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.