Digest>Archives> October 2006

Keeper's Korner

Tidbits and Editorial Comments from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Rockland Gets Log Book

The Friends of Maine’s Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation has received a century-old logbook from the lighthouse. The 1902 logbook which was maintained by the keeper of the lighthouse was donated to the organization from the private collection of renowned lighthouse and lifesaving expert Richard Boonisar a resident of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In many cases the keepers wrote eloquent stories of their duties in logbooks and other times they only made short notations relating to the weather, number of ships that passed etc. What makes this logbook so important is that it already existed from the first year that the lighthouse was in operation.

Rockland Railroad Honors USCG

In an effort to honor the United States Coast Guard, the Maine Eastern Railroad Company, which operates 50 miles of track between Brunswick and Rockland, Maine, offered free train rides every Wednesday and Sunday during the month of August. The train stations are just a block form the Rockland harbor with stops in the Maine communities of Bath and Wiscasett where the Coast Guard often performs its work.

Dangerous Relic Surfaces At Lighthouse

A dangerous relic of the World Wars surfaced near the lighthouse in the seaside resort of Shabla in Bulgaria. A corroded submarine mine washed up on the shore near the lighthouse and the police immediately blocked off the area. Navy experts were called in to detonate it.

National Park Budget Woes

The National Park Service continues to be plagued by money problems that will affect parks and park services nationwide over the next few years. One such example is at Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore where they own the Munising Front Range Lighthouse. They are now considering whether the lighthouse should be leased to a local friends group or nonprofit.

Australian Light To Be Saved

Australia’s 1894 Breaksea Island Lighthouse, located on the southwest coast of Australia, will be saved under a plan announced by the government. In announcing the first stages of the Breaksea Island Heritage Restoration Project, Great Southern Minister John Bowler said they would begin stabilizing the buildings to prevent further destabilization. In commenting on the site, Bowler said, “The lighthouse and associated infrastructure on Breaksea Island are regarded as some of the most significant examples of 19th and 20th century navigational architecture in Western Australia.”

Cement Firm Buys Lighthouse

The world famous Barns Ness Lighthouse, which marks the entrance to the Firth of Forth on the easy coast of Scotland, has been purchased from the Northern Lighthouse Board by the LaFarge Cement Company. Built in 1901 by the famous lighthouse engineer Donald A. Stevenson, the company paid £100,000 pounds sterling for the tower. They already own the keeper’s quarters, which they rent out. The company announced that they have no plans for the lighthouse, other than to properly maintain it.

Old Beirut Lighthouse Hit

In a previous issue we reported that the new Beirut Lighthouse was heavily damaged in the recent Mid-East conflict. Since then, the old lighthouse nearby was also struck and heavily damaged by Israeli navy boat gunfire. The lighthouse is located between the Saudi embassy and the Lebanese American University. The lighthouse had been slated for demolition when the new lighthouse was built, but no one ever expected its end to happen in this manner.

Coast Guard In Space

When we pharologists think of the Coast Guard we think of their lighthouse heritage. But did you know that Coast Guardsmen have flown in space? The first Coast Guard astronaut was Commander Bruce E. Melnick who became an astronaut in 1988. In 1990, he was the mission specialist on the flight of the shuttle Discovery STS-41 and flew again in May of 1992 as the flight engineer on shuttle Endeavor STS-49. The Coast Guard’s current astronaut is Daniel C. Burbank who flew on the shuttle Atlantis

STS-106 in September 2000 and again on this year’s shuttle Atlantis

STS-115. The wide variety of the missions of the United States Coast Guard never ceases to amaze us.

Bulgarian Light Celebration

Bulgaria’s Shabla Lighthouse recently held a celebration to honor the 150th birthday of the lighthouse. The lighthouse, the oldest navigational facility on the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria is the easternmost lighthouse in that nation.

Boston Lens Gets Makeover

Lighthouse lens experts, Joe Cocking and Nick Johnston, who you’ve read about before in this magazine, recently performed major restoration on the historic Fresnel lens in America’s first light station in Boston Harbor. It was the first full restoration of the 4,000-pound lens since it was installed in 1859.

Heat Wave Closed Lighthouse

This past summer’s heat wave closed North Carolina’s tall Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Officials stated the lighthouse could only be opened for public climbing when the heat index is below 103 degrees.

Coast Guard Honored

Coast Guard units around the country celebrated their birthday this past August with numerous celebrations and ceremonies. One such celebration was held in Rockland, Maine during the Lobster Festival, the largest event of its kind in Maine. Letters of congratulations, proclamations and sentiments were given to the units based in the seaport city including the USCG Cutters Abbie Burgess, Thunder Bay and Tackle.

Oops, We Goofed

In the August issue’s Tower Talk we featured an image titled the Mukilteo Lighthouse in Washington State. This was wrong. It is actually the Dimick Lighthouse in Port Townsend, WA, which is a private home that was built to be a replica of the Mukilteo Lighthouse.

And in the September issue we mistakenly inserted the wrong photograph in the story about the Oswego Lighthouse being excessed. How we put in the vintage Lorain Lighthouse photo is still baffling us!

We apologize for the error.

Cape Disappointment Gets Honors

Washington’s Governor Christine Gregorie has issued a proclamation declaring October 15, 2006 as Lighthouse Day in Washington State in honor of the 150th birthday of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

Beavertail Problems

The folks at Rhode Island’s Beavertail Lighthouse Museum are continuing to pressure town officials to abandon or limit the use of the keeper’s house as affordable housing. The town wants to keep the tenant there, since he has done such a great job of maintaining the property. It would be obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense that the keeper’s house would be better suited for interpretative displays and expansion of the museum. Unbelievable.

Nantucket Lightship Pushed Out

The historic Lightship Nantucket I WLV 612 has been ordered out of its mooring on Boston’s waterfront. The lightship saved from the scrap heap by William Golden six years ago was caught in the middle of a dispute between Commercial Wharf Condominium owners and the Boston Yacht Haven. Golden, who has been neutral during the dispute had no choice but to leave the site and look for another home for the vessel, a problem that seems to plague many lightships. Currently, it is anchored in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island.

Michigan McDonald’s Honors Local Beacon

A McDonald’s Restaurant in South Haven, Michigan now sports a 40-foot by 50-foot photograph of the South Haven Lighthouse at sunset by photographer Karen Murphy. The image is actually a giant sunscreen for their indoor playground and can only be viewed from the outside.

Vandals Strike Crete Beacon

According to wire service reports, the project to complete the restoration of the Chania Lighthouse in Crete has been delayed because of vandals who keep throwing restoration equipment into the sea. The Egyptians built the lighthouse, located at the end of a breakwater on the east side of the entrance to the Venetian port of Hania in Crete, in 1830. Reports state that not only have vandals thrown some equipment and slabs of stone into the sea, other restoration tools, and equipment have been stolen. The mayor of the town was forced to post guards at the lighthouse at night so the restoration could be completed in time for the lighthouse to be rededicated.

Rockland Chamber Changes Name

Maine’s Rockland-Thomaston Area Chamber of Commerce, which was instrumental in creating the new Maine Lighthouse Museum, has changed its name to the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. The name change was done to accommodate the 50% of its members who are located outside of the cities. In reflecting on the name change, Bob Hastings, CEO said, “Penobscot Bay is a nationally known destination that has great tourism appeal.” We might add that is also the site of a number of historic lighthouses.

West Usk Light For Sale

The 184-year-old West Usk Lighthouse on the Bristol Channel in South Wales, United Kingdom is for sale. Frank and Danielle Sheahan who restored the heavily vandalized lighthouse and opened it as a successful bed and breakfast bought the lighthouse in 1987.

Braddock Point NY For Sale

New York State’s Braddock Point Lighthouse is now for sale. Originally built using parts of the Cleveland Lighthouse it was once listed as the brightest lighthouse on Lake Ontario. Located 15 miles west

of Rochester, the upper parts of the tower were removed by the government when the lighthouse was discontinued. The current owners added a lantern room to the shortened tower. The lighthouse is offered through Remax. For more information you can call Terri Granger at

(585) 719-3524 or e-mail her at TerriGranger@FindHomz.com.

New Plate In Florida Doesn’t Help Lights

A new specialty license plate in Florida that features a lighthouse raises money for Independence for the Blind. The plate sponsored by several state reps and senators, none of whom have ever stepped forward to help

the Florida Lighthouse Association get a specialty plate for lighthouse preservation. While the cause for the blind is commendable and just, lighthouses, as usual, are at the bottom of the barrel. If politicians cannot or will not get an interest in saving lighthouses and their history, then this country is in serious trouble. The Florida Lighthouse Association has been fundraising for several years to get a lighthouse plate.

Rockland Gets Some PR

The Friends of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation and the Maine Lighthouse Museum recently received some great media coverage in the magazine edition of Maine’s Sun Journal. The story featured a great color photo of volunteer Ted Panaytoff and the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.

Marshall Point Gives Scholarships

Maine’s Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum recently awarded three scholarships. Although the media stories did not indicate what the requirements were for the students to win the scholarships, we hope it

had something to do with lighthouses and lighthouse history. Awarding scholarships is commendable. However, there are a number of restored lighthouses in the country that have a certain amount of expendable funds which should really go to other lighthouses that also need to be saved.

South Haven Keeper’s House

At a cost of over $84,000 the 1872 keeper’s quarters of Michigan’s South Haven Lighthouse has received a major sprucing up. Eighty percent of the funding came from a grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the rest came from donations and other small grants. Fifth Third Bank also pitched in $1,500 to remove the overhead electric lines and have them buried.

Former Keepers Still Around

Just when we think there are no more living keepers who served in the U.S. Lighthouse Service we learn of one. We just found out about 94-year-old John Cable of North Carolina who joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1938 as a keeper at that state’s Cape Lookout Lighthouse. He started the job at $105 a month plus free living quarters. When the Lighthouse Service merged with the Coast Guard in 1939, he left the job to pursue other interests.

Maine’s Governor Attends Lighthouse Celebration

Maine's Governor John Baldacci attended the annual Christmas in July at Nubble Lighthouse in York. This was the first time the governor had attended the event. While there he even conducted the orchestra in the playing of some Christmas music.

Point Pinos Transferred

California’s Point Pinos Lighthouse has been transferred from Coast Guard ownership to the city of Pacific Grove. The California Department of Toxic Substances Control did however place a restriction on the deed because the soil contains high concentrations of lead caused by lead paint flakes that have fallen into the soil. The deed requires that the grounds around the lighthouse be kept covered with grass, concrete or another barrier. Unbelievable! What did they think the city was going to do? Perhaps plant a nice vegetable garden? While we understand government bureaucracy interfering in every day life today, and some of it is for good for our protection, but this is a bit ridiculous.

Business Firms Rally To Save Puerto Rico Beacon

In referring to the Punta Tuna Lighthouse in Maunabo, Puerto Rico, George Van Parys, president of Tuna Point Lighthouse, Inc. said, “The first step is to stop the decay and vandalism occurring at the lighthouse every day,” he said. Parys, the Maunabo Development Committee and the Patronato Punta Tuna Corporation have agreed among themselves to start efforts to save and restore the 1892 lighthouse that has been abandoned since 1982, even though the lighthouse has not yet been officially declared excess property.

This story appeared in the October 2006 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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