Daring Save

In January 1885, during one of the coldest, most violent snowstorms, the schooner Australia ran aground near the Cape Elizabeth Light and the schooner’s captain was swept away by ferocious waves. The two surviving sailors clung to the icy rigging and were nearly blinded from exposure to the cold.

When keeper Marcus Hanna tried and failed to haul them in with a line, he waded into the numbing water up to his waist—in air temperatures at ten degrees below zero—and finally managed to throw a line to the deckhands. Then he towed them to safety.

For his valor, Hanna was awarded the Life-Saving Service’s Gold Medal. Ten years later, he was also awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his earlier Civil War bravery, making him the only person to receive both accolades.

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