Weather Observing – a Large Part of the Job

Note:- How to obtain an up-to-date weather report from a BC lighthouse

McInnes with weather instruments (lower half) – photo John Coldwell

One of the duties on most of the lighthouse stations, and especially on McInnes Island, up to 2003, was the reporting of local weather (weather visible in the immediate area of the station) to Environment Canada (EC) – earlier called the Atmospheric Environment Service (AES) – for re-broadcast to boaters, pilots and climatologists.

This became even more important after the Tropical Storm of October 1984 hit the British Columbia coastline.

Extreme Tendency November 05, 1988 – scan Glenn Borgens

Every three hours during the day, starting at around three o’clock in the morning we would collect the information on sky condition, visibilty, wind speed and direction, rain/snowfall, wet and dry bulb temperatures plus maximum and minimum temperatures, station pressure and tendency (whether pressure was rising or falling and how rapidly), and sea and swell height. This was then recorded on AES forms or in a notebook depending on the station. Not all stations reported or had the instruments for all observations. These records were forwarded to AES every month along with a Climate Summary for the month. Continue reading

‘F’ Type Diaphone Foghorn c. 1969

– John Coldwell (assistant Keeper to Walt Tansky on Pulteney Point 1969 – 1972)

Lennard Island diaphone - photo Chris Mills

The diaphone is a unique organ pipe. The theory was based on a design for the Wurlitzer pipe organ invented by Robert Hope-Jones dating from 1895.

A special tone generator in the organ involved a piston vibrating inside a cylinder, which had slots through which air was discharged. The air passing through the slots caused a vibration which when amplified through a long cone (like a megaphone) created a powerful harmonic sound.

Robert Hope-Jones also applied this principle successfully to foghorns, and this then became the most common type of navigational aid in the world. Continue reading

Sisters Island Fog Horn & Light c. 1927

– Elizabeth Kate (Stannard) Smithman (Wife of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929). Story donated by her grandson Allen Smithman. 

Sisters Island c. 1927 - photo Allen Smithman

The fog alarm has to be kept going when it is foggy or snowing a blizzard. This alarm is also used when it is smoky in summer from forest fires. 

In the fog alarm building there are two big Fairbanks-Morse gas engines. It only takes one to run the fog alarm but when one breaks down the light keeper has to get the other one going. He then must fix the one that broke down in case the other fails, for the fog alarm must be kept going when it is foggy.  Continue reading

Life on a Lighthouse by Grandma Stannard c. 1927

– Elizabeth Kate (Stannard) Smithman (Wife of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929) 

Ballenas  and Sisters  Islands 

I thought you might be interested to hear about “Life On a Lighthouse”. 

We lived on them for about 5 ½ to 6 years and I guess we would have stayed and made a lifetime job of it but Bert [my husband] got very sick and had to be taken off to hospital where after a lingering illness he passed away. 

Well some folks think it must be very lonesome life but there’s too much to do to get lonesome and besides, it’s a wonderful, interesting life. 

We were on two different lights. The first one was the best as it was a bigger island and we could have a garden and there was lots of room for the children to play, however I took sick and as we thought lighthouse life did not suit me, Bert asked to be replaced by another light keeper. 

We moved to Parksville, [Vancouver island, BC, Canada] where we had been getting our mail, etc. 

Anyway I was no better (for awhile anyway) but after some time I improved but we had learned that it wasn’t being on a lighthouse that caused my sickness so we put in for another.  Continue reading

Lighthouse History – 05 (1873-04-29 to 1874-12-29

The following extracts taken from early Victoria, British Columbia (BC) newspapers are credited to Leona Taylor for her excellent work in indexing the papers. Full information can be found here: “Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers“, 2007-09.

*****************************

tender call, Repairs to Tower and Dwelling House at Race Rocks Lighthouse, James Cooper, agent [Colonist, 1873-04-29, p. 2]

tender call, for Lighthouse at Point Atkinson, P. Mitchell, Minister of Marine & Fisheries; on 28th James Cooper, agent for the minister announced he would take prospective tenderers to see the site in the steamer “Sir James Douglas” [Colonist, 1873-11-25, p. 2]

Point Atkinson – contract for lighthouse, Mr. Arthur Finney, Nanaimo, $4,200 [Colonist, 1874-01-18, p. 3]

tender call, Wm. Smith, Deputy Minister of Marine & Fisheries, construction of Lighthouse on Entrance Is. Nanaimo and also in Bereno (Behrens) Island, Victoria Harbour. Plans at office of agent of this Department. [Colonist, 1874-12-29, p. 2]

Lighthouse History 04 – Cape Beale (1872-05-29 to 1909-01-23)

Cape Beale

The following extracts taken from early Victoria, British Columbia (BC) newspapers are credited to Leona Taylor for her excellent work in indexing the papers. Full information can be found here: “Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers“, 2007-09.

As I was collecting this information from the newspaper archive website, I noticed that many articles were in consecutive order and applied to Cape Beale, so I collected them all together here. It is a bit long, but interesting, as it describes the building of a lighthouse from the ground up as they say. Take note of the dates at the end of each article. it surely was not done overnight. More extensive information can be obtained from the actual scanned copies of the newspapers themselves on the above website.

*****************************

Lighthouse recommended at Cape Beale, will provide a first-class light and powerful fog whistle. [Colonist, 1872-05-29]

 

Steamer Sir James Douglas, with Mr Pearse, will sail for Cape Beale in a few days. Mr Pearse will select a site for the lighthouse to be erected at that point. [Colonist, 1872-10-22]

 

Dominion Government Steamer Sir James Douglas will sail for Cape Beale with Mr Pearse to select a lighthouse site. Cape Beale is a bluff about 125′ in height with a bold rocky shore against which the breakers incessantly beat. Access to the Cape can only be had by going outside the Straits and running into the mouth of Bamfield Creek where a snug little harbor exists. From Bamfield Creek a road or trail about 2 miles in length to the Cape will have to be made. [Colonist, 1872-10-26]

Continue reading