DEWEY BEACH, Del. - The Indian River Life-Saving Museum is looking keep the legacy of men called the "Ironmen of their time" alive.
The surfmen served on the Delaware coastline for nearly four decades, beginning in 1876. Their time has come and gone, but one museum is continuing the work of keeping their legacies alive.
Before the Coast Guard was the Life Saving Service. The lantern tour does its part to tell stories of these brave men.
"They really were the heroes of their time and what is really important for me as a Delawarean is these were local people. These were farmers, these were watermen," says historical interpreter Donna Racine.
Over the course of four decades Delawareans went out into the freezing ice cold waters and saved 419 sailors.
"They're out here in the winter, the absolutely crazy conditions. And they were the ones who were really going out whenever anyone else is looking for cover," says historical interpreter Jesse Shetrom.
Most wrecks occurred around or in the inlet due to the strong current. The 56 men who served attended 63 ship wrecks, losing seven men.
"Really it embodies that spirit that the Sussex (County resident), the Delawarean had to protect its people and the mariners that passed by these waters," said Racine.
The tour concludes on the beach with ghost tales passed down from the men who were housed here.
It's a piece of little known Delaware history that's a hit with visitors.
"You can see it in people's eyes when this program is over and kind of get emotionally invested in all of this and it's just so fun to see people that they have this new perspective on a very unknown part of Delawares history that really sheds a light on a much larger picture of American history that's often overlooked," said Shetrom.
The lantern tour, put on by the Delaware Seashore State Park, takes place weekly during the summer and sporadically during the winter.
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