Preparing for a Winter Storm

This is what we heard on the radio from the Coast Guard station:

Marine forecasts issued by the Pacific Weather Centre of Environment Canada at 4 AM PDT Saturday 9 September for the period ending 4 AM Sunday with an outlook for the following 24 hours. The next scheduled forecast will be issued at 10:30 AM PDT.

A trough of low pressure over Queen Charlotte Sound will slide Over Vancouver Island later today. A cold front just west of Bowie will approach the Charlottes this afternoon. Over northern and central waters strong winds near the trough will rise to strong to gale force southeasterlies as the front approaches. Over southern waters light to moderate northwest winds will shift to moderate to heavy southeast later today as the trough moves to the south. As the front approaches from the west forecast sea state values are combined wind wave and swell height.

Central coast from McInnes Island to Pine Island.
Storm warning issued. Winds southeast 30 to 40 knots this morning then rising to southeasterly 40 to 50 this afternoon. Winds rising to south 50 to 60 this evening then to southeast storm force winds overnight. Overcast. Heavy rain. Seas 1 to 2 metres building to 2 to 3 tonight. Outlook. Winds continuing southeast storm force winds. Continue reading

Mise Tales Five

If you do not know what Mise Tales are then please see Mise Tales One.

Louisburg Lighthouse - photo Chris Mills


From the Cape Breton Post Canada’s First Lighthouse is a Long Way from its Glory Days. Historic Louisburg lighthouse on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is another Canadian lighthouse declared surplus by Fisheries and Oceans and in need of repair and some tender loving care (TLC).


Jobsolete: The lighthouse keeper of Triple Island

This week (Wednesday April 11, 2012), Daybreak is running a series called “Jobsolete,” exploring careers that are fading away. Today, George Baker speaks to Richard Rose, one of the few lighthouse keepers still keeping watch.

[audio:|titles=Lightkeeper Interview]


The last Misc Tale today is from the Philippines, where I am on holidays right now. It is from the Philippines Star website and is entitled:

Cape Bolinao lighthouse in Pangasinan closed to tourists

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

PANTAR, Pangasinan, Philippines – For decades, the Cape Bolinao lighthouse atop Punta Piedra Point here has guided vessels.

The lighthouse, built in 1905 by Filipino, British and American engineers, is one of the five lighthouses in the country and the second tallest, next to the Cape Bojeador lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

It was supposed to be a major tourist destination in the country during the holidays. But today, with the advent of the global positioning system (GPS), the 30.78-meter tower that had guided vessels en route to Hong Kong, Japan and the United States for several decades, has been closed to visitors. . . . more

Do You Have a Photo of Me Mid-1978?

– Rand Grant (relief keeper on Triple Island June – July 1978)

Melville Island - looking NW from Triple - photo Rand Grant (Flickr)

The story is in reference to the photo at right, Rand writes: 

The large Island is Melville. Prince Rupert lies just beyond this. The tanker is on it’s way into Prince Rupert Port. One of the deepest and busiest on the west coast of British Columbia. 

One evening back in ’78 [while stationed on Triple Island], I noticed an Alaskan Cruise ship on it’s way by. I walked up to the roof; it was a beautiful summer evening; I was curious, so started waving my arms over my head, back and forth. I actually witnessed that ship light-up with so many flash-bulbs that it made me laugh.  Continue reading

Triple Island Lighthouse is a Great Place to Fish!

Triple Island lighthouse marked by the "A"

The gallery of photos below are from a friend of mine in Smithers, BC who chartered a boat with his friends in August (2011) from Prince Rupert and went fishing off Triple Island lighthouse.

If you look real closely at one of the photos of the lighthouse, you can see a man standing on the helicopter pad to the left of the lighthouse. It could be my friend from Vancouver who works there on a rotational basis of 28 days on and 28 days off. Continue reading

‘Automation’ Comes to Triple Island c. 1950s

– from Jeannie (Hartt) Nielsen (daughter of Ed Hartt, Senior Keeper on Triple Island 1954 – 1957) 

Triple Island at Dusk*

Ed and Eileen Hartt were lightkeepers for a number of years, on Lawyer Island, Triple Island, and Langara Island. The following is an excerpt from one of my mother’s manuscripts about life on Triple Island in the 1950s. 

It shows how lightkeeper’s wives often had to pitch in and help out – and how lightkeepers had to come up with some innovative solutions at times! 

My father was an extremely resourceful man, and devised one of the first power devices used on the light stations for rotating the light within the tower. His ingenuity came in useful in many ways on other occasions as well. What follows is just one example . . . 


– from Eileen Hartt (Wife of Ed Hartt, Senior Keeper on Triple 1954 – 1957) 

The combination washing machine/spin dryer we had purchased, turned out to be a real comedian in disguise. Its well worn casters (in fact, they were flat on one side) didn’t prevent it from charging all over the kitchen, like a dog on a leash. Its long cord plugged into the light socket hanging on the usual wire strung from the ceiling. It lurched and charged around the room with me in pursuit, trying to load it. Ed and the children thought it as hilarious when I missed the tub and my load of clothes scattered across the floor. 

One night as we sat at the table, Don (our assistant keeper) told us that the clock drive for the tower wasn’t working properly. It had stopped half a dozen times the night before and had to be constantly watched. Ed and Don went to inspect it and I followed along. It didn’t take long to find the problem. The pulleys through which the cable passed were so worn from the long years of use that they were binding. The gears also were well worn. Ed and Don put their heads together and came up with an alarm that would ring if the light stopped turning . 

It wasn’t very long after we put the light on that night when we found out how well the alarm worked. The sudden loud jangle of the bell brought us all to our feet and the three of us ran for the tower. Reaching the lamp room panting, Ed paused long enough to push the turn table and count to make the light revolve as it must. The men disappeared through the open trap door, and I was left to count and push, count and push. At first it was easy, but then my arm lost feeling, so I changed arms; then back again. It became agony, but I didn’t dare stop. I wondered if they would ever come back! 

At last I heard feet on the cement steps. Ed told me to leave the light and get on the radio. I was to inform Digby and the Department of Transport that the light was inoperable. My arms and back ached as the blood returned, and I hurried down to the radio room. 

“Prince Rupert Radio, Prince Rupert Radio, Prince Rupert Radio: Triple Island calling!” 

“Triple Island, Prince Rupert back. We have a message for you. Copy? Your light is burning steady. Do you copy?” 

I glanced out the window and saw the lights of the ship that had just reported our light, passing in the night. 

“Prince Rupert Radio, have copied. I want to send one to the main office and your station; light inoperable, worn gears. Signed Ed Hartt, Triple Island. Do you copy?” 

I looked out at the passing ship lights and made a face at them then went back to the tower room to tell the men we had been reported. 

“Wouldn’t you know it?” Ed complained. “You don’t see a ship or boat all day, and the second things go wrong there’s one right there!” 

“That’s the way things go,” Don agreed. 

That night turned into a nightmare for the two men as they tried to keep the light turning. The weight would only drop about ten feet then stop and have to be wound up again. 

As I walked bleary eyed through the kitchen the next morning I found my rambling washing machine was not in its usual place. It had given its life to become part of the electric drive Ed had devised to keep the light revolving. I found its remains in the engine room, but it was in a good cause, as our light never burned steady again. 

* photo – Triple Island at Dusk – Mike Mitchell

Triple Island 3rd Order Lens

Triple Island lens © C. Mills


This light was first made available to mariners on January 1st, 1921 to travel to the bustling port of Prince Rupert from the north. It was originally fired by a pressurized gas vapour lamp which would have been visible for over 12 miles (19 kilometers).

Electric generators installed in the late 1960s  replaced this vapour lamp with an incandescent lamp and later with a mercury vapour lamp as seen in some of the photos below.

The lamp, reflector and base all floated on a large bowl of mercury. Even though the light weighed hundreds of pounds, it could be turned easily with one finger.

The Canadian government declared mercury a hazardous substance (like asbestos) in the 1990s and removed it from all work places. Reluctantly, the lamp was no longer usable.

Also, because of the planned automation of the lights which has gone on since the early 1970s, there was no reason to replace or modify the light and its housing – the Coast Guard abandoned it as a an Aid to Navigation.

The photos below show what replaced it. An APRB 252 12 volt battery-operated “flashlight”.

In Memorium – William Bertrand Bemister (1944 – 1999)

                                                                                                                                                                                    Bill Bemister (1944 – 1999) was an Assistant Keeper on Triple Island lighthouse. He was a bit “rough around the edges” but a great guy. Bill died in a fire on his boat in Port Edward, British Columbia (near the town of Prince Rupert, BC) – Chris Mills (one of many friends who worked with Bill)


To include your memories in Bill’s memorial please click this link.


In Memorium – William F. Treston (1881 – 1969)

Bill Treston (1881 – March 08, 1969) was a relief keeper on many lightstations in the Prince Rupert District of British Columbia. Bill was a very interesting man. He worked as a relief keeper on some of the northern lighthouses during the late fifties/early sixties. In his earlier days he had been a prospector and trapper and loved to tell stories about his adventures and misadventures. He was a hard working man of the very old school – a true gentleman. In the early sixties he was relief keeper on Langara for a period of time. I used to take water samples for the Pacific Biological Station every day. To do so I walked to the “landing” -a half hour walk from the station. “Old Bill” loved to accompany me, singing songs from the olden days, reciting poetry, and telling me stories. The trouble was, it was always an exact replay of the day before. The same stories over and over and over. Still, he was such a dear sweet old man you couldn’t tell him that. I thought that at the very least it taught me patience! One day without a word to anyone, Old Bill disappeared. We searched and found no trace of him, finally calling in the Coast Guard. We were terribly worried, picturing him having had a heart attack, or laying in the forest somewhere in the cold and wet, shivering. The second day after he went missing, he was picked up walking on a remote beach on the west coast of the island, totally bewildered at all the concern for him. He had hiked for hours through salal and rain forest to the opposite end of the island where there was a fish camp/floating grocery store, and spent a cold wet night outdoors to bring me a box of chocolates! I remember him asking my mom every day, “Ma’am, are you prosperous today?” I didn’t know what that meant until mom explained that he was asking if she was pregnant! One of our favorite sayings came from Old Bill. We lived in a four-plex with Old Bill living right next door to us. Every day without fail we would hear this horrific crash and know that he had just gone out of the house. He was partly deaf, (and had only one eye), so he would slam the door hard whenever he went out, so much so that the door would pop back open again. So whenever one of us children would shut the door too hard, invariably mom or dad would call after us “Shut the door, Bill!” Old Bill was an extremely hardy old man and never complained about working in wind, rain or whatever the weather. And every day without fail he would invite us to join him in his “morning constitutional” which consisted of a dip in the icy ocean, regardless of the season. He would strip naked and let the waves wash over him. He swore it was excellent for one’s health! Old Bill was the last of a dying breed, one of the early pioneers of our province. He had done it all, and under the most adverse of conditions, with no complaint, and the manners of a perfect gentleman. He was a gentle soul that spoke no ill of anyone. He was an outstanding role model, one that we were fortunate to have in our lives for too short a period of time. – Jeannie Nielsen (one of many who remembers “Old Bill”)

To include your memories in Bill’s memorial please click this link.