Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Blessings From My Home to Yours

May you have a safe and joyous Holiday Season

Monday, December 14, 2009

Olcott Light, NY

In the 1870s, piers were constructed on either side of Eighteen Mile Creek, so named because of its location eighteen miles east of the Niagara River, to form a protected Harbor at Olcott. Each pier extended over 800 feet into Lake Ontario, and the end of the western pier was marked in 1873 with a square, pyramidal tower built of wood.

Olcott was a port of entry, and ships from Canada would regularly offload grain there to be shipped to Rochester and Oswego. The port was staffed with a custom inspector, and a lighthouse keeper. R.M. Mathews served as a keeper for several years and was known for always wearing his uniform while on duty. Around 1930, the lighthouse, no longer needed, was relocated to a local yacht club. The tower slowly deteriorated over the years until about 1963 when the club decided the tower could not be restored and dismantled it.

Olcott, once a popular lakeside resort, is experiencing a rebirth, and the lighthouse was not the only historic icon to return to the city in 2003. A separate group had spent thee years raising funds to purchase and refurbish a 1928 Herschell-Spillman carousel to replace one that was part of the former Olcott Amusement Park. Besides the carousel, vintage rocket-ship, boat, car, and fighter-plane rides were also operational in 2004 as part of the children’s Olcott Beach Carousel Park. Rides on the carousel are only a quarter and are enjoyed both by children and the young at heart.

Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse, Ontario

Fort Niagara was established in 1726, on the northeastern shore of the Niagara River, facing Lake Ontario. "The French Castle", as the fort was nicknamed, was constructed in a region of growing importance to French fur traders. The fort was used as a day mark for the traders. The British captured Fort Niagara in 1759, during the French and Indian War. The British established a light on the roof of the castle in 1781. This light remained in service until 1796, when it was discontinued by the Americans.

The tower was dismantled in approximately 1803. A new beacon was established in 1823. A wooden tower was built on the roof of the castle. The Erie Canal (1825) and Welland Canal (1829), which bypassed the area, greatly reduced commercial traffic past the fort. In particular, the Welland Canal bypassed the Niagara River entirely, opening up direct travel between Lakes Erie and Ontario. (Previously, vessels would have needed to bypass Niagara Falls.)

In 1872, the light was replaced by the current structure, an octagonal gray stone tower outside the fort. The tower was originally 50 feet high. In 1900, the tower height was increased by 11 feet (above the protruding ring of arches on the present tower). The new space below the lantern room served as a keeper's watchroom, and the light was visible for 25 miles. The Coast Guard discontinued the light on May 13, 1993.

The lighthouse is currently leased to the Old Fort Niagara Association, which maintains the light as a museum and gift shop.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Umpqua River Lighthouse, OR

During the summer of 1849, the Coast Survey, headed by Alexander D. Bache, set out along the unmarked West Coast to determine the most beneficial locations for lighthouses. The Umpqua River mouth was selected as one of only six sites in the Oregon territory, which included the modern day states of Oregon and Washington.

Many thought the Umpqua River area would become a major shipping center due to its abundance of "green gold," the pristine timber rapidly being harvested. The turbulent force with which the river collided with the ocean created a great hazard for ships, and a beacon marking the spot was greatly needed. In 1888, $50,000 was appropriated for the construction of the second Umpqua River lighthouse. This time, with lesson learned, it was built further inland on a headland above the mouth of the river. The site is the furthest away from a river or ocean of all the lighthouses along the Oregon coast. Construction lasted from 1891 to 1894. The new lighthouse, a sibling to Heceta Head, is a 65-foot tower which stands 165 feet above sea level. The tower, brick overlaid with cement plaster, is five feet thick at the base and tapers to 21 inches thick at the parapet.

Today the Fresnel light is still shining. The lighthouse is part of the Umpqua River State Park and is managed by Douglas County Parks, who host a museum in a nearby historic Coast Guard building and conduct tours of the tower during the summer months. In 2007, Senator Gordon Smith introduced a provision as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 that would facilitate alternative housing arrangements for Coast Guard personnel allowing the area surrounding the Umpqua River Lighthouse to be converted into a county park.

The following was submitted by Ryan J. Cunningham:

It was the beginning of a prosperous time,
On the Umpqua River in 1849.
Long ago in days of old,
The timber industry began, known as “Green Gold.”
A lighthouse was needed to light the way,
Along the river, into the bay.
In the year of 1856, construction began.
But it was being built on the Indians hunting land.
So they stole the workers tools each day,
Causing their progress to be delayed.
A blast of dynamite scared the Indians away,
And soon all the tools were found.
Finally finishing the Cape Cod style duplex,
a task which proved to be complex.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s family moved into the place,
And the Keeper climbed the spiral staircase.
With its brilliant, red glow shining bright,
Leading ships out of the darkness, into the light.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay, Australia

Standing on a bald rocky headland with a precipitious cliff on the east side, and a sheer drop of approximately 100 metres, Cape Byron Lighthouse is the most easterly light in Australia, and one of the most powerful. The tower is constructed from concrete blocks made on the ground, lifted and cemented into position and finally cement rendered inside and out. This technique saved erecting framework. The eight ton optical lens was made by the French company, Societe des Establishment, Henry Lepante, Paris.

It is a dioptric first-order bivalve double flashing lens and contains 760 pieces of highly polished prismatic glass. The lens revolves on a bath of 7cwt mercury. The original illuminant was a concentric six-wick kerosene burner. This was replaced in 1922 by a vaporised kerosene mantle burner, which increased the intensity from 145,000 cp to 500,000 cp. In 1956, the light was converted to mains electricity increasing the intensity to 2,200,000 cd. The original lens weight driven mechanism, which works on a similar principle as that of a grandfather clock, was also replaced with an electric drive motor when the light was converted to electric operation. An auxiliary fixed red light is exhibited from the tower to cover Julian Rocks to the north.

The Event

The installation of the lighthouse was regarded as a great event in the district of Byron Bay. A banquet was arranged and special trains carried visitors from Lismore and Murwillumbah for the opening. The Premier of the day, the Hon. John See (later Sir John See), was accompanied by a number of his colleagues who left Sydney in the Government steamer 'Victoria'. However, bad weather prevented the vessel from arriving on time, and when the party should have been banqueting the steamer was some thirty miles away. She arrived in the bay just before midnight on 30 November 1901, but again, the weather made it impossible for the party to land until dawn.

The Lighthouse Opened

After landing, the party was informed that the banquet had taken place on the previous evening, and the necessary toast had been heartily drunk in the absence of the Premier and his party. Mr See, after making an acrobatic performance in landing, was cordially cheered, and later formally welcomed at the Great Northern Hotel. Interestingly, the lighthouse was christened with a rich and sumptuous vintage burgundy - not dashed against the tower to waste, but sipped by the ladies and legislators to compensate for having missed all the good things of the banquet held the night before.

Visit Cape Byron Headland Reserve page for more information.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lighthouse Vandalism

Such disturbing news that lighthouses in various of locations are being vandalized. How sad is this? More so, who would do such a thing?
And what can we do about it?

Some are covered with graffiti of swear words and vulgarity. That alone is terrible.

But to place names of the conspiritor, that's just plain stupidity. Did they want everyone to know who did it? What could anyone get out of this? One could never know. Lighthouses of guidance for the open shores and beauty for the lovers of light and enthusiasts, look on with wonder and amazement and hopes that somehow we all can help stop this uncivilized manner.

I am sure the Lights are being renovated and cleaned up. At least I hope. If I could do anything in my power to help and prevent from something like this to happen again, I know I would without a second thought. Should the Coastguard be more alert? Should any other organization be for that matter?

There is a Preservation Act. There are other organizations and groups. There are local authorities. And there are admired individuals like We, who look up to these amazing Lights and love them.

From Lighthouse News:

Lighthouse Vandalism: Ongoing Problem In NSW Australia
More Vandalism At Tacking Point
Police Arrest Lighthouse Vandals
Port Elizabeth Lighthouse Broken Into
Lighthouse Keeper’s Home On The Market
Hope For Vandalized Crookhaven Lighthouse
Mexican Lighthouse Vandalism Thwarted
Theft at Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
Holland Harbor Lighthouse Vandalized

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wisdom Guides

Rock of Salvation
Thomas Kinkade Portraits

Love is the one treasure that multiplies by division.
You can give it away, throw it away,
empty your pockets, shake the basket,
turn the glass upside down,
and tomorrow you will have more than ever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shades of Light

The Lighthouse Keeper Wonders
Edgar Guest

The light I have tended for 40 years
is now to be run by a set of gears.
The Keeper said, And it isn’t nice
to be put ashore by a mere device.

Now, fair or foul the wind that blow
or smooth or rough the sea below,
It is all the same. The ships at night
will run to an automatic light.

The clock and gear which truly turn

are timed and set so the light shall burn.
But did ever an automatic thing
set plants about in early Spring?

And did ever a bit of wire and gear
a cry for help in darkness hear?
Or welcome callers and show them through
the lighthouse rooms as I used to do?

‘Tis not in malice these things I say
All men must bow to the newer way.
But it’s strange for a lighthouse man like me

after forty years on shore to be.

And I wonder now - will the grass stay green?
Will the brass stay bright and the windows clean?
And will ever that automatic thing
plant marigolds in early Spring?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Shades of Light


From 1898 to 1971, lightships were important elements in the system of navigation aids along Washington’s coast. On May 22, 1898, Light Vessel No. 67 became the first on Washington’s coast. She arrived at Umatilla Reef, 11 miles south of Cape Flattery. In 1909, Light Vessel No. 93 became Washington’s second lightship by taking station on Swiftsure Bank, 14 miles northwest of Cape Flattery. Thus, Washington had two of the Pacific Coast’s five lightships. Today lightships survive only as museum exhibits.

From Cape Mendecino to Cape Flattery

Maritime traffic bound for or departing Washington’s Columbia River ports also made use of Oregon’s only lightship, which was stationed off the Columbia River Bar. This made the Columbia Bar in one sense a "Washington" station because Columbia Bar lightships frequently served as relief vessels at Umatilla Reef and Swiftsure Bank.

The United States Lighthouse Service, which operated the lightships, placed the remaining two Pacific Coast light vessels at the San Francisco Bar and at Blunt’s Reef north of San Francisco. The lightships in California, Oregon, and Washington complemented the service’s lighthouses on the Pacific Coast. In Washington, these were at Cape Disappointment, North Head, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, Destruction Island, and Cape Flattery. They completed a chain of coastal beacons that stretched from California’s Cape Mendocino to Washington’s Cape Flattery. The arcs of the principal lights overlapped except for three short intervals.

Origin and Purpose of Lightships

The first world’s lightship went into operation in 1732 at the Nore, a sandbank in the estuary of England’s Thames River. Thereafter, in locations needing navigation aids but where lighthouse construction proved impossible or exorbitantly expensive, authorities, often reluctantly, substituted lightships. Officials responsible for navigation aids soon learned to prefer lighthouses to the floating beacons. Lightships, they learned, cost more to operate and maintain, and storms could drive them off station.

Lightship locations were usually approaches to ports or bays, or the outer limits of off-lying dangers such as reefs. In addition to their adaptability to localities inappropriate for lighthouses, lightships had the advantage of providing light and fog signals for which vessels could steer directly without fear of running aground. Early United States Coast Pilots even encouraged ships to run close aboard lightships. But following this advice had its hazards. In United States waters, ships have rammed lightships more than 100 times. In five instances, the lightships sank.

The first lightship in American waters began operation on Chesapeake Bay in 1820. Between 1820 and 1983, when the Coast Guard decommissioned the last American lightship, 179 of the vessels entered American service. At the peak of the lightship era in 1909, 56 lightships were in United States service.

Characteristics and Capabilities

American experience with lightships by the end of the nineteenth century led to a uniform design. Standard features included a length of about 135 feet, flat bottoms, rounded bows, bilge keels intended to reduce rolling, mushroom anchors weighing up to 7,800 pounds, and decks designed to allow water runoff. Lantern galleries with primary and standby lights on double masts permitted the ships’ beacons to be constantly illuminated. Radios became standard equipment for offshore lightships after 1901.

In 1912 the Light House Service assigned to its lightships visual call signs based on the International Code of Signals. These call signals, displayed through signal flags, added to the ways in which mariners could identify particular lightships. Until the 1920s, daymarks or distinctive round hoops mounted to one or both mastheads further identified each lightship.

Radios permitted not only ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. They also enabled lightships to ask immediately for help for themselves or other craft, transmit critical weather bulletins, and report if blown off station. The U.S. Navy first assigned two-letter radio call signs for lightships. Three- and four-letter call signs developed by the U.S. Bureau of Standards soon replaced them. After 1921, lightships began to broadcast radio beacons that mariners could use to plot their location relative to the lightship.

When the Coast Guard took over the duties of the Light House Service in 1939-1940, it assigned new visual and radio call signs to lightships. The same radio call and flag hoist identified each lightship station with a separate call sign and hoist used by light vessels when they were off station. No. 113’s radio and visual call sign from 1940 to 1968 at Swiftsure Bank was, for example, NMJA. Submarine bells went into regular use in 1906. Suspended beneath some light vessel to a depth of 25 to 35 feet and operated by compressed air, the bells exhibited distinctive tones audible to distances of 10 miles or more to ships equipped with appropriate listening devices. In 1891, the U.S. Light House Service introduced its first self-propelled lightships. Prior to 1923, steam engines were universal. After 1923, diesel and diesel-electric power gradually replaced steam plants.

Lightships usually had straw-colored or red hulls. Either side of the hull bore the station’s name painted in large letters. After 1940, the U.S. Coast Guard standardized its lightships’ paint schemes. Red hulls featured six-and-one-half-foot white letters announcing the light station’s name. White paint distinguished deckhouses and boats, and mast and trim were buff. The ships became known by the names of their stations.

On November 28, 1899, gale force winds broke the heavy chains linking No. 50 to her anchors and drove the helpless ship onto Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the Columbia River entrance. Six months’ effort at hauling her off the beach came to naught. In June 1900, three contractors suggested moving No. 50 overland to Baker’s Bay. This cove on the north shore of the Columbia, just inside the river entrance, lay about 700 yards from the grounding site. After laying No. 50 up at Astoria in 1909, the Light House Service had her surveyed and condemned in 1915. The service then sold her at public auction for $1,667.99 on April 27, 1915. Subsequent owners used her as a freighter in Alaskan waters under the name of San Cosmo and Margaret until 1935.

Umatilla Reef Station

Umatilla Reef Lightship Station was located offshore from the small Indian village of Ozette, 11 miles south of Cape Flattery. About four miles seaward from Cape Alva, and 2.5 miles south of Umatilla Reef, the station aided mariners transiting the coast or making landfall after transoceanic voyages. In Washington, No. 83 (later WLV 508) found a final resting place as a museum ship at Seattle’s Northwest Seaport. She had spent time at all five Pacific Coast light stations between 1905 and 1960, when she concluded her career as a relief ship for the Thirteenth Coast Guard District in Seattle.

The end of the lightship era in America began when a 1957 study estimated the annual cost of a lightship station at $1.32 million and determined that each station required 1.32 vessels. Seeking to cut costs, the U.S. Coast Guard began to replace the lightships with either offshore light structures similar to oil platforms or the new Large Navigation Buoys (LNBs). The steel 60-ton LNBs with 35-foot tower masts topped with 35-foot radio beacon antenna replaced deepwater lightship stations. Radio circuits provided remote control of navigation aids on the buoys. These included lights, sound signals, and radio beacons.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Memory of Senator Ted Kennedy

Edward M. Kennedy
1932 ~ 2009

As most of the world knows, we’ve lost long-time Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy to brain cancer. What few might know is that he was a lighthouse enthusiast. It was largely through his efforts that the Boston Harbor Lighthouse on Little Brewster Island is forever manned, even though the lighthouse itself is automated. It is now kept by a woman, who takes care of the site along with other duties. In the very moving remarks by his son, Ted Kennedy Jr., these words were spoke:

He believed that in order to know
what to do in the future,
you had to understand the past.
My father loved other old things.
He loved his classic wooden schooner,
the Mya, He loved lighthouses
and his 1973 Pontiac convertible.

Irregardless if you were a Democrat, Republican or Independent, the United States has lost a great and humble man who worked for all. Despite the tragedies of his past, or maybe because of them, he rose above most men and worked for and was a friend to all. May you rest in eternal peace.

Copyright © 2009 Lighthouse News

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Point Iroquois Light, MI

For large vessels to be able to sail directly from Lake Superior to the lower lakes, it was evident that the increase in maritime commerce would be both dramatic and immediate. While the lighthouse at Whitefish Point served well to guide vessels around the Point after which it was named, the location of the entrance to the St. Mary's River remained unmarked, and it was evident that a light was needed to help funnel vessels into the river mouth at the southeast end of Whitefish Bay. Iroquois Point had received its name in 1662 after the local Ojibwa encountered a band of intruding Iroquois encamped on the Point. The following morning both groups were in a full-pitched battle, and by the end of the day, the entire band of Iroquois had been wiped-out and the Point named for eternity.

Plans and construction began for the Point Iroquois Lighthouse in 1855, consisting of a 45 foot tall rubble stone tower with a wooden lantern deck, the tower was outfitted with a flashing white Fourth Order Fresnel lens. As a result of its location on the highest ground on the Point, the Light had a 63-foot focal plane, and a range of visibility of 10 nautical miles in clear weather. In the fall of 1870, a prefabricated cast iron spiral stairway with 72 steps wound within the tower, supported by a hollow central iron column. Capped with a decagonal cast iron lantern housing the Fourth Order Fresnel from the original tower, exhibiting the station's characteristic white flash every 30 seconds. The tower's location atop high ground on the Point provided the lens with a focal plane of 72 feet, and a resulting 15 mile visible range during clear weather.

With improvements in RADAR, radio navigation and LORAN-C in the late 1950's many of the nation's lights quickly became obsolete. After Point Iroquois Lighted Buoy 44 was installed offshore in 1962, the Point Iroquois Light was discontinued. In an event to reduce operating costs, the Coast Guard transferred ownership of the station to the U. S. Park Service in 1965, with the property incorporated into the Hiawatha National Forest. No longer serving any purpose, the station's Fourth Order Fresnel was removed from the lantern later that year after more than a century of faithful service to lake Superior mariners. The lens was carefully disassembled and crated-up, and shipped to Washington DC, where it was placed on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The station buildings were thereafter leased to the Bay Mills-Brimley Historical Research Society, which completed a total restoration of the building in 1983.

Much of the station has been converted into an excellent maritime museum, and is open to visitors from Memorial Day through October 15, and is well worth visiting.

The museum and tower are open to the public every day from Memorial Day through October 15. Hours are 10.00am to 5.00pm, seven days a week. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they reopen from 7.00pm to 9.00pm.

Contact information:

Point Iroquois Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
Sault Ste. Marie Ranger Office
4000 I-75 Business Spur Sault Ste.
Marie, MI 49783
906-635-5311 or 906-437-5272

Montauk Point Light, NY

Montauk Point and its sturdy old tower are the sources of much history and the scene of many marine disasters. During the American Revolution, Eastern Long Island and Montauk Point were occupied by the British. The Royal Navy kept a huge fire burning on the bluff overlooking the sea to serve as a beacon for the ships of the squadron that blockaded Long Island Sound. Montauk Point was certainly one of the most dangerous areas on the new trans-Atlantic trade route. Records show that the rock-studded point projecting out into an often fog-ridden Atlantic Ocean took a heavy toll of shipping during the early years of settlement in the new world.

In 1792, to prevent this loss of ships and trade, Congress appropriated $255.12 to buy land upon which a lighthouse was to be built to warn passing mariners of the perilous rocks at Montauk Point. Three years later, President George Washington signed the authorization for the construction of the light. Also in his favor was the fact that he had already built a successful lighthouse at Cape Henry, Virginia in 1791. McComb was later commissioned to build also Old Field Point Light, Port Jefferson, New York in 1799.

Montauk Point Light, like the Statue of Liberty, symbolizes the United States emergence from a colonial enclave to an independent trading nation which opened its arms to the millions of Europeans who saw it as the promised land. Montauk Point Light had been the only beacon, casting a steady beam, on that lonely wind swept 76 mile stretch of coast between Fire Island Light and Montauk Point. Thousands of sightseers annually picnic at beautiful Montauk State Park and visit its historic adjacent beacon.

Montauk Point Lighthouse is one of the few remaining 18th century American Lighthouses still standing. It is also one of the best known American lighthouses. Standing a majestic 169 feet above the pounding Atlantic Ocean, it continues to serve seafarers as faithfully as it has for nearly two centuries.

Montauk Light inspired Walt Whitman to write six lines subtitled "From Montauk Point" in 1888 as part of his most famous poem Leaves of Grass.

I stand as on some mighty eagle's beak,

Eastward the sea absorbing,

viewing (nothing but sea and sky),

The tossing waves,

the foam,

the ships in the distance,

The wild unrest, the snowy.

curling caps-that inbound urge and urge of waves,

the shores forever . . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For anyone interested in Long Island Lighthouses...


Outside of the area: 1-888-MTK-POINT

Seven Foot Knoll Light, MD

Seven Foot Knoll Light was the second screwpile light to be built on the Chesapeake and the first to be built in Maryland. It is built entirely of iron and in a circular design, which is unique among the Bay's screwpiles along with its barn red color. It was constructed in 1855 at the mouth of the Patapsco River and had a fourth order Fresnel lens.

Ice flows threatened the lighthouse on several occasions but repairs were made as well as several shoring projects over the years. Thomas Steinhise, keeper, received a Congressional medal for heroism in 1933 after braving a storm in his small skiff to single-handedly rescue the crew of a foundering tugboat.

The lighthouse was automated in 1948 and soon fell victim to severe corrosion and vandalism. In October 1987 ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the city of Baltimore. It was moved by barge, in 1988, to Pier 5 at Inner Harbor waterfront where it stands on its own legs.

It is the oldest surviving screwpile lighthouse and the only one of its design and is maintained by the
Living Classrooms Foundation as a museum and learning center for Baltimore schools. The Seaport of Baltimore has posted a history of the light station.

The lighthouse is open daily, along with the lightship Chesapeake, spring to fall and Friday to Sunday in winter (museum admission fee).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

St. Augustine Lighthouse, FL

St. Augustine was the site of the first lighthouse established in Florida by the new, territorial, American Government in 1824. According to some archival records and maps, this "official" American lighthouse was placed on the site of an earlier watchtower built by the Spanish as early as the late 16th century. The Map of St. Augustine depicting Sir Francis Drake's attack on the city by Baptista Boazio, 1589, shows an early wooden watch tower near the Spanish structure. By 1737, Spanish authorities built a more permanent tower from coquina taken from a nearby quarry on the island. Archival records are inconclusive as to whether the Spanish used the coquina tower as a lighthouse.

Early lamps in the first tower burned lard oil. Multiple lamps with silver reflectors were replaced by a fourth order Fresnel lens in 1855, greatly improving the lighthouse's range and eliminating some maintenance issues. After many experiments with different types of oils, in 1885 the lamp was converted from lard oil to kerosene. During World War II, Coast Guard men and women trained in St. Augustine, and used the lighthouse as a lookout post for enemy ships and submarines which frequented the coastline. In 1907 indoor plumbing reached the light station, followed by electricity in the keeper's quarters in 1925. The light itself was electrified in 1936, and automated in 1955. As the light was automated, positions for three keepers slowly dwindled down to two and then one. No longer housing lighthouse families by the 1960s, the Keepers House was rented to local residents. Eventually it was declared surplus, and St. Johns County bought it in 1970.

In 1980 a small group of 15 women in the Junior Service League (JSL) of St. Augustine signed a 99 year lease with the county for the keeper's house and surrounding grounds. The JSL turned back the bulldozers and began a massive restoration project. Shortly after the JSL adopted the restoration the League signed a 30-year lease with the Coast Guard to begin a restoration effort on the lighthouse tower itself. The lighthouse was subsequently placed on the
National Register of Historic Places in 1981 by local preservationist and author Karen Harvey.

The antique lens was functional until it was damaged by rifle fire in 1986 and 19 of the prisims were broken. Lamplighter Hank Mears called the FBI to investigate this crime. As the lens continued to weaken, the Coast Guard considered removing it and replacing it with a more modern, airport beacon. Again championed by the JSL, this plan was dismissed and the 9 foot-tall lens was restored. Joe Cocking and his partner Nick Johnston, both currently retired from the Coast Guard, worked tirelessly to perform this the first restoration of its kind in the nation. These two experts work with Museum staff and continue to care for the lens. Volunteers from Northrop Grumman Corporation and Florida Power & Light clean and inspect the lens and works every week.

Today, the St. Augustine Light Station consists of the 165-foot 1874 tower, the 1876 Keepers' House, two summer kitchens added in 1886, a 1941 U.S. Coast Guard barracks and a 1936 garage that was home to a jeep repair facility during World War II. The site is also a
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather station.

Today, it is the Museum that keeps the light burning as a private aid-to-navigation in America's oldest port city. Without the museum staff and volunteers the light would go dark.

The St. Augustine Lighthouse is on the north end of
Anastasia Island, within the current city limits of St. Augustine, Florida. The tower, built in 1874, is owned by the
St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum, Inc. (SAL&M), a not-for-profit maritime museum and private aid-to-navigation. Open to the public, admissions support continued preservation of the Lighthouse and fund programs in maritime archaeology and education.

For more Info:
Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) website

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shades of Light

The Lighthouse

The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
and on its outer point, some miles away.
The lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
a pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.
Even at this distance I can see the tides,
upheaving, break unheard along its base.
A speechless wrath,
that rises and subsides in the white tip.
And tremor of the face.
And as the evening darkens,
how bright, through the deep purple of the twilight.
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light,
with strange, unearthly splendor in the glare.
No one alone: from each projecting cape
and perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
holding its lantern over the restless surge.
It stands upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
wading far out among the rocks and sands,
the night taken a mariner to save.
The great ships sail outward and return Bending
and bowing to the billowy swells,
ever joyful as they see it burn.
They wave their silent welcome and farewell's.
They come forth from the darkness.
Their sails gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
and eager faces, as the light unveils a gaze at the tower,
vanishes while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child,
on his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink
and when returning from adventures wild,
he saw it rise again over the ocean's brink.
Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same,
year after year, through all the silent night.
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosum clasp
the rocks and sea sand with the kiss of peace:
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
and hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it;
The storm smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
and steadily against its solid form;
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea bird wheeling round it,
with the din of wings and winds and solitary cries,
blinded and maddened by the light within,
dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.
"Sail on!" it says: "sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beacon of Light

The fate of the American nation was once inexorably tied to the sea, and nowhere is its maritime tradition more evident than in the lighthouses that line its coastlines and Great Lakes. Even as sophisticated sonar and satellite technology has rendered their powerful beacons and eerie fog signals superfluous to giant oceangoing vessels, lighthouses still project comfort, safe haven, and nostalgia to small boaters and millions of visitors. Impervious to terrible storms, towering majestically above bustling harbors and vast coastal marshes, these great beacons embody the resourceful spirit of generations of lonely keepers and their families.

These landmarks are often difficult to reach, but people reach them. Curious to explore their spiral staircases, keepers' quarters, lantern rooms, and out buildings. The view from their parapets is uniformly spectacular, the breezes that whistle through them create amazing unique sounds, and their lights play tricks on the imagination.

Transferred from the Intrepid, U.S. Lighthouse Service, to the U.S. Coast Guard as World War II approached, light stations have been steadily phased out as active aids to navigation.

But dedicated civic organizations, bands of volunteers, national and state park services, bed and breakfast inn managers, and others have rescued hundreds of these sentinels and preserved them for generations to come.

St. Simon's Island Lighthouse, GA

Located just east of Brunswick, Georgia, St. Simons Light marks the entrance to St. Simons Sound. The original tower of 1811 was destroyed by Confederates and was replaced by the present tower in 1872.

Malaria plagued the work crews and later the keepers until nearby stagnant ponds were drained. The 104 foot tower still has the original third-order fresnel lens and Victorian keeper's quarters.

Today St. Simons Light sits adjacent to the local Post Office, but the grounds are immaculate, including a gazebo where you can have a picnic. The photos at right of the tower decked with holiday lights were taken on New Year's Eve, 1996, as the focused beam of the fresnel lens cut through a gathering fog.

The tower is open for climbing, and there is a museum. Both are open Tues thru Sat 10am - 5pm & Sun 1:30pm - 5 pm.

For more info: 912-638-4666

Tybee Island Light Station, GA

Under the watchful eye of Light Station Keeper Cullen Chambers and his staff, The Tybee Island Light Station stands as one of North America's most beautifully renovated Light Stations. A must see for everyone.

The Lighthouse History

Ordered by General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th colony, in 1732, the Tybee Island Light Station has been guiding mariners safe entrance into the Savannah River for over 270 years. The Tybee Island Light Station is one of America's most intact having all of its historic support buildings on its five-acre site. Rebuilt several times the current light station displays its 1916 day mark with 178 stairs and a First Order Fresnel lens (nine feet tall).


The U.S. Coast Guard occupied the Lighthouse site until 1987 when they formed a joint partnership lease agreement with the City of Tybee Island and The Tybee Island Historical Society, which took on responsibility for full maintenance and restoration of the site. The U.S. Coast Guard still maintains the light as a navigational aid.

The Light station and Museum are surely a stop you do not want to miss. They welcome individuals, families, and groups there. While you are there for an extended stay, look into volunteering at the Light Station. The information gained while on your duty will give you an appreciation of the Light Station you will not be able to obtain elsewhere.

Your encouraged to visit the Gift Shops to support their efforts. Tours are self guided. At the Lighthouse and Head Keepers Cottage there are volunteers on hand to answer questions.

For more info:

Staten Island Range Light, NY

Also known as the Ambrose Channel Range Light, the Staten Island Lighthouse serves as the rear range light companion to the West Bank Lighthouse. The 90-foot tower is located on Staten Island’s Richmond Hill at a point that is 141 feet above sea level and over five miles northwest of the West Bank Lighthouse.

The tower’s original beacon was powered by a kerosene lamp that only shone with 1,500 candlepower, but that was multiplied 250 times by a large glass prism reflector that surrounded a central bull’s-eye lens. The white light shone in a narrow beam that could be seen “on range” only for a distance of 21 miles. In 1939, that was replaced by a second-order Fresnel range lens, powered by electricity.

The octagonal tower is built of bricks with a gray limestone base and trim. A spiral staircase having 104 steps leads up the inside of the tower, which is lined with beautiful red brick, to the lantern room. The keeper’s dwelling, located 150 feet east of the lighthouse, was constructed using the same cream-colored bricks and a similar design. The spacious dwelling has three bedrooms, a living room, a parlor, a kitchen, a pantry, and a large attic. An electric bell in the dwelling was connected to the watchroom in the tower to facilitate communication between the two structures.

For more info:

Friday, August 7, 2009

St. David's Lighthouse, Bermuda

Built in 1879 of Bermuda limestone and periodically refurbished, it still serves as a beacon for mariners. Its fixed while light enabled navigators to take cross bearings with the flashing beacon emitted by Gibb's Hill lighthouse in Southampton Parish. It was constructed to eliminate luring ships with other kinds of lights to come too close to the reefs and get their bottoms torn out. Local folk were notorious for plundering cargoes.

When the lighthouse defeated their illegal activities, they became fishermen and excellent pilots. From the lighthouse's balcony, 208 feet above sea level, there are panoramic views. For details on access contact the Bermuda Government's Department of Marine and Ports.

Located on St. David's Island and overlooking the South Shore, this famous 100 Year-old Lighthouse is a landmark on Bermudas east end. The Lighthouse at the eastern end of St. David's island is a sturdy stone structure, 55 feet high to lantern, which shows a fixed white light of the second order, of about 30 000 candlepower, at a total height of 208 feet above sea level. The light has been warning ships since November 3, 1879 and it had been subject to changes and improvements, so that in place of the original kerosene burners of the ordinary oil wick type, it has a hood petroleum vapor burner of modern type installed in June 1922.

The view from the balcony is superb in its rugged beauty, looking towards the east, and its pleasing panorama of land and water looking westward.

Cape Cod Highland Light, MA

Cape Cod Highland Light is the oldest, tallest and the strongest light on the Cape. Originally built in 1797 and replaced in 1853, the current structure was completed in 1857, 510 feet from the cliff. By the early 1990's it stood 128 feet from the edge of the cliff. In July 1996, Cape Cod Light was moved back 453 from the eroding cliff where it will be safe for another few hundred years.

Highland Musuem and Lighthouse Incorporation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Cape's first lighthouse. Fees from lighthouse tours, gift shop sales, fund raisers and donations pay for the ongoing upkeep of Highland Light.

Open daily mid-May until mid-October Gift Shop 10am-6pmTours 10am-5.30pm Fee to climb the tower. Children must be 48" tall.

In-season group tour discount Off-season group tours by appointment donation fee applies.

For more info:


Cove Point Light, MD

Cove Point is a beautiful site on the Chesapeake Bay where one can look back at the Calvert Cliffs, see across to the Eastern Shore, and observe the LNG (liquid natural gas) platform to the north. There is a small observation platform that lets one look over the fence for an unobstructed view of these sights, as well as maritime traffic going up and down the bay.

A museum interpreter is on site to greet visitors and answer questions. Interpretive wayside panels tell the story of the lighthouse, its keepers, and the Cove Point area. Visitors can enter the base of the lighthouse tower and look up the spiral staircase. Since the light will continue to shine as a U.S. Coast Guard aid-to-navigation, the lantern room is off limits to the public.

Cove Point, and elevated 40 feet above the tide. It is intended to lead vessels clear of the long low point on which it stands, close to which are seven fathoms of water. It also serves to guide vessels clear of Cedar Point, and such as are bound into the Patuxent River.


Access to the lighthouse grounds is provided at the following times:June through August: Grounds are open 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. daily, interpreter on site.May and September: Grounds are open weekends and holidays only 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m, interpreter on site.October through April: Grounds are closed.

For more info:

Portland Head Light, ME

Cape Elizabeth is the home of Portland Head Light. Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park. The popular landmark is owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.The Museum at Portland Head Light is contained within the former Keepers' Quarters. The award winning Museum contains a number of lighthouse lenses and interpretative displays. Also on the site is a seasonal shop featuring fine lighthouse and Maine related gifts.

The Portland Head Light which stands for those out on the open water, rays extend from the center Fresnel lens representing the sixteen points of the compass. The bottom two rays symbolize the lighthouse.

Fort Williams Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee. The lighthouse may be easily photographed from many areas within the park. Portland Head has long protected Portland and the adjacent area. Cape Elizabeth residents were deeply committed to American independence from British rule. In 1776, the new Town of Cape Elizabeth posted a guard of eight soldiers at Portland Head to warn citizens of coming British attacks.

By 1864 a 4th order Fresnel lens and a cast iron staircase were installed. By 1865, the tower was raised 20' and a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed. A portion of this lens may now be seen at the Museum at Portland Head Light. Except for a period between 1883 and 1885, this lens was in the lighthouse until 1958.

The Museum at Portland Head Light is open daily from Memorial Day to the Friday following Columbus Day. From mid April to Memorial Day and from Columbus Day to just before Christmas the Museum is open weekends only. The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The admission fee is $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children age 6-18. Children younger than 6 are free. The Gift Shop is open at all times when the Museum is open and is also open on weekends from November 1st to just before Christmas.

For further information:

Jeanne Gross, Museum Director


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Beacon of Light

It has been said that lighthouses, probing the eternal, mysterious sea, are to America what castles are to Europe. Satellite and radio navigational aids have rendered lighthouses obsolete to big shippers and sophisticated recreational mariners. But to owners of small boats, a lighthouse is still a valuable visual aid, a welcome site in a storm, and a guide past treacherous rocks, reefs, and shoals, just as it was when hardy keepers maintained the lights.

Wood fires illuminated early lighthouses. Arrays of candles arranged in tiers, and coal in brazier pans, were also tried. Then came whale and fish oil lamps, which produced a terrible stench. Even worse was colza oil from rapeseed. It wasn't until French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel revolutionized the lighthouse in 1822 with a system that took advantage of the refractive properties of glass. The Fresnel lens bent a single light source inside a beehive of glass prisms into powerful sheets visible up to twenty-two miles away. This gave way to the beginning of the Fourth Order to the First Order Fresnel lens that we hear of today. The old Lighthouse Service designed a different signaling pattern for each and every light. In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt, concerned about wartime readiness, placed light stations under the Coast Guard. The move spelled the end of the Lighthouse Service and to the staffing of most towers.

Even the sturdiest of lighthouses could not survive all the ravages of nature and man. Some have succumbed to relentless erosion. Ice floes took out others. Before park services and historical societies came to the rescue, the Coast Guard rapidly decommissioned lighthouses, leaving them to whatever fate might befall them.

During the heyday of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, when 1,462 light stations ringed America's shorelines, Fresnel lenses were brought to a depot on Staten Island, New York, where they were assembled for shipment to light stations around the country. Abandoned in the 1960's, the facility sat idle until 1999, when the site, with a spectacular Manhattan view, was selected for a new national lighthouse museum.

But each lighthouse is its own treasured historic curiosity. These towers' austere beauty, keepers' lonely stories, and fanciful tales of lighthouse hauntings have inspired books and poems, paintings, collectibles, license plates, and postage stamps. Many structures remain endangered, but the nation's affection for these beacons in the night shines brightly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pottawatomie Lightstation, WI

Pottawatomie Lighthouse is Wisconsin's Oldest Lighthouse!

The Lightstation on the north end of Rock Island is the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin. It has been restored as a live-in museum to what it was in its 1910 era. Docents live in the lighthouse from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day each year, giving tours from 10am-4pm daily.

Tours include a visit to the lantern room to see the replica of the 4th Order Fresnel lens and to look north to St. Martin's Island in Michigan and northwest to Escanaba and the Upper Michigan Garden Peninsula. Pottawatomie Lighthouse is a 2-flat with living quarters for the Head Keeper and his family on the main floor and for the Assistant Keeper and his family on the second floor.

One unique feature of this lighthouse is that every room has a large closet which was very uncommon for homes built in 1858. Besides tours, the museum has a gift shop with Rock Island and Lighthouse clothing and souvenirs.

Donations for tours are gratefully accepted in the Summer Kitchen.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, FL

In 1843, the U.S. government selected Cape Canaveral as the site for a permanent lighthouse. The eastern tip of the Cape made a natural choice for this vital aid to navigation. Construction of the original Cape Canaveral lighthouse, made of brick, was completed in 1847.

The first permanent lighthouse keeper, Captain M.O. Burnham, arrived at Cape Canaveral in 1853 and tended the Cape Canaveral lighthouse until his death in 1886. Burnham's contributions to the area's history were many, and included the first modern exploration and mapping of the Cape Canaveral area.

Burnham established a permanent household around the lighthouse, and also undertook a number of agricultural projects, including an orange grove. He was the first American to navigate the Banana River, which he named after the wild bananas growing on its banks.
Loyal to the Confederacy during the Civil War, Burnham complied with orders of from the secretary of the Confederate Navy that the Cape Canaveral lighthouse be dismantled to hinder Union navigation. The lighthouse was completely dismantled, and Burnham packed the sensitive lighting mechanisms in wooden crates. These were then buried near his orange grove on the Banana River.

Following the Civil War, Burnham turned over this hardware to the U.S. government, and requested that permission be granted to rebuild the lighthouse. The U.S. government decided to erect a brand new lighthouse rather than rebuild the old one. The new lighthouse was completed in 1868. Instead of brick, it was constructed of wood. The wood was later reinforced with a combination of steel plating, brick and concrete to help the structure better weather the elements.

In 1886, the ocean began to dangerously erode the sand near the lighthouse, and a decision was made to relocate the structure about 1.5 miles inland. The tedious task of dismantling and moving the lighthouse was begun in 1892 and completed in 1894. The ocean, however, was never able to claim the sand around the first structure. The actual base of the original lighthouse has been preserved, and is clearly visible atop the dune line just north of what is today Launch Complex 46 on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral.

Also surviving is the Cape Canaveral lighthouse itself, which today stands on the site to which it was relocated over 100 years ago. The lighthouse was actually used as a forward observation point for many of the early missile and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, and was often mistaken as a rocket by tourists anxious to witness a launch while visiting the region.

Although it is not used to support launch operations today, the Cape lighthouse is still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A major renovation was completed in 1997, and the top of the lighthouse, as well as its lighting equipment, was completely replaced.

The original roof of the lighthouse was made into a gazebo, and is currently on display at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, located at Launch Complex 26 on Cape Canaveral Air Station. The lighthouse itself is still lit on a daily basis, and is maintained as an official navigation reference for aircraft and ships.

Cape May Lighthouse, NJ

The wind it blew from Sou'sou'east,
It blew a pleasant breeze
And the man upon the lookout cried:
"A Light upon the lee!"
They reported to the Captain and
these words did he say -
"Cheer up my sailor lads,
Its the light on old Cape May.

Although the English are believed to have laid the ground work for a lighthouse on the cape as early as 1744, there has yet to be found positive proof that the lighthouse was actually built. What is certain is that Congress granted authority for the appointment of commissioners to purchase a site on Cape May for the erection of a lighthouse.

The site selected was a high bluff at Cape Island (Cape May City) in front of the property later occupied by Congress Hall. A search of old maps of the area reveals that the earliest map of the region, a 1779 Des Barres chart does not show a lighthouse at Cape May, but does indicate a lighthouse at Cape James (now called Cape Henlopen).

In 1821, Congress appropriated money of the construction of a lighthouse at Cape May. A site on Cape May Point was selceted, not far from the present lighthouse. Work began on it in 1822. Bricks were brought down the Delaware River from Philadelphia by barge. A stone foundation was constructed upon which the brick structure would rest. The first lighthouse at Cape May was completed in October, 1823. It was described as:

...70 feet high, arched at the top,
with a revolving light consisting of 15 lamps.
One hundred steps led from the base of the tower
to the walk at the top which was surrounded by
an iron railing...
It was 65 feet high to the base of the lantern.
The wall was 25 feet in diameter
and 6 feet thick at the base,
tapering to 2 1/2 feet thick at the top.

In 1859, the second lighthouse was razed and the present lighthouse was constructed, a thousand feet further inshore. Up until a few years ago, some of the foundation of the 1847 tower could be seen on the beach in front of the present lighthouse. The foundation of the 1847 tower remained for many years after the tower was razed and was used as an icehouse in the 1860's, and as a stable at the turn of the century.

The third and present Cape May Lighthouse is 157.5 feet tall (170 feet to focal plane), has a base diameter of 27 feet. At the time of its construction the lantern was equipped with a first-order Fresnel Lens, and kerosene wick lamps. In 1910, the lamps were replaced with incandescent oil vapor apparatus. This too, was replaced in 1938 with a 250 watt electric bulb which cast a beam 19 miles.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts is currently leasing the lighthouse from the state, and has restored and repainted the lighthouse to its former glory.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC

The first Cape Hatteras lighthouse was built in 1803. The reason for the lighthouse being built was the offshore currents flow in opposite directions, which produce conditions that can cause fog and dangerous storms. This can also produce rough currents. These rough currents can cause shallow water where the sailors still think they are in deep water and that can cause the ship to wreck.

Plans to build a lighthouse on Cape Hatteras started as early as 1792. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the first lighthouse to be used as a warning light for sailors. The original design stood 90 feet tall and used whale oil lamps to light the tower. This system did not work because the lamps did not produce enough light and many ships almost ran ground because there was not enough light to discern water from land. The lighthouse increased in height from 90 feet to 150 feet in 1854. A Fresnel lens was installed to make the light more intense. Rooms were added for the keepers of the lighthouse to stay in. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built on a sand dune that kept shrinking. The Lighthouse Board recommended that a new lighthouse be built following inspection of the structure after the Civil War. In 1870, a new Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was constructed. The lighthouse was over 200 feet tall. It still stands as the world's tallest brick lighthouse.

The lighthouse is now a National Historic Landmark.

Xtra Info:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Route 1 Box 675

Manteo, NC 27954

Phone: 252-473-2111