The first lightship in the United States was established at Chesapeake Bay in 1820, and the total number in the U.S. peaked in 1909 with 56 locations marked. From 1820 until 1983, there were 179 lightships built for the U.S. government. The official use of lightships for navigation in the United States ended in 1985. It’s estimated that there are 15 United States lightships left in existence today. Some are in museums and others are in private hands.
The Lightship Chesapeake is a museum ship owned by the National Park Service and operated by Historic Ships in Baltimore. Greg Krawczyk, lead maintenance volunteer for the Lightship Chesapeake since 2006 and program coordinator for the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, is the featured interview in this episode of Light Hearted.
In a special segment in honor of Halloween, hosts Jeremy D’Entremont and Michelle Jewell Shaw tell the tragic tale of Keeper Fred Jordan of Penfield Reef Lighthouse in Fairfield, Connecticut. Jordan drowned on December 22, 1916, as he tried to go ashore in rough seas to visit his family for Christmas. Since then, other keepers at the lighthouse and visitors have witnessed much unusual activity. “Something comes here, that we are positive,” said Keeper Rudolph Iten. “There is an old saying, ‘What the Reef takes, the Reef will give back.’”
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org