Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shipwrecks, Life-Saving, and the Story of Takanassee

In centuries past, New Jersey was the mariner’s nightmare—arguably the deadliest coast in the world. It is said that if all the ships wrecked along its expanse were laid end to end, the string of sunken hulls would stretch from Sandy Hook to Cape May. A deadly combination of shallow and shifting shoals, strong in-shore currents, heavy ship traffic, North Atlantic storms, and primitive navigational and weather forecasting tools together made the Jersey coast the “graveyard of the Atlantic.”

An appeal for help came from a NJ Congressman William Newell (later governor). At his urging, the federal government appropriated funds to establish life-saving stations along the coast. The first federally-equipped station was built at Sandy Hook. Not long after, another was set up at Takanassee beach in Long Branch.

The three distinctive buildings that still stand at Takanassee beach were part of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 in response to the alarming loss of life and property from ships wrecked off our shores.

In 1915, the Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard, and Guardsmen continued for decades to operate out of Takanassee. The stations were deactivated in 1928 by the Coast Guard, and the site eventually became the Takanassee Beach Club.

Local historians Dr. Richard Fernicola and Jim Foley lent artifacts as well as their expertise to the current Township of Ocean Historical Museum exhibit, Shipwrecks, Life-Saving, and the Story of Takanassee. This fascinating tale of the treacherous nature of early sea travel, New Jerseys’ role in the country’s response and the heroism of Life Saving Station #5 is featured at the Eden Woolley House, 703 Deal Road, Ocean.

In conjunction with this exhibit, on Tuesday, March 6 at 7:15 pm at the Old Oakhurst School Auditorium, 163 Monmouth Road, Oakhurst, these popular guest speakers will bring to life engaging tales of tragic maritime wrecks, heroic deeds of early life-savers, as well as an update on the fate of the historic buildings of the former lifesaving station.

The program is open to the public free of charge. (Donations are welcome.) Refreshments will be served.

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