Digest>Archives> December 1995

Trinity Shoal - The Lighthouse That Never Was


It was back in 1871 that a government contract was secured for the building of the Trinity Shoal Lighthouse in the Gulf of Mexico. The tower was to be a substantial iron skeleton tower and difficulty in construction was expected. The tower was to be built 20 miles from land in deep water.

It was decided that the construction workers would be housed on a 100 square foot platform that was finally completed in 1873.

On November 16, 1873 a hurricane struck the area. The Lighthouse Tender assigned to the work station was smashed to bits and its crew was rescued by the steamer Pharos. However it was decided that the workmen should remain on the platform. This was a mistake.

The wind continued for two days and on November 18, 1873 smashing 15 foot waves demolished the station washing away the 16 construction workers. In another remarkable rescue effort all 16 men were rescued by the crew of the Pharos. Some of the men spent three hours clinging to floating debris in the 15 foot seas before they were saved.

Portions of the tower were later recovered by a barge and in later years were used at Southwest Pass Lighthouse.

The tower was never completed, and never once did it shine a light. Because of the disaster, it was decided that the area was much too dangerous for a lighthouse and a lightship was placed at the sight.

This story appeared in the December 1995 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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