Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2021

From the Lighthouse Service Bulletin

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. Unedited quotes from Volume III Number 13, dated January 2, 1925, 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.”

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The Petoskey Light­house in Petoskey, Michigan. ...

The Lighthouse Service During the Last Year – The value of radio as an aid to navigation, especially as a protection against fog, the greatest of all dangers to the mariner, has been further demonstrated during the past year. The Lighthouse Service now has 12 radio-fog signal stations in operation and is proceeding with the establishment of other stations as rapidly as funds permit. The United States leads the world in this form of aid, having been the first to establish successful radio fog signals and now having more stations in operation than all the countries of Europe combined. The total number of aids to navigation operated by the Lighthouse Service at the close of the fiscal year numbered 17,288, an increase of 395 over the preceding year.

Among the more noteworthy improvements during the year included the commissioning of five new lightships, placed on important stations on the Atlantic coast, a new tender for the Ohio River and tributaries, the commencement of the important new light and fog-signal station at Cape Spencer, Alaska, installation of powerful fog signals at Guard Island and Point Retreat, Alaska, and completion of light and fog signal on Sabine Pass Jetty, Tex. The new lightships referred to are the last word in design and construction of this type of vessel and have proved very efficient in operation under severe stress of weather.

Winter Conditions At the Close of Navigation On the Great Lakes – The difficulties of lighthouse maintenance due to severe weather in the Lake Superior region are shown by this incident. December14 had been published as the date on which the locks at Sault Ste. Marie would be closed, but that date was extended to December 18, necessitating new instructions to light stations. The following letter from Charles T. Davis, light keeper at Copper Harbor, Mich., on the south shore of Lake Superior, shows the hardship encountered and the special efforts made by him to continue the lights under his care:

“I received your letter instructing keepers to keep open until the 18th instead of the 14th.

At 11 a.m. on the 16th, at Delaware when on our way to Calumet, I sent the team on with my wife and our luggage and started to walk back. The snow was quite deep and the walking hard; the lock on the front tower was frozen up and caused some delay in getting the lantern set up; got the range lights lit at 5 p.m. It was blowing too hard to row over to the main light, so I got a pair of snow shoes and started to walk around the bay; left here at 5.15; the snow was deep and soft, the snowshoes would sink about a foot and load up with snow at every step. The bushes were loaded with snow, and windfalls over the trail made it almost impossible to keep on the trail. I was panting like a hound before I was half around. It was about 7 p.m. when I reached the main light; had the light flashing at 7.05. It took me until 8.10 to get back here. Mr. Bergh came with me from the village and had a fire started when I got back which was a blessing as I was wringing wet with perspiration and too tired to eat, sleep, or move. Thirteen miles from Delaware to here, and it seemed twice as far to the main light.

Automatic Electric Lighting Apparatus In Baltimore Channel – A new application of electrical apparatus to lighthouses where electric current is available, has been introduced at Brewerton Channel Range Rear Light, marking the dredged channel leading to Baltimore, Maryland. The range has been greatly improved by increasing the candlepower of the light from 2,500 to 40,000 candlepower, and elevating the focal plane to clear all trees, so that the light is in view a considerable distance before reaching the axis of the channel. The new light has been installed in duplicate with control apparatus that is automatic, thereby terminating the services of the keeper, permitting the dwelling to be sold or transferred to the Public Health Service, and in consequence effecting a maintenance saving of about $1,200 annually to the Lighthouse Service.

Petoskey Light Tower Destroyed – During a severe storm on December 12, 13, and 14, the tower of the Petoskey Light, Lake Michigan, was washed from the breakwater and completely destroyed.

Eclipse of Sun In January – There will be a total eclipse of the sun on the morning of January 24, 1925, visible as a large partial eclipse over the entire eastern portion of the United States. The path of totality will be about 85 miles wide at its beginning and will traverse the western end of Lake Superior, the northern portion of Lake Michigan, and the southern part of Lake Huron, and in these locations the sun will rise eclipsed. The eclipse will begin at sunrise along a line slightly east of Detroit, Mich. The path of totality will continue eastward early after sunrise and will be central over Buffalo, N.Y. with a duration of the total phase at that place of about two minutes. Care should be taken to use smoked glasses, even if the sun is relatively dim to prevent injury to the eyes.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2021 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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