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From the Lighthouse Service Bulletin

US Dept of Commerce

By Jack Graham


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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. Verbatim quotes from Volume III, No. 18, dated June 1, 1925, follow. The Bulletin had as it 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.”

Unusual Visibility On California Coast – The master of the steamship Richmond reports having seen the Point Arena, Point Reyes, and Farallon Lights on the night of April 14 at distances of 40, 39, and 50 miles respectively. While the Farallon Light has a candlepower of 280,000 and the Point Arena Light 300,000, the Point Reyes Light has but 80,000 candlepower, and it would seem that in addition to the unusual refraction, the atmosphere was extraordinarily clear.

Earthquake Shocks In Porto Rico – The keeper of the Porto Ferro Lighthouse, P.R., has reported that on March 19 a severe earthquake shock was felt at that station, which threw the lighting apparatus out of level. Part of the mercury was thrown out and the apparatus stopped functioning until sunrise when the keepers were able to repair it satisfactorily. This earthquake caused old cracks in the building to enlarge and new cracks to develop on the roof of the dwelling.

Important Changes In Aids To Navigation - Lights Changed From Fixed To Flashing: Housatonic River, Conn., oil to acetylene; Lakes Okeechobee and Hicpochee, Fla., 22 lights changed from oil to electric incandescent; Fairport East Breakwater, Ohio, oil to acetylene; Port Sanilac, Mich., oil to incandescent.

Fog Signals Established or Improved: Spectacle Reef, Lake Huron, Mich., changed from steam whistle to an air diaphone; La Pointe, Lake Superior, Wis., changed from a steam whistle to an air diaphone; Point Pinos, Calif., electric siren established.

Explosion At Makapuu Point Hawaii - The explosion which occurred at Makapuu Point Lighthouse, Hawaii, about 3 o’clock in the morning of April 9 last resulted in the death of the first assistant keeper, as recorded in last month’s Bulletin, and in the serious injury of the second assistant keeper. It took place in the service room of the tower, which in this case is a low structure 25 feet in height from the ground line to the focal plane, the service room being on the ground floor, and above it are the watch room and the lantern in the usual order. The lamp which serves the hyperradiant lens is an incandescent oil vapor lamp with three 55-millimeter mantles.

A cylindrical tank containing alcohol for starting the oil vapor lamp stood upright on a small wooden stand about 6 feet inside of the main entrance door and about 2 feet above the floor. The two keepers were about to change watch when the first assistant suggested to the second that he fill the alcohol lighter, and after drawing all the alcohol that would run from the faucet it was discovered that some of it had dripped on the floor. The first assistant lighted a match which ignited the alcohol on the floor and the explosion followed. . . . . . . . This deplorable accident shows the necessity for the greatest caution in dealing with the highly inflammable substances used in the work of the Lighthouse Service.

Retirement of Charles Kimball - Charles Kimball, keeper of Marquette Lighthouse, Mich., who retired from duty April 30 at the age of 71, entered the Lighthouse Service on September 27, 1872, at Point Aux Barques Lighthouse. Following his service there, he served successively as keeper at Port Austin Reef, Whitefish Point, and Marquette lighthouses. His record with the service is entirely meritorious, he having been commended and having worn the efficiency star for the last 12 years of his service.

That’s another sampling “From the Bulletin.“ Watch this space in each issue of this magazine for more.

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2015 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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