The Life-boat Journal reports on Monsieur Silas’s invention in January 1860
The Life-boat Journal reports on Monsieur Silas’s invention in January 1860

Monsieur Silas, a French gentleman, approaches the RNLI Committee with his ‘inextinguishable lights’, which self-ignite on contact with water, burning brightly for at least half an hour and staying alight for much longer. They will indicate where to search for survivors of nocturnal shipwrecks when all other lights have gone out, or, if wind and tide are favourable, float to shore as a silent call for help.

The Committee has some pretty romantic expectations of this last capability: ‘Casting their brilliant rays far and near, [the lights] would have told their own tale, and would have been so many eloquent although silent appeals to the sympathy of those on shore.’

The RNLI’s Rear-Admiral McHardy and Captain Ward test the lights and find them to be true to their claims. They recommend them at once as a cheap item for all ships to carry onboard, and for lifeboats to carry them as a trial.