In the 19th century the loss of life at sea was quite high.The seas were just as treacherous but the ships were just not as able to handle the high seas. The sailors were not in posession of satelitte wheather forcasts. Storms would whip up in minutes. Sailors would lose their lives regularly. Lifeboatmen rowed out to sea in little rowing boats. Every effort was made to save lives at seas. On Monday 8th June, 1861 experiments were carried out to test the efficiency of a new life preserving apparatus. Gathered on the banks of the Humber were Mr Finn and Mr Forgie of Nottingham who made the lifebelt. Also present were Mr Thornton(also of Nottingham) and Captain Grenfell of HMS Cornwallis. All those present declared it to be "superior to any life-buoy hitherto in use".
"Mr Thornton, without divesting himself of any of his clothing, put on the lifejacket, and then jumped into, or rather on the water. He floated on his back with so little inconvenience, that he was able to take a cigar out of his cap,light it and smoke it with the greatest of ease. One of the sailors put on a life-vest, and the other a life-buoy and then took to the water. Mr Thornton handed his cigar to one of them,who in turn passed it to the other. The former gentleman also took out of his pocket a flask of brandy of which the three partook."
Mr Thornton concluded the series of experiments by firing a brace of pistols, which had been kept from the water by been kept in a bladder. In order to demonstrate how he could move easily and direct his fire. Mr Thornton constantly changed his position and in other ways showed that he had perfect control in his actions."
Captain Grenfell expressed "great pleasure" at witnessing the experiments. He promised to use his best endeavours to promote its general adoption.
source - Scarborough Mercury 1861