay bridge at Westhampton. In the 50s the land was used to give Air Force families access to the beach. Four miles further east was the Quogue CG station. It survived the 1938 hurricane and is now a private house. The tower and boathouse doors still can be seen. The cupola appears on the charts and marks the boundary between the Moriches and Shinnecock AOR (Area of Responsibility).
In 1889 all Long Island stations were tied together by telegraph. It would appear that this was changed to telephone within a few years. Just previous to WWII the Coast Guard had a string of DF (direction Finding) stations along the coasts. They were tied together by telegraph lines and Coast Guard Radiomen had to be able to send and receive American and International Morse Code.
The iceboat was first developed by the Bellport Station so the surfmen could get to the mainland in winter. It worked in the water or on ice. It was further developed and the basic design is now used for iceboating and racing.
From 1878 to 1915 the USLSS depended on the surfboat, Lyle gun and breeches buoy to complete their mission successfully. Coston signal flares were used on beach patrols to warn ships that they were too close to the shore line.
The USLSS was composed of all local men. The Coast Guard changed that. The old system allowed members to serve part time so a bayman could work the bay in the better weather and service in the winter, when he was most needed.
Forge River, Smith Point and Bellport stations could be reached by the temporary bridge at Smith Point. Ice removed the original bridge and a patched up foot bridge was maintained there as late as 1943.
The old Shinnecock station was just east of the present inlet. It washed away in the 1938 hurricane along with the Moriches and Potunk (Westhampton) stations. The present Shinnecock Station was opened August 23, 1941.
COMSTA NMY was first located at Fort Tilden in Rockaway New York. It was moved to East Moriches in 1942 when the station and the RADSTA (radio station) were completed. It closed in 1972 when COMMSTA Boston assumed its responsibilities.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|