Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2023

From the Lighthouse Service Bulletin

By Jack Graham


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Wolf Trap Light, Virginia.

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. 22, dated October 1919 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.”

Hurricane On Gulf Coast – The storm that passed over the Gulf region during the week of September 8-16 was remarkable for its unusual intensity and the path followed by the storm’s center. Instead of turning northerly and easterly after reaching the western part of the Gulf and passing across the southern states to the Atlantic, the storm continued its westward course directly inland from the coast of Texas leaving the northern Gulf coast practically untouched. During Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the hurricane continued its westward course, although missing reports rendered its exact path problematical. Storm warnings were widely distributed in an effort to reach all locations and shipping that might be affected. By Saturday the storm was south of New Orleans with evidence of recurving. Contrary to expectations it continued directly westward and on Sunday afternoon, accompanied by destructive seas and tremendous tides it struck the coast of Texas with unusual fury. Corpus Christi and Aransas Pass suffered severely, and the city of Galveston was inundated by the tidewaters of the bay. The property of the Lighthouse Service, exposed as it necessarily is to the full force of the elements, suffered severe damage. In the seventh district 4 lighted structures and 13 unlighted beacons were destroyed, severe damage occurred at 5 light stations. 11 buoys, including 1 gas and whistle, 1 whistle, and 2 bell buoys were lost and many others were dragged from their moorings. Results of the storm so far reported from the eighth district are as follows: 6 light structures destroyed or damaged beyond repair; severe damage sustained at 9 other stations; buoys, chains, and appendages lost by destruction of one of the depot wharves; 1 gas buoy badly damaged on station; and other buoys set adrift or dragged out.

Damage By Lightning – The tower at Mosquito Inlet Light Station, Fla., has recently been struck twice by lightning, putting the telephone and call bell system out of commission, and making a small hole through a wall of one of the dwellings. On August 16 it was reported that Roncador Bank light in the Caribbean Sea, described in the Bulletin for July, was struck by lightning which extinguished the light. The light was repaired and relighted on September 4.

Earthquake In Puerto Rico – The keeper of Point Jiguero Light Station, P.R., has reported that an earthquake occurred at that station at 4:39 a.m. on August 22, 1919, and lasted four and one-half minutes. The mantle was broken, extinguishing the light temporarily, but no additional damage resulted. This station was seriously damaged by another earthquake on October 11, 1918, mention of which was made in the Bulletins for September 1 and December 2, 1918. An appropriation of $24,000 for rebuilding this station was included in the sundry civil act approved in July 1919.

Fractured Columns Repaired In Place – Wade Point Light Station, N.C., situated in the northeastern part of Albemarle Sound, was subjected to heavy pressure from ice in the latter part of January 1918. The structure consists of a frame dwelling surmounted by a lantern and supported by five cast iron columns and sleeves over wooden piles, braced by wrought iron and tie rods above the water line. There is no bracing below the water, which is about 9 feet deep. The ice piled up on one side of the structure and pushed it over in a northwesterly direction, fracturing all five of the columns just above the lower sockets, which are about 3 feet above water. The house and columns above the fractures remained practically level and plumb, but the columns and sleeved piles below were pushed over to an angle of about 15-20 degrees from the vertical. The fractured parts of the columns remained close together, however. No damage was done to the house; not a door was jammed nor a pane broken. Two plans were considered for restoring the station – one to rebuild the substructure anew on its original lines, and the other to place a concrete caisson alongside and transfer the dwelling to it. Bids received in both cases were so excessive as to cause rejection, and it was decided to repair the columns by casting them together as they then existed without any effort being made to straighten up the structure and placing riprap about it and over the site.

Assistance Rendered By Keepers – James B. Hurst, keeper, and V.J. Montague, assistant keeper, Wolf Trap Light Station, Va., have been commended by the Department for the assistance rendered by them in safely landing at the light station, during a severe gale, on August 27, 1919, a man, a woman, and four children, who arrived at the station, landing in a motor boat after the sinking of the schooner Sidonia Curley about four miles distant. In endeavoring to land the occupants of the boat on the east landing of the station, the keeper was twice washed from the steps, but each time managed to retain a hold on the steps with one hand. He then got the boat to the leeward of the station, and, with the assistance of the assistant keeper, took the occupants out, one at a time, by means of a line, the smallest child, 2 years old, being hoisted up in a bag. The party was also furnished lodging at the station for the night.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 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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