20090828_Rocket Post – Robin Hoods Bay Cliff Tops
Where : Just north of Robin Hoods Bay Village, North York Moors / North Sea Coast.
Map : 1:25,000 OS Outdoor Leisure map North York Moors NE sheet
Grid ref. : 977,015
Whilst on the coast path north of Robin Hoods Bay Village, I came upon a strange looking pole or post in the middle of a field on the top of the cliffs, and at first guess I thought it might have been a beacon used in the past to warn shipping of the rocky perils below – I was close, but wrong! …. Nearby was an info’ board… and here’s a transcript of what it says … I’m sure the publishers won’t mind me reproducing it word-for-word as they’ve already put the info’ out for public consumption.
Rescued by Rocket
Rocket posts were once used by the coastguard to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailors. Rockets enabled life saving equipment to reach ships stranded off this treacherous stretch of coast and people to be brought back to dry land.
An endless rope
Rockets created an endless rope connection between the ship and the shore. They carried a thin line out to the vessel and the crew tugged on this to find the whip (endless rope). A thicker rope (hawser), strong enough to carry people, was then sent out along the whip and secured to the mast.
“Stand by to fire!”
This “iron monster” sprung into the midst of the wildest storm with a tremendous gush of fire and smoke and a hissing shriek. A bright arc of light marked its path through the dark night sky. The rocket’s force was so great that the person had to light the fuse and run for cover.
Saved by a pair of shorts
When everything was ready, a “breeches buoy” was sent to the ship along the hawser. This circular cork lifebuoy had a pair of canvas shorts (breeches) hanging underneath, in which individuals were hauled ashore.
A true story
On 25 January 1936 a steam ship called the Heatherfield became stranded off Robin Hood’s Bay in low visibility at low tide.
By the time the rocket reached the ship, several people had already swum ashore but the rest were rescued in the breeches buoy. The captain was the last to leave and gave a huge cheer as he was hauled up the cliff, carrying a canary in a cage! The coastguard received the Rescue Shield for saving so many lives.
Rocket posts were once common along North Yorkshire’s cliff tops. They were used by the coastguard and life saving volunteers to practice rescues using the breeches buoy. A coastguard would climb the mast to act as a stranded mariner and other members of the rescue team would play the part of the stricken ship’s crew.
This post is an exact replica of the original, which was removed after suffering the effects of time and weather.
Well, now you know as much as me about North Yorkshire Rocket Posts, and looking at where the post is situated these are some mean high cliffs to be hauling someone up from the sea … I’m sure you’ll agree.
I hope you found this of interest.
Next post/walk … A 2nd Dawn Explore on Boggle Hole Beach.