Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2014

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Secret Testing and Mystery


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The Great Isaac Lighthouse in the Bahamas is shown in this photo taken December 16, 1957 by a photographer for Kiekhaefer Mercury, manufacturer of Mercury Outboard Motors. We don’t know why the photo was taken, but we can speculate that it was taken to use in an advertisement to introduce a new outboard engine. In 1957 Carl Kiekhaefer was reportedly testing in secret a new outboard at a Florida lake that he called “Lake X.” The secret tests were to prevent industrial espionage, which was just as common then as it is today. To prove the engines seaworthiness, they must have gone to the Bahamas, and using a very photogenic 152-foot tall lighthouse, they traveled the 18 miles in the open sea from Bimini to the Great Isaac Lighthouse for their photograph. Established in 1859, the lighthouse sits on a remote, oversized rock that sticks out in an otherwise open patch of sea.

Eleven years after this photograph was taken, in what could somewhat rival the mysterious disappearance of the three lighthouse keepers at Scotland’s Flannan Isles Lighthouse, the two lighthouse keepers assigned to the Great Isaac Lighthouse mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Interestingly, the 152-foot tall lighthouse that was erected to prevent ships from disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle became a participant in the area’s many unsolved mysteries. The lighthouse keepers were first discovered missing on August 4, 1969. A subsequent investigation could not give any plausible explanation as to their disappearance. Interestingly, 1969 was also the year that Carl Kiekhaefer retired from Kiekhaefer Mercury and the company changed its name to Mercury Marine.

The Great Isaac Lighthouse was eventually automated, and its out-buildings have fallen into a state of severe ruin. In recent years the lighthouse lost its distinctive red bands when the tower was painted all white. Also, the lower section of the interior stairs has been removed to prevent unauthorized climbing of the tower.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 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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