Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2012

Rescue at Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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Although Wisconsin’s Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse included living quarters for a lighthouse keeper, the lighthouse was built as an automated lighthouse and keepers never actually lived at the structure.

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In 1996 a red band was painted around the middle ...

Built in 1934 in Green Bay, Lake Michigan, the lighthouse replaced a lightship that had previously served to mark the dangerous underwater reef. Although the Peshtigo Reef Lighthouse was built as an automated lighthouse, even automated lighthouses, from time to time, required servicing and maintenance. In the case of Peshtigo Reef that responsibility fell to the keeper at nearby Sherwood Point Lighthouse. The first person to assume that responsibility was veteran lighthouse keeper Conrad Stram, and later his assistant keepers who would make occasional, but regular visits to the lighthouse.

As time went on, the responsibility of taking care of lighthouses such as Peshtigo Reef fell to the Aids to Navigation branch of the Coast Guard.

In December of 1958 three Coast Guardsmen became stranded and apparently hopelessly trapped at the lighthouse. Unfortunately we don’t know what the men were doing there or how long they were stranded there when it was decided that it was too dangerous to get a vessel close enough to get them off the lighthouse.

This Associated Press photograph, dated December 13, 1958, that recently came into our collection, recounted the event with the following caption, “Three men marooned in a lighthouse 11 miles north of Green Bay by an unusually hard and early freeze, were removed by helicopter instead of by boat today. The Coast Guard flew the helicopter, shown here, hovering over the lighthouse, directly across Lake Michigan from Traverse City, Michigan, and the three men were taken to Austin Straubel Field.”

Although the lighthouse had facilities for emergency overnight stays such as this, any source for heat may have been removed by the late 1960s and the men may have been short on rations.

Regardless, this photograph of an early Coast Guard helicopter making a rescue at an off-shore lighthouse is of great historical significance.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2012 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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