Unwatched Lights – All Automated

In the early twentieth century there were many navigational lights on the British Columbia coast maintained by individuals under contract. These were not lighthouses but pylons, piles, posts, rafts, or dolphins of wood or cement, or metal tanks made from disused military mooring buoys.

Upon these moorings was placed a kerosene (coal oil) lamp which would have to be tended. Some of the lights in accessible locations were lit before sunset and extinguished after sunrise, daily, weekly, for years, and with little pay.

Other lights were supplied with a two day lamp that remained lit for two days (the extent of the fuel reservoir) and then were changed over with a full, clean lamp. A later invention was a low maintenance, thirty-one day coal oil lamp. This also proved useless as it carboned up and was not very bright.

For example, before the real Capilano lighthouse (aka First Narrows) was established 1913 at the mouth of the Capilano river – List of Lights #394 – near the entrance to Vancouver Harbour, a black cylindrical tank was installed on a dolphin or piling, and a man was hired to row over and maintain the light and also wind the fog bell when it was installed at a later date. This was not an easy job because tides and fog competed with the Capilano river outflow to hamper any but the strongest of men.


First Narrows light 2006

When the Capilano lighthouse was automated in 1969, the lighthouse, complete with the engine room and residence on its wood pilings was burnt to the water and again a light beacon was established on a concrete pillar. This was later replaced with another beacon on a wood dolphin which stands today. 



 Another local light that was unwatched was Garry Point – List of Lights #333 – off the mouth of the Fraser River. Because of its location, this could be easily be reached by land and so did not require a manned station. It was probably maintained by a man from Steveston. Continue reading