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

Vanishings – The Missing Lighthouse Keepers

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

 

  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

Doug Clement Photography

All photos copyright by Doug Clement Photography, and used with permission.

Doug is a professional artist, videographer and photographer. He is a lifetime resident of Victoria and has been capturing its beauty on film for over 30 years. – from the Facebook page

Lightning at Trial Island

Lightning at Trial Island © Doug Clement Photography

In my teenage years while attending High School and University, and before I moved onto the lighthouses, I lived in Victoria, British Columbia (BC), Canada (on southern Vancouver Island off the West Coast of BC). It was a delightful town to grow up in and had access to numerous beaches, parks and believe it or not, a few lighthouses, of which I was not interested at that time.

Just recently on Facebook I have seen some wonderful photography of the lighthouses in and around Victoria, BC by Doug Clement. He has given me permission to publish them here, I hope that in your first or next trip to Victoria, you get a chance to see these places. If not, please admire them in the photos by Doug Clement. 

The first photo above shows Trial Island Lighthouse at night with a blast of lightning. The actual light of the lighthouse is the greenish glow on the right side while the red lights are  warning  lights for aircraft mounted on the radio towers on the island (see the last photo in this story).

Here is a link to a Google Map showing the Trial Island Lighthouse, above photo (yellow point on map) and Ogden Point Breakwater light, photo below (red point on the map). Continue reading

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

 

Three Skeleton Key – A Lighthouse Play

 

Three Skeleton Key is a one act play I have never heard about before today. It was written as a short story by George G. Toudouze and was first published in 1937 in English.

 

This is a short story about three men who operate a lighthouse miles offshore of the South American coast.  They love their job untill one day a strange ship arrives.  Suddenly they are unsure if they will survive to see the next day.

Setting

This story is set on a “key” or small island several miles offshore of French Guianna in the early 1900s.  Lighthouse operators whould spend months at a time isolated out on their tiny islands without any contact with the rest of the world. Continue reading

Oops! What Happened to the Water?

A few days ago I posted an article on the lightkeepers being the eyes and ears of the BC coast. While writing it an incident was brought to my mind of my early days in 1977 on McInnes Island. We arrived on McInnes in August 1977 so this had to have happened in Spring 1978.

Every year on the British Columbia coast the herring start their spawn in early spring. We, being curious lighthouse keepers are always interested in the goings on in the sea, from the arrival of the salmon to the arrival of winter storms. We always had our eyes out for something happening.

Well, one of the things we had been warned about was pollution. One morning I awoke and the ocean around the lighthouse as far away as Price Island, two kilometers away, was a milky white as though lime had been dumped in the ocean. Nowhere could I see blue sea except distantly in front of the lighthouse.

white water – photo Flickr by poecile05

I was astounded! What had happened? I had no idea. Last night everything was normal; today, total chaos!

I phoned Coast Guard Radio in Bull Harbour and reported this accident, not knowing what it was or how to describe it. The operator said he would pass it on to the Coast Guard. 

That was it? The ocean was polluted! I could not see a foot into the water! That was all they were going to do? Continue reading

Reprint – DFO Shutting Down Coast Guard Radio Stations, but Prince Rupert’s Will Be Expanded

 

I wrote an article on January 04, 2012 entitled MCTS To Lose Staff To Save Money. After that date, the department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO or F&O) have changed their plans. They are now closing whole stations instead of a removing a few men! The news article below is well written and explains what is planned for the BC coast. If all goes through we will have only two (2) MCTS stations on the whole BC coast, relying on mountaintop repeaters to reply to ships at sea.

I can also see soon that their plans will include again trying to de-staff the lighthouses. Pretty soon the whole BC coast will be bare of any support for boaters!

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By Alan S. Hale – The Northern View
Published: May 18, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 4:59 PM

The Coast Guard communication monitoring station in Prince Rupert will be even more important to ensuring the safety of seafarers. The Prince Rupert station will be one of only two “modernized” coast guard stations in the entire province – the other one being in Sydney. Continue reading

A Trip by Helicopter up the West Coast to Carmanah Point 2006

 A trip by helicopter up the west coast of Vancouver island to Carmanah Point 
October 25, 2006
 

Bell 212 at Carmanah Point - photo Mike Shepherd

To see what part of the west coast of Vancouver island is like from the air, check out Mike Shepherd’s article Coast Guard Bell 212 Helicopter Trip

There are some really nice shots of the Pacific Ocean and familiar lighthouses.

– Mike Shepherd is a Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) bofficer at Tofino MCTS, which is located on Amphitrite Point, near Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada.