Two of the big lighthouse stories of the past week involve first-order Fresnel lenses, the true “jewels” of the lighthouses.
Kurt Fosburg, one of a small number of lampists in the United States who is qualified to work on classical lenses, has completed a restoration of the magnificent lens at Pensacola Lighthouse in Florida. The project is part of a $3 million overall restoration of the lighthouse. The lens has seen plenty in its lifetime: damage during the Civil War, vibration, and an invasion by a flock of ducks. And then there was the Coast Guardsman who accidentally broke some of the glass during a cleaning.
To celebrate the completion of the lens restoration, a series of special events are planned in January. For more information click here.
The other big lens story is the moving of the first-order lens from Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to a new, larger location for the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The lens move is just one part of a massive relocation of tens of thousands of archival items, as well as 12,000 three-dimensional objects from the museum’s old campus in Edgartown to its new location at a renovated Marine Hospital site in Vineyard Haven.
Katy Fuller, the operations director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, said the lens move was the most complicated part of the overall museum relocation. A grant enabled the museum to hire lampist Jim Woodward, who oversaw the installation of the lens in a new glass pavilion.
You can read more about this story here, and you can see a wonderful time lapse video of the lens installation on YouTube here.
In lighthouse preservation news, the Town of North Hempstead, New York, announced that it hopes to outlay $1.25 million to aid the Stepping Stones Lighthouse, in Long island Sound northwest of Great Neck. The funds would complete the design and construction of a dock. The lighthouse rehabilitation is a joint project between the Great Neck Park District, Great Neck Historical Society, and the Town of the North Hempstead, which became the steward of the deteriorating lighthouse in 2008.
You can read more here, and you can visit the Stepping Stones Lighthouse Preservation Project website here.
Lastly, there was a fascinating article a couple of days ago in the Chinook Observer about one of the most celebrated lighthouses on the west coast of the U.S. — Oregon’s Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, a.k.a. “Terrible Tilly.” The article details the daunting construction of the light station atop a “100-foot-high basalt monolith,” and it tells the sad story of a shipwreck near the rock in January 1881.
The story on Terrible Tilly closes by quoting an 1888 article in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The sarcasm of calling the ocean that beats on the Oregon coast ‘the Pacific’ was never better shown than in the recent storm, when waves dashed over the top of the Tillamook lighthouse, 100 feet above sea level. … the Tillamook light was put out for several days because of the breaking of the glass [which is five-eighths of an inch thick] in the tower.
The idea that the Pacific Ocean is hardly peaceful much of the time has been proven by the rough seas of recent weeks.
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Candace was the US Lighthouse Society historian from 2016 until she passed away in August 2018. For 30 years, her work involved lighthouse history. She worked with the National Park Service and the Council of American Maritime Museums. She was a noted author and was considered the most knowledgable person on lighthouse information at the National Archives. Books by Candace Clifford include: Women who Kept the Lights: a History of Thirty-eight Female Lighthouse Keepers , Mind the Light Katie, and Maine Lighthouses, Documentation of their Past.