Thanks to all the Lighthouse Society photographers who submitted images for the “Weather” category of our 2019 Calendar Contest. After careful review, we are pleased to announce the five finalists. One or more of these images will be used in the 2019 calendar.
The deadline for our next category, “Reflection / Unique Perspective,” is March 30, 2018. So get out your cameras and capture your favorite lighthouse with a new perspective. Originality will earn you extra points in this category. The submission period for the next category, “Sunrise / Sunset,” begins March 15 and ends April 30, 2018.
Greetings and ahoy! Captain Joshua Kenney Card here. The nice people at the U.S. Lighthouse Society asked me if I could write some stories about what life was like at New England lighthouses, and I am more than happy to oblige.
First things first. You are probably wondering about the title of the column and why the words begin with “K.” When I was a keeper, I wore the typical U.S. Lighthouse Service uniform, with the letter “K” on the lapels signifying that I was the principal keeper. When people asked me what the “K” stood for, I liked telling them it stood for “captain.” Hence my nickname, Kaptain Kard.
At the risk of seeming immodest, I’m going to start my new column by telling you a little about my life and my 41 mostly happy years at lighthouses.
My father, John Card, was born in New Castle, New Hampshire, just as the American Revolution was getting started. After some time as a prisoner of war in Halifax during the War of 1812, he married Deborah Kinney. I was their eighth and last child, born in 1822 in an old house literally hanging over the waters of the Piscataqua River, just a short distance from the lighthouse that would later be my home.
I first went to sea at the age of 12 as a cabin boy on the fishing schooner Hope, of which my father was first mate. During that four-month voyage, my most important duty was to keep the fireplace in the cabin supplied with wood. I spent about 15 years at sea, mostly on fishing voyages, sailing as far as Cuba. When my father headed west for the Gold Rush, I decided to take a position at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. I also successfully ran my own teaming business for a number of years. My stagecoach was the first express transportation between the town of New Castle and the larger neighboring city of Portsmouth. I enjoyed operating the New Castle Express, but I sorely missed having daily interactions with my first love—the sea.
In 1867, I was informed that there was an opening for a keeper at Boon Island Lighthouse. Although Boon Island had two assistant keepers, I was offered the position of principal keeper. This was because I was older than the assistants and had plenty of maritime experience along with a proven ability to manage a business and employees.
A local writer once called Boon Island “the forlornest place that can be imagined,” and that is an entirely accurate description. It is nothing more than a low-lying jumble of rocks some seven miles off the south coast of Maine, and it was the site of one of the most famous of all New England shipwreck tales—the tragic, harrowing story of the Nottingham Galley back in 1710. The lighthouse, built of granite blocks in 1855, is New England’s tallest at 133 feet.
My wife, Dolly, was very apprehensive about my taking the job, but we couldn’t refuse the offer of a steady paycheck that was significantly more than I had been earning. And so Dolly and I moved to the island with the four youngest of our five children. There was just a one-story dwelling on the tiny, rocky island, and we had to share the house with an assistant keeper. I must have been doing something right, because after a few years my salary was raised to $860 per year. That made me the highest paid lighthouse keeper in the United States, in recognition of the harsh conditions at Boon Island and the fact that it was frequently difficult or impossible to get on or off the island in periods of heavy seas or poor visibility.
One day in November 1872, my wife happened to be looking out to sea when she spotted an approaching wave that towered above all the others. We quickly realized it was a tidal wave, and all of us rushed as fast as we could to the lighthouse tower—the safest place to be in times of high seas. We watched from the lantern room as the wave engulfed the island, washing away everything that was moveable. Our house was flooded to a depth of two feet, and when the seas subsided we found that most of our belongings were ruined. It was then that we decided (or perhaps I should say, more accurately, that Dolly decided) that no salary was worth endangering the lives of our children and ourselves. I resigned my position a short time later.
As luck would have it, the keeper’s position opened up at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle just a bit after that. In my next column, I will tell you about my long career at my hometown lighthouse.
Submitted by Jeremy D’Entremont, February 26, 2018
Society photographers are encouraged to get out and create an image for the Reflection / Unusual Perspective category for the Lighthouse Society’s Calendar contest. Take this opportunity to look for a reflection or view the lighthouse at a different angle. Or maybe you have a favorite image in your archives? The submission deadline is March 30, 2018.
Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef.. I know that at least two people are reading my blog because they caught the typo in the last post.
Two more architectural types that I haven’t discussed were used offshore. My lighthouse on Robbins Reef is on a crib. According to Lighthouse Friends, “A wooden cofferdam was pieced together on the reef, made watertight, and pumped dry. Workmen then entered the cofferdam and built up a foundation that was subsequently capped with a granite, circular crib. Atop this crib, a four-story, iron sparkplug tower was erected.” Wooden cribs, constructed onshore, towed to the site, and then filled with stone to sink them in place were a lighthouse foundation type used in places where a hard rock bottom would not allow for a caisson or screwpile.
Construction of Toledo Harbor Lighthouse began in 1901. Since there was no outcropping of rock to use as a foundation, the Army Corps of Engineers came up with a creative way to build the light in the middle of the lake. They sunk a large crib below the water and filled it with stone. Once the crib was in place, they topped it with a concrete base, completing the artificial island. The engineers next put steel frames in place, providing stability for a three-story brick structure. Attached to it was a one-story fog signal building. Both structures are still standing today. A light tower projects from the roof of the dwelling.
Caisson foundations worked well in unconsolidated bottoms composed of sand or mud. The caisson lighthouse used a large cast-iron cylinder, which was sunk on the bottom and filled with rock and concrete to form a foundation. The caisson foundation was sturdier and better able to withstand heavy stress than the pile foundation lighthouses, so it is not surprising that caisson lighthouses were built in areas where moving ice was a hazard. Brandywine Shoal in New Jersey replaced a pile lighthouse in 1914. Where bottoms were harder, contained rocks, and/or needed greater depth of penetration into the substrate, a pneumatic process was used. The substrate within the caisson was removed and the caisson allowed to sink further into the bottom. Eleven pneumatic caisson lighthouses were built in the United States. The Sabine Bank Lighthouse (1905) in Texas is the most exposed, located 15 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, the only caisson south of the Chesapeake Bay.
A relatively recent technological development in lighthouse construction was the Texas tower type which replaced exposed lightships offshore. Texas towers were modeled on the offshore oil drilling platforms first employed off the Texas coast. The first Texas tower lighthouse in the United States was the Buzzards Bay Light, located in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, and commissioned on November 1, 1961. A total of six Texas tower lighthouses were constructed.
I’m very curious about caissons and Texas towers because I’ve never seen any of them. I’m delighted, however, to offer you photos and drawings of cribs and caissons.
The preliminary schedule for the February 14 – 17, 2018, Maritime Heritage Conference in New Orleans has been released. Society Board Member Mike Vogel has prepared a track specifically on lighthouses with a wide variety of topics. Speakers include Debra Baldwin (Lighthouse Digest), Candace Clifford (U.S. Lighthouse Society), Jessie Cragg (University of West Florida), Celestina Cuadrado (National Lighthouse Museum), Linda Dianto (National Lighthouse Museum), Ralph Eshelman (U.S. Lighthouse Society), Henry Gonzalez (U.S. Lighthouse Society), Jon Hill (Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum), Bryan Lijewski (Michigan State Historic Preservation Office), Scott Howell (Robinson Iron), Joseph J. Jakubik (International Chimney Corp.), Amy Lent (Maine Maritime Museum), Josh Liller (Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse), Ted Panayotoff (Lighthouse and Naval historian), Ellen Rankin (National Park Service), Michelle Smay (Smay Trombley Architecture), Ken Smith (KS Architects), Mike Vogel (Buffalo Lighthouse Association), Wayne Wheeler (U.S. Lighthouse Society), and David Zapatka (Plum Beach Lighthouse Association).
In addition to lighthouses, conference topics will include, but are not limited to, Maritime and Naval History; Coast Guard History, Maritime Art, Literature, and Music; Education and Preservation; Underwater Archaeology; Trade and Communications; Maritime Libraries, Archives, and Museums; Marine Science and Ocean Conservation; Historic Vessel Restoration; Maritime Heritage Grant Program; Maritime Landscapes; National Marine Sanctuaries; Inland Waters; Commerce and Seaport Operations; Small Craft; Shipbuilding; Marine Protected Areas; Crew and Staff Training and Development; Tall Ships, Sail Training, and Education Under Sail; Vessel Operations and Safety; Tall Ships® Events and Host Ports; Not-for-Profit Administration; Fund Development; Media and Publications; and Marketing and Social Media.