The law meticulously describes how people and cargo should be handled when a ship is stranded. This was to ensure that the ship owner did not suffer an injustice. Many authorities were involved in the subsequent work.
The rescue brigade
When a ship was stranded, the first thing that happened was that the crew from the nearest rescue station brought the crew ashore, either using the rocket apparatus or a lifeboat. It often went well, but occasionally the rescue team could not reach the ship and the crew drowned.
The shore officer
The shore officer was the local representative of the authorities. When a ship was stranded, the shore officer had to provide accommodation and, if necessary, a burial for the crew. The shore officer’s estate had extra guest rooms, as well as rooms for storing the drowned. The shore officer sent word to the salvaging guild and posted guards by the ship and salvaged cargo to prevent looting. It was also the shore officer’s task to collect the goods that washed ashore along the beach. Finally, the shore officer had to notify the chief of police, who led the process, and the customs officer, who levied duty on the salvaged goods.
The image shows Shore Officer N. C. Kirk and his wife from Vrist, c. 1920.
The local consul from the stranded ship's country of origin was summoned and was obliged to inform the captain of his duties and rights. In Lemvig, there were a number of consuls appointed for different countries. In the image, Consul Mathias Møller, who was the Norwegian and Swedish consul in Lemvig.
The captain of the stranded ship (or, in his absence, the shipping company) paid for the salvage work, guarding of the salvaged goods, subsistence allowance for customs officers and accommodation for the crew. The captain could demand that equipment and cargo be released upon payment of the stranding costs, or he could agree to the stranded goods being auctioned. The latter was the most common. The picture shows Oscar von Krämer, the captain of Russian frigate Alexander Nevskij which was stranded at Harboøre in 1868.
The salvage guild
All adult men with no criminal record could join the salvage guild. When a ship was stranded, the salvage guild immediately set about emptying it of cargo, equipment, provisions, etc. Materials from the wreck, such as wood and ropes, were also salvaged. Helping to salvage the cargo of shipwrecks could provide a healthy additional income. In around 1980, salvage guilds were abolished, as too few ships became stranded.
Stranding auctions were announced in the newspapers, and the proceeds from the auction initially covered the costs of the stranding. Any surplus funds went to the ship’s owners. Only the most valuable inventory and the ship's papers were sent back to the owners. When Russian frigate Alexander Nevskij sank in 1868, the cannons and the figurehead were sent back to Russia. The rest was auctioned off.
Goods that washed ashore belonged to the state. The shore officer gathered it at his estate and, each spring, it was sold at a stranding auction. In principle, the system is still in effect, and it is still prohibited to gather timber and beached goods on the shore. Today, there are not many auctions held, as very few goods are washed ashore. The picture is from a stranding auction at Shore Officer Christian Ørum’s place in Vrist in 1978. Amongst the bidders, auctioneer Holger Østergaard can be seen with the auction hammer.