From the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s, Nantucket was the world’s leading whaling port. But the island’s east and south coasts remained devoid of lighthouses well into the 1800s, in spite of the high volume of shipping traffic passing the island and the presence of dangerous shoals offshore. Finally, in the late 1840s, a bluff at Sankaty Head in the village of ‘Sconset on the island’s southeast coast was chosen as a lighthouse site. A 53-foot brick lighthouse was built and a second-order Fresnel lens was installed. The station was automated and destaffed in 1965. In 1990, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated that Sankaty Head Light would be in danger of falling over the eroding bluff within ten years. A move was completed in the fall of 2007. The ’Sconset Trust is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the lighthouse and its grounds.
Rob Benchley is now the modern-day keeper of Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Rob is an accomplished photojournalist who has been the staff photographer for three island newspapers, and his photography has also been featured in the New York Times and the Boston Globe. His books include Scallop Season, a Nantucket Chronicle, co-written with Jim Patrick; Sconset, co-written with Richard Trust; and Keeping the Light, about the historic move of Sankaty Head Lighthouse in 2007. Rob and his wife, Carol, a retired Nantucket schoolteacher, live in a house they built together in ‘Sconset with a view of Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
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