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.

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