Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fogs, Dogs, and Smogs

Back in the 1980s, I regularly wrote articles for Mobil Oil's in-house magazine, The Compass. Looking through tear sheets of my past articles, I found this one about fog signals. The Compass has ceased publishing--too bad. It had some wonderful maritime and marine pieces. If you loved the sea and all things nautical, it was the perfect read. I hope you enjoy this article. The pictures are a bit faded, but the grist is there. As always, click on each image to enlarge it.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Did You Know?

Dear Readers,

My files are rife with slips of paper on which little bits of lighthouse lore and facts are handwritten. I have a couple of drawers full of notebooks with similar grist. (Someday I must cut up the notebooks and file the info where it belongs.) 

So, I've decided to drop some notes into a blog. I hope you enjoy the trivia. At the next party you attend, break the ice with one of these!

·        In 1925 a typhoon hit China.  The lighthouse family near the town of Reiyushan took refuge in their lighthouse. The roof of the fog signal building was torn off and all outside equipment was washed away. A sampan was lifted up by the storm surge and deposited on the 120-foot-high lighthouse. It balanced perfectly for some time, then was taken away by the wind.

·        The lens in place at Point Vicente Lighthouse served at a lighthouse in Sitka, Alaska for forty years before being sent to Palos Verdes for use in Point Vicente Lighthouse.

Keeper and the lens courtesy of the Nautical Research Center.

·        Augustin Fresnel, inventor of the Fresnel lens, opposed Napoleon and was banished from his Royal State position as a builder of bridges and roads. He used this period of banishment to experiment with optics. In 1815, after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Fresnel was reinstated, this time by the French Bureau of Lighthouses. In 1823 he exhibited the first Fresnel lens.

National Archives

·        At Flat Island Lighthouse on the island of Mauritius, wild donkeys roamed. Bill Scott, an engineer for Chance Brothers of England, was sent to the island to build the lighthouse in the 1920s. His crew had made a makeshift latrine—a hole over which was placed a bench and the entire thing enclosed in a canvas hut with a flap for a door. A workmen went to the latrine one night and was quietly attending to his business when one of the wild donkeys stuck its head through the flap and heehawed loudly. The workman was so surprised he fell off the bench down into the hole. He could not get out and had to wait until morning for help to come. The rest of the workmen were so amused by the event, they could not work. Bill Scott, himself wracked with laughter, gave everyone the day off.

Courtesy of Mauritius Attractions

·        In the late 1960s, Jack Roche was keeper at Kish Lighthouse in Ireland, marking the entrance to Dublin Harbor. Bird migrations were always amazing at this lighthouse. Roche wrote of one night when the birds came: “It was a kind of soft, slightly misty night, and I came on watch at 12:00 a.m. When I went out on the balcony, I just couldn’t get over it. In the rays of the light, the birds must have been in countless thousands. I went up onto the helicopter platform, and there wasn’t a vacant space on that. All the little balcony rails were lined with birds, shoulder to shoulder, everywhere.”

Kish Lighthouse photographed by Paul O'Donnell for Wikimedia Commons.

·        In 1612, two years after it was completed, lightning hit the Corduoan Lighthouse off the coast of France. The top portion was knocked off and fell into the sea. It was hastily rebuilt, as this was the King’s lighthouse, with an apartment for him, should he wish to stay in the lighthouse, and even a chapel should he be there on a Sunday.

The original Cordouan Lighthouse from Wikimedia Commons.

·        In July 1894, keeper Conrad Hansen and his wife left their children alone at Robben Island Lighthouse, Table Bay, South Africa, while they went ashore to a funeral. The kids decided to make coffee so they could act like adults. They added a number of ingredients to it, thinking to make it taste good. But when it was ready, it tasted very bitter. So the older kids threw it out. Little William, aged 4, got a cup of it though and drank several swallows. By the time Hansen and his wife returned, the kids were frantic. William was convulsing and crying in pain. The little boy later died. An investigation determined the child had consumed strychnine poison. A few of the other kids fell slightly ill, but did not die. Mrs. Hansen was so traumatized by the event, she committed suicide.

Robben Island Lighthouse by Manfred Leiter.

·        Augustin Fresnel was the first to suggest revolving his lenses in mercury, a high-density but frictionless element that could support a heavy object but allow it to move effortlessly. The French did not act upon the suggestion until Monsieur Leon Bourdelles built and experimented with a mercury float in 1890 at La Teignouse Lighthouse. The first lighthouse to officially use a mercury float was Cape Le Heve Lighthouse in 1893. Scotland adopted the mercury float technology in 1898. Dr. John Hopkinson and Sir James Timmins Chance of England together worked on improving the mercury float idea. Many mercury floats have been removed from lighthouses, due to the dangers inherent in mercury. A few lighthouses worldwide still use them.

·        A Finnish lighthouse first lit in 1753 on the Island of Utö  used candles in its lantern. During its first year of service, it consumed 936 pounds of candles.

Utö  Lighthouse today.

·        In the late 1880s, Jones Point Lighthouse at Alexandria, Virginia was the site of experiments with natural gas lighting. Pipes were laid out to the lighthouse from the city, but problems ensued. The pipes often broke and allowed water to intrude, fouling the gas. There also were dangerous gas leaks. In 1900 the experiment ended and the Jones Point Lighthouse was given an Incandescent Oil Vapor lamp fueled by kerosene.

Me...at Jones Point Lighthouse in 1999. The lighthouse must have liked the tilt of my head; it followed suit! Photo by Jonathan DeWire.

·        In 1912 there were 351 portable oak-case libraries circulating to remote lighthouses in the United States. These were exchanged every quarter and provided much-desired reading materials for lightkeepers and their families.

The reproduction traveling library on display at Admiralty Head Lighthouse.

·        Famous writer Ernest Hemingway visited Key West Lighthouse early in his career. He loved the sentinel so much he later returned to Key West and bought the house across the street from the lighthouse. He said he wanted the beacon to shine in his window.

Ernest Hemingway loved lighthouses and cats. My kind of guy! Wikimedia Commons photo.

     Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all had a guiding light shining in our window!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Waddah Island Light

Most people have never heard of Waddah Island, but if you journey to Neah Bay at the very northwest point of Washington, you'll see the island offshore. It encompasses 33 acres and sits a third of a mile off Baada Point. The Makah tribe, who still live at Neah Bay and nearby Ozette, once used the island for fishing camps and gardening. They grew mainly potatoes on Waddah Island.

The tiny Waddah Island Lighthouse stands on a cleared spot 63 feet above water on the west end of the island. Photo taken in 2002 by www.seaotter.com

My interest in the island concerns the little lighthouse that sits on the northwestern end. It had a fog signal years ago, but I believe that's gone now. When I lived in Washington, I made the long drive to Neah Bay several times and attempted to get across the breakwater from Baada Point to Waddah Island, without success. The weather usually foiled my attempts (or a sensible husband who knows how clumsy I am). So I was never able to visit the light up close. Every summer, the Coast Guard families at Neah Bay have a picnic on Waddah Island. I was invited to join them one summer, but as luck would have it, a heavy summer fog rolled in dense as pea soup, and the picnic was held ashore.

Here are some maps to help you orient the location of the island and lighthouse.

The lighthouse was established in 1877 as a post beacon, a very common navigational aid at this time in the Northwest. An eight day lens-lantern light hung from the post. It's likely the lifesavers stationed on the island tended the beacon. 

In 1888, because of the many perils around the island, buoys were anchored. Here's a report from the U.S. Lighthouse Board. It includes other locations in Washington.

The lifesaving service set up a manned station on Waddah Island in 1877 after the U.S. Government had purchased the island (1860). So many wrecks occurred inside the entrance to the strait, lifesaving services were needed. The lighthouse at Cape Flattery helped ships find the entrance to the strait, but once inside, they were on their own until they sighted Slip Point Lighthouse at Clallam Bay. If there was fog, or a storm raging, it was easy to go aground on the many rocks inside the entrance to the strait.

Slip Point Lighthouse was some 30 miles east of Waddah Island. It's lighthouse was in service from the early years of 1900 until about 1940 when a landslide pushed it into the strait. Note the foghorn--a necessity on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (Photo from the Coast Guard Historian.) Today, the light is on a steel tower.

An old postcard shows the lifesaving station after it was moved to Baada Point.

Among the rocks mariners had to avoid were the fingers of Waddah Island, extending northwest off the island. They were not only a danger if passing vessels ran off course, they also endangered ships headed into the small harbor at Neah Bay. For a look at the Waddah Island Fingers, click here. You'll also see the breakwater and Waddah Point, where the lighthouse sits.

Here's a picture of a ship wrecked on the "fingers" in 1910 at Waddah Island. Photo courtesy of the Nautical Research Center.--

At various times over the years, people have resided on Waddah Island. The Makah gardeners and fishermen were there, of course. Then the lifesavers came in 1877. They left in 1910 when their station was moved to Baada Point.

A few residents remained, but by World War II everyone was gone. The Coast Guard continued to maintain the tiny lighthouse, but keeping the pathway clear up to the lighthouse was a challenge. The solution was to station a few goats on the island. The photo below, given to me by the Coast Guard Museum Northwest, shows those rowdy goats, with their big appetites for salal, blackberry bramble, and other invasive plants. A Coastie holds them by their horns. Otherwise, they'd be pummeling and butting him.

The goats must have reproduced because even in recent years they've been reported on the island. They greet visitors and mooch food. Be careful if you meet them. They can be overwhelming!

In 1944, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the breakwater between Waddah Island and Neah Bay. It made the tiny harbor much calmer. It also gave interested hikers a way to reach the island...that is if the weather is cooperative. It's a very slippery hike, so if you go, be careful. And don't tell any wardens I sent you!

While you're in Neah Bay, visit the Makah Cultural Center. It has a fascinating history of the tribe and archaeological artifacts from an old village exhumed at Ozette. Nearby is the town store where you can get lots of goodies, including ice cream.

Then drive to the parking area at the trailhead for Cape Flattery Lighthouse and park. (I think there's a fee. Ask anyone in town for directions if you don't see the sign for the trailhead.) Walk the plank-board trail through the ancient forest to a viewing landing for the lighthouse. On one of my visits to the landing, there was a wedding party getting hitched. They wanted to tie the knot with their fave lighthouse in view.

Photo from the Makah Nation

The view from the landing. This is a postcard from the 1970s when the trail to the viewing spot was just a muddy path through the woods. Today, it's much nicer.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Favorite Photos

I have no accurate count on the lighthouse photos in my collection. Suffice it to say, I've been photographing lighthouses since 1973 and collecting old postcards and pictures of them too, so there are several thousand images. I thought I'd share some and caption them about why I like each one, what makes it special to me.

This 1933 image of the old and new Barbers Point Lighthouses in Hawai'i exemplifies the change many lighthouses have undergone. Old, original towers were replaced with new, better ones. In the case of Barbers Point, the new lighthouse was over twice as tall; yet, the old lantern and lens were installed in the new tower. The original tower was eventually torn down. Photo from the Coast Guard Historian.

I took this shot in 2010 on a visit to Nootka Lighthouse on the west side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Resident keepers and their dog were there to greet my group and give us a tour. The place had all the conveniences of modern life. While I was there, a supply tender arrived and unloaded crates and boxes of food and other items the keepers needed. I spied several packages of Oreos! I found lots of pretty shells and rocks around the property, tossed up from the sea during nasty storms. The keeper's wife collected these and made beautiful jewelry with them. Canada still staffs about two dozen lighthouses. This was a chance to see how modern keepers live.

Jupiter Lighthouse has come a long way since I first visited it in the late 1970s. It's now a wonderful museum, and the public can climb the tower. When I first visited it, I walked around the grounds taking pictures. A young Coastie came out of the residence and greeted me. I told him about my interest in lighthouses and he offered to take me up the tower. It was such fun, and I got to see the unique lens in the tower. The magnificent lens had been repaired after one bulls-eye was damaged in a hurricane years ago. This photo was taken much more recently and appears in the third edition of my A Guide to Florida Lighthouses. I captured the lighthouse through the leaders of an old banyan tree on the grounds, planted many years ago by one of the lightkeepers.

No, there's no lighthouse in this picture---just a lighthouse cat. I photographed Ida Lewis the cat at Boston Lighthouse in the late 1980s. She was the pet and permanent resident of the island, along with a dog named Shadwell. He was named for a black slave owned by the first Boston lightkeeper. Ida Lewis was a bit shy about having her picture taken. She hid in the grasses around the edge of the island, but I crept on my hands and knees slowly, and she allowed me this shot. The Coasties assured me Ida did her duty catching rodents on the island, and she sometimes climbed the tower and enjoyed the high view from the gallery. Meowza! Photos and stories of Shadwell and Ida are in my Guardians of the Lights.

On the waterfront of Savannah, Georgia stands this statue of Florence Martus, sister of a lighthouse keeper. She lived with her brother on the river at the Elba Island Light Station--providing channel guidance through the winding Savannah River into the port. The collie was her watchdog and pet and went everywhere with her. The two waved a white handkerchief at passing ships for many years. There's a reason for that, a story of unrequited love. A sailor who came to port in Savannah met Florence, and the two fell in love. Before he left he promised to return and marry her. She promised to wave at his ship as it left and returned, making its way on the river. That rascal sailor never did return! Florence was heartbroken but would not let go of hope. She began waving at every ship that passed, hoping her lover was on it. Forty-some years of waving made her an icon of the river and the waterfront. In memory of Florence Martus, this beautiful statue was erected with a plague telling her story. I think Florence would be glad to know there's a permanent, eternal hankie waving in her honor.

I loved this August day, back in the early 1990s. The photo was taken at Lighthouse Depot in Maine (gone now, sadly) on Author Day. All the folks pictured were authors of lighthouse books. Tim Harrison organized the event and took the photo. I was in the  middle, the shortest author! I don't recall all the names, but to my left was Bruce Roberts and Cheryl Shelton Roberts. Courtney Thompson is there to my right. It was a really fun day, and all of us met a lot of people--fans of lighthouses and curious visitors too. Book signings can be fun.

This is one of those trick shots, taken before I had a cell phone camera. I propped my small digital camera on a piece of driftwood and set the shutter delay. A quick run backwards and a half-decent pose--click!--resulted in this nice shot from my first week as a keeper at New Dungeness Lighthouse. I think it was 2004. I ended up writing a lengthy journal about the week and eventually published it as an eBook. It will come out in paperback this summer. If you've never been a volunteer lightkeeper here, read my book Sojourn at the Lighthouse.

The lens at Umpqua Lighthouse, Oregon is like nothing you've ever seen. How can such a functional object be so beautiful? I poked my head through the opening into the lens from the bottom to capture this image. Ruby glass heaven!!!

Speaking of lenses, here's the Cabrillo Lighthouse lens (California) at twilight--a crepuscular delight! Lighthouses are lovely during the day, but at night they truly reveal their purpose and soul. This light station is one where you can lodge. The quarters are restored nicely, and most of the old-time light station milieu is there. The lighthouse itself looks like a little country church.

Minots Ledge Lighthouse has always captivated me. I'm not alone! I see many Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts of it. This image is attributed to NOAA, but it may have a different original credit line. Winter waves had done their work in this shot! Without lightkeepers (the lighthouse was de-staffed about 1947), the ice continued to build up and obscure the light. Lighthouse Ice Box! This is an amazing tower. It's taken loads of punishment over its career, since 1860. It's sturdy.

I have the full collection of Hassan cigarette cards featuring lighthouses. I love all of them, even those with inaccuracies. This one is Montauk Point Lighthouse, missing its octagonal shape. I suppose the artist was in a hurry or didn't notice the tower's eight sides. Montauk is near and dear to me for many reasons. I've done a few appearances there to sign books and talk with visitors. I had the pleasure of editing three of Henry Osmers' books about the lighthouse and its surroundings. On Eagles Beak is my favorite. Henry is a volunteer docent at the lighthouse and knows its history inside-out.

So many of my treasured lighthouse goodies are from kids. I keep all the letters, pictures, and trinkets kids give me. They are a firm reminder that we must educate and prepare kids to take over as lighthouse preservationists and educators. I used to design and write a column for Lighthouse Digest called "Kids on the Beam." My rag-doll cat, ZsaZsa was the mascot called Lighthouse Kitty. LK and I received lots of mail. Here's a picture drawn for us by a sweet little girl named Sydney. Not bad for a 4th grader!

This one will give you a chuckle. It's a photo of a lighthouse in the UK (I'm not sure which one) given to me by an old penpal named John Mobbs. He was so generous with postcards and pictures. He was stationed on Inner Dowsing Lighthouse in the North Sea at the time and we corresponded regularly. I love this photo because it's so real--life as it truly is, not life posed for the camera. That lighthouse dog just raised a leg as John's camera clicked. I love it!!! Arf!

I see lots of pictures of Owls Head Lighthouse on Facebook, thanks to Bob Trapani and his son, Dominic. This tiny Maine lighthouse is one of my favorites, despite my husband's truck being broken into on a visit there many years ago. That was before it became a museum of sorts and was not uninhabited and at the end of a spooky road. This photo from the National Archives shows lots of details from the past. Note the fogbell on the far right. There were fences, probably for livestock. On the far left might be a person, or a photo flaw that looks like a person. That big slash down the middle is a scratch. There was no date on the image. Maybe someone reading this knows.

I found this photo in the Coast Guard Historian's Office in Washington, D.C. It shows a lady lamplighter and her lens-lamp beacon on the Mississippi River. She could reach the lamp by ladder to fuel it with kerosene. The windows had to be kept clean. The caption on the photo did not reveal the location on the river, but my research tells me there were numerous lights  on Mark Twain's famous waterway. They were mostly tripod lights like this one. Someone should write a book about the Mississippi River lights. Maybe I should!

Let me just say: "There are no lighthouse ghosts." Hmmm. Maybe there are. I have so many lighthouse ghost stories in my files. I love the stories, but I hope they don't upstage the real history of lighthouses. This is Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville, Washington---home to the HQ of the U.S. Lighthouse Society. I was pleased to help secure the society a home here. I was a resident of Washington and Kitsap County, where PNP is located, when the society decided to move here. I was quite vocal about the opportunity! In fact, some people thought I was witchy at times. Well, if the hat fits...

Point Conception Lighthouse in a remote spot in California is a difficult place to access. I was lucky to get to visit it and climb the tower in the early 2000s. A former Coastie went along---one who served at the lighthouse in the early '70s. His name was Larry Desy, and he gave me some fascinating info about the light station. It was heartwarming to see his nostalgia for the place. The Coast Guard ANT team who took us out to the lighthouse used the visit to clean the beacon--polish the lens, check the electric light, wash the windows in the lantern inside and out. The old girl needs some work, but I have been assured that is happening.

Hawai'i has many lighthouses. I was fortunate to see a number of them when I lived on Oahu in the 1980s. This one is gone now, replaced by a pole beacon. The name, written in beautiful cursive by someone in the lighthouse district in Honolulu, is Lae o Ha Laau. Hawaiian is a lovely language. Words roll out of the speaker's mouth as if he/she is chewing caramel while talking. Check out the details of this old Coast Guard Historian's photo. There are ladders. There's a cloth covering the lens to protect it from the intense tropical sun. There's a man on the right--the keeper perhaps? Are those lava rocks built up around the lighthouse to protect it?

Finally, here's an old postcard of Cap Frehel Lighthouse in Brittany, France. I love it for the sturdy tower and buildings, and the cute donkey by the tree. I'll be seeing this place in July when I tour the lighthouses of Brittany with the U.S. Lighthouse Society.  Yippee!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures. I'll post more in a future blog. These images aren't meant to hide in files and archives. They're meant to be seen!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tales of Lighthouse Animals

I thought readers might enjoy some excerpts from my 2007 book, "The Lightkeepers' Menagerie." Of all my books (and I think there are 22 of them now), I get the most mail and comments on this one. I think it must be because people love animals so much. The stories range from heartwarming to frightening to fun.

That's Lucy on the cover at Lime Kiln Lighthouse in Washington. She passed away a few years after the book was published---a fine, sweet lighthouse dog for sure!

My scanner is unavailable this morning, so I snapped a few images of pages in the book. Click on the images to make them larger so you can read the print and see the photos. Let me know your favorite tale!

First up, some dog tails...er...uh...tales.

Here's a page that's slithery and dangerous!

A few hee-haws.

A recipe for a cold and rainy day.

The book is 328 pages with a glossy color cover and inside photos and illustrations. It was published for me by Pineapple Press of Sarasota, Florida. It's truly a good read, if I do say so myself!

Purchase "The Lightkeepers' Menagerie" here.