Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2023

Lighthouse Service Bulletin

By Jack Graham


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Vintage image of Cape Fear, N. Carolina.

This column continues to provide excerpts from the “Lighthouse Service Bulletin,” a monthly publication of the Bureau of Lighthouses, U.S. Department of Commerce. The first was issued in January 1912, and it continued throughout the existence of the Bureau. Unedited quotes from Volume II No. 31, dated July 1920, follow. The Bulletin had as its object “supplying information that will be immediately useful in maintaining or improving the standards of the Lighthouse Service, and of keeping the personnel advised of the progress of work and matters of general interest in the service and in lighthouse work in general.”

Grounding of the Northern Pacific – On May 9, 1920, the U.S. Army transport Northern Pacific, bound for New York with Gen. Pershing and Gov. Yager of Porto Rico among the passengers, went aground on Colnas Shoal at the entrance to the San Juan harbor, P.R. The tender Lilac was laid up without steam when the call for help was sent out, but the engineer and machinists got up steam, as there were no firemen on the vessel, and with a volunteer crew of men from the depot and soldiers supplied by the U.S. Engineer Department, the Lilac rendered valuable assistance in floating the transport. A letter has been received from Gen. Frank Hines, chief of transportation services, expressing appreciation of the services rendered by the tender.

Visibility of Lights – The captain of the tender Orchid reported that on May 20, 1920, the range of visibility of light vessel No. 72, as seen from the bridge with the naked eye, was about 20-1/2 nautical miles, and that of the Wimble Shoal gas and whistling buoy

No. 6, 13 miles. On the afternoon of the same day light vessel No. 72 was seen about 15 miles off. The normal geographic range of the light vessel is 11 miles, and that of the Wimble Shoal buoy 9 miles.

Large Mercury Float – A 6,000-pound mercury float and pedestal, probably the largest constructed in this country, was successfully installed at Cape Fear Light Station on May 22, 1920, replacing the worn-out chariot which has been in constant service since the completion of this station in 1903. The Cape Fear lens is an old first-order apparatus, 6 feet 1 inch inside diameter, and composed of 24 flash panels. The combined weight of the lens, platen, and mercury float is in excess of 6,000 pounds and is revolved at the rate of one revolution in four minutes by a new type D first order clock. The lens platen, or table, is 6 feet 2 inches in diameter and rests on a cast-iron annular float, 4 ½ feet outside diameter, 3 feet inside diameter, and 13 inches deep. This float revolves within a cast-iron tub containing the mercury with a clearance of one-sixteenth inch around the sides and bottom. Due to careful crating and boxing of this apparatus at the general depot, the entire shipment containing the delicate clock mechanism and the large thin castings of the lens platen and tub weighing nearly 1 ½ tons each, was delivered to the light station in perfect condition. The installation of the float, performed in accordance with instructions from the superintendent of the sixth lighthouse district, by the crew of the tender Water Lily, was accomplished without difficulty. The lens was lifted from the old chariot by means of long turnbuckles suspended by steel cables secured to eye bolts in the architrave of the lantern. After raising the lens to the required height, the old pedestal was dismantled and the new one erected in its place, and the lens then lowered into position and bolted to the new platen. The lens is revolved by means of a 36-inch bronze internal gear fixed to the lens platen, driven by a 6-inch spur gear connected to the clock by a long vertical shaft provided with universal joints.

Uniform Regulations – The regulations for uniforms for the Lighthouse Service have been revised. All new uniforms purchased subsequent to receipt of the new regulations should be in conformity therewith, and such changes in present uniforms as may be necessary and which can be made without undue expense, will be required of officers and other uniformed employees within a reasonable time.

Piping Acetylene Gas Under Pressure – In connection with the installation of an acetylene light in the proposed beacon at Lehua Island, where the ascent to the summit is extremely difficult, the superintendent of lighthouses in Honolulu requested information as to the safe limits to be employed in piping free acetylene gas at various pressures, distances, and in various volumes. Both the superintendent of lighthouses at Tompkinsville, N.Y. and a manufacturer of acetylene apparatus state that with the high-pressure special piping it is practicable to pipe the gas at high pressure to any distance.

New Construction – Spectacle Reef Light Station, Mich.; It is expected to do the work of repairing the foundation this coming season when a tender is available.

Aids to Navigation, Hudson River N.Y.; Two new lights have been established and 16 old ones changed from oil to acetylene. Twenty-one aids in all are included in the new system. General Depot, Staten Island, N.Y.; Plans and specifications for the new machine shop are in preparation. Point Vincente Light Station, P.R.; Plans for keeper’s dwellings and fog signal building have been approved and bids will be taken.

Saving of Life and Property – The officers and crew of the tender Snowdrop, James Adams commanding, displayed unusual skill and perseverance in the work of recovering a bell buoy and appendages from a difficult position in a dangerous locality, others having previously reported the accomplishment of this work impossible.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2023 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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