Light at the End of the World

Light at the End of the World
Three Months on Cape St. James, 1941

by Hallvard Dahlie (orig from Raincoast 18, 1998) with notes from Jim Derham-Reid (last keeper on Cape St. James before automation)

Image1A strange interlude in my brief seafaring life took place in the fall of 1941, when I signed on as assistant lighthouse keeper at Cape St. James, a light perched on top of a three-hundred-foot rock at the very southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. I had quit school earlier that year, at the age of sixteen, and found a job on the CGS Alberni, a lighthouse tender operating out of Prince Rupert. But when she had to go into dry dock at the beginning of September for a new wartime grey paint job and a bit of refurbishing, I chose to take a stint out at the lighthouse rather than scrape barnacles and paint for three months. Continue reading

Mise Tales Thirty-Five

 

For an update on what a Mise Tale is then please see Mise Tales One.

Britain StormsJanuary 07, 2014 – People watch and photograph enormous waves as they break, on Porthcawl harbour, South Wales, Monday Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Ben Birchall) . . . more

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Vanishings – The Missing Lighthouse Keepers

These two tales on Youtube were brought to my attention. Quite the mystery! 

 

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Ship Movements – It Keeps Getting Better!

On August 08, 2013 I wrote Canadian Firm Tracks Earth’s Ships From Space which also refers to another 2012 article What Ship Is That? Now we have an even better program, free, and online, called Marine Traffic.

Live Ships Map   AIS   Vessel Traffic and Positions   AIS Marine Traffic(1)

The screen shot above of Marine Traffic for 05:30 UTC (Z) for November 30, 2013 shows the freighter Axios (bottom left) off my area, Negros Oriental Island, Philippines, heading for Guam.

With this  free program you can locate ships in your area, determine their destination, speed, nationality, etc., and even see a photo of the ship.

The program shows Vessels, Ports, Lights, and Aerial Photos of the ports. The “Lights” portion lists and shows photos of navigation lights and lighthouses in the areas.

If one is interested in the sea, vessel traffic, ships, lights, or just navigation, this program is for you. Please take a look here at MarineTraffic.com.

 

 

Reprint – A Sailor’s Journal

LaurierThe Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) carries lighthouse keepers and their supplies (groceries, mail, household goods, etc) usually by ship or helicopter. This story describes the inner workings of the Canadian Coast Guard light icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier as told by my friend Abe Van Oeveren. I have been on several ships and they are indeed a complicated piece of machinery run by very competent men and women.

Abe’s comments to me about the story when I asked permission to reprint:

The account is based on material gathered on several trips blended together to make a story that flows end to end. To make it readable I avoided talking about too much crappy weather which keeps everybody on board the ship unable to fly up to Van, Naden or Barry, or how the ship’s crew’s collective mood changes as the 28 day typical patrol proceeds.  Continue reading

Who Says Lighthouses Are Old Fashioned?

Boston_and_Graves_Lights

Boston_and_Graves_Lights

 

Can you imagine a lighthouse being used as an aeronautical beacon? Well there is one. It is in the United States at Boston’s Logan Airport and it uses the Boston Lighthouse as a visual marker for Visual Flight Rule (VFR) landings. See the copy of the aeronautical chart below:

Boston Logan Airport aeronautical chart

Boston Logan Airport aeronautical chart (not for navigation)

Continue reading

Canadian Firm Tracks Earth’s Ships From Space

In 2012 I wrote an article called What Ship Is That? which listed a group of programs for tracking ships worldwide. Why would one want to do that? For myself I like to keep track of what ships are sailing on my home coast (the Philippines right now) or for that matter, on the British Columbia coast (my old workplace). It is interesting and informative to anyone that lives on or by the sea. The following story came in from CBC News:

Canadian firm tracks Earth’s ships from space
Data mining with tiny satellites offers new business opportunities
By Emily Chung, CBC News Posted: Aug 12, 2013 5:33 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 12, 2013 12:59 PM ET

 hi-852-ship-aground-00659755-8col.jpg

ExactEarth’s data allows authorities to monitor whether ships are following maritime traffic laws or straying into protected areas. For example, it could have provided visual data on the Panamanian-registered ship MV Double Prosperity, which ran aground and destroyed a large portion of a marine sanctuary in Sarangani Bay in 2011. (Sarangani Information Office, Cocy Sexcion/Associated Press)

More information here.

 

McInnes Island Lighthouse – a Tale from the 1950s

 

I published a report January 04, 2012 on the building of McInnes Island lighthouse in 1953 based on the adventures of Ken Stewart who was part of the construction crew. I updated that post later with more information in the form of a PDF file.

1977

When I arrived with my family in the winter of 1977 the first thing we did was explore the island. Pictured left is a small log cabin buried back in the woods on the trail to the SW tip of the island.

Now let’s skip ahead to December 09, 2012 when I received an email from Mrs. K. Marshall with another photo of the same cabin taken about twenty-two (22) years earlier! What a delight to see what she had written on who built the cabin and also for her to see my photo taken so many years later.

In her email she said:

My grandfather James “Jimmie” Smith was a junior lighthouse keeper on McInnes for a few years in the late 1950s.
He was there with my grandmother Mildred “Millie”, and their 2 daughters who were teenagers at the time, my mother Carol and her sister Sharon.

These photos are of a driftwood log cabin that my Mom and her sister built on the island. I’ve been scanning old family photos this past week and have quite a few from the lighthouses.

I’d be really curious to know if the cabin was still standing while you were stationed there.

Well, as I told her the cabin was there in the winter of 1977, but by the summer of 1978 we had burnt it down as it was very unsafe for anybody to venture inside and could not be repaired. An email from her Mom, the Carol mentioned above, says: 

Pool area – labelled

[To build] the cabin I pulled and carried the logs from just below the cabin from the beach. The shakes I cut those with a hand saw to length. Split them with Mom’s best butcher knife and a hammer on the back of the knife….that didn’t go over at all well…believe me.

McInnes island – no labels

That end of the island where the cabin was. No one had trails there at all. Sharon and I started to explore that area. Dad, Bruce and Tony when they realized where we where disappearing to, they cut the logs of the trail so the adults could get into that area.

The swimming pool was past the

The swimming pool

cabin. You went up the hill and there was the natural crater in the rock. Dad and Mom used a washing soda to clean it all. Then the guys had a pump and hoses. They pumped new sea water up into the basin. Dad made up a bag of concrete to sort of plug one end of the crater. We just lived in that area all good days. Lots of nights we spent in the cabin. Continue reading

Lightkeepers to the Rescue – AGAIN!

 

This is a past and very notable lifesaving rescue by two BC lightkeepers, Lynn Hauer and assistant lightkeeper Wolfgang Luebke who were at Chatham Point lighthouse at the time.

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Chatham point lighthouse - photo from Margaret Lutz

We sleep with the radios always on, and ‘with one ear open’.

At 3 AM on April 30, 2012 I was awakened by the unmistakeable sound of a Mayday distress signal. Being able to copy both sides of the communication, I knew it was within our response area. I sprang out of bed. Comox Coast Guard Radio was responding to the call from a very concerned woman, “We don’t have a lifeboat; we are putting our life jackets on now. We are bailing but it isn’t helping!!”

I knew we could be there in 10 to 20 minutes; we were tasked by Rescue Coordination Center. Assistant lightkeeper Wolfgang Luebke and I responded in our 18 foot aluminum station boat. It was pitch black out, and raining. We made our way by compass bearing, across Johnstone Strait into Burgess Passage.

Arriving on scene, we found a man and woman frantically bailing water with ice cream pails! Their bilge pump was inoperative. Their efforts were futile. Their ‘kicker’ motor was under water, and the large outboard was next. Water was pouring in around the re-boarding gate and inches from flooding completely over the transom, which would have seen them go down in minutes. We began pumping the water out of their vessel, with the Honda pump that is always stored under the seat of our station boat. We were all very relieved to see the flood water level slowly subsiding.

Cape Palmerston

The Cape Palmerston (CG SAR vessel) arrived on scene approximately 40 minutes after us. We saved an $80K boat from going to the bottom, and we surely saved a man and his wife from drowning; they would have been in that frigid water with only PFDs, for more than a half hour, had two keepers from Chatham Point Light not been there…we wouldn’t have been there if not for your SEEING THE LIGHT!

Lynn Hauer

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This letter was from from Lynn Hauer, a lightkeeper at Chatham Point and it was addressed to Canadian senator Nancy Greene, hence the reference to Seeing the Light. Senator Greene and her friends were very important in fighting to keep BC lighthouses manned. If unmanned, these people would probably have died. Many instances happen daily where a BC lightkeeper helps a mariner. Many of them you will never read about as they go into station reports and are lost in the central Coast Guard office paperwork – well, not actually lost, just suppressed.

The only way for the lightkeepers to get attention is to report their rescues to the Press (forbidden) or have it written up by myself, or other people outside the arm of Coast Guard censorship.

As Lynn said in a preface to the email she passed around to the lighthouse keepers:

It is important to keep the Senators up to speed of things that are going on. They support lightkeepers (LKs), we should keep them in the loop. They and the public recognize and care about what LKs do.

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The following emails show how the email  was received by Senator Greene.

Dear Lynn,

First, thank you for your quick action!  You are so right.
Thanks also for passing this on to me. I will circulate it as best I can.
All the best!
Nancy
 

Thank you so much Nancy.
Your recognition means very much to Wolfgang and I. The thank you that we received from the couple that night, we extend to you.

Lynn, Ann, and Thyr

 

I Could Not Have Said It Better!

UN-CRUISE Blog

Five Finger Lighthouse

October 23, 2012 at 11:48 AM by Alyson

By Alison, Expedition Guide, Wilderness Discoverer

 Throughout the season, our boat passed the Five Finger Lighthouse in Frederick Sound. The story about the great fire of 1933 and the lighthouse refit was shared by guides, but upon reflection, we never covered what this lighthouse symbolized for those that used the structure.

 

 

Five Finger Lighthouse in Frederick Sound

This particular lighthouse was a home to the keepers, a guiding light for passing boats, a place to find companionship whilst reuniting with friends or visiting neighbors, and a trading post to deliver and purchase supplies, and now is a whale research station. The only dwelling that stayed constant for those on the seas, living on fox farms, or prospecting for gold was the familiar beacons on treacherous cliffs, which could be why, when we think of lighthouses, the first word that comes to mind is hope.

As the Wilderness Discoverer traveled down the waterways of SE Alaska, British Columbia, and the islands of the Pacific Northwest, the sighting of lighthouses spurred heartfelt conversations. The structure, the light, sea stories and shipwrecks, and those histories similar to Five Finger Lighthouse may have conjured up emotions of moving toward home. Observing lighthouses along the shore gives a feeling of solace and may have acted as a symbol of hope for warmth, love, safety, security, direction, and a lifeline to the outside world.

Read more about the Five Finger Lighthouse: 5fingerlighthouse.com