Monday, June 25, 2012

All in a Day's Work for the Lighthouse Service

Photos of Pacific Northwest lighthouse tender USS Cedar, from
This excerpt from the 1921 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses shows what doesn't happen now that all U.S. lighthouses--except one--are fully automated. (Boston Light still has Coast Guard keepers, thanks to the late Senator Edward Kennedy.)

The following extracts from reports received by the bureau give some typical cases of especially meritorious service rendered by vessels and employees of the Lighthouse Service in saving life and property during the fiscal year:
Stranded oil tank.—The Standard Oil tank Atlas, of 1,145 net tons, with a cargo of gasoline and kerosene, struck a reef and was stranded in Snow l ass, about 75 miles from Ketchikan, Alaska, at about 5 o'clock on the morning of December 20, 1920. It appeared that the master of the oil tank feared the vessel would slide off into deep water at low tide and was preparing to abandon ship. The lighthouse tenders Cedar and Fern, which were at the lighthouse depot at Ketchikan, were ordered to proceed at once to the assistance of the Atlas. The floating of the stranded vessel was accomplished promptly by the two tenders and was carried out with skill and good judgment.
Disabled schooner.—The Annie E, a 60-ton schooner which left Honolulu for the island of Hawaii on August 8,1920, with a cargo of lumber and gasoline, sprung several leaks and became disabled the first day out of Honolulu. Two days later three of the sailors, who had left the vessel in an endeavor to make shore and summon assistance, were picked up by a fishing sampan. Motor launches were sent in search of the schooner, and Navy Department hydroplanes and airplanes also made search, but without success. On August 15 information by wireless was received from the U. S. transport Madawaska, which was on its way from Honolulu to Manila, that a sailing vessel showing flareups, but apparently in good condition, was sighted, and gave its location. The lighthouse tender Kukui, which was having its boilers repaired, was ordered to get up steam and leave in search of the missing vessel. The tender left Honolulu the same evening, and the next evening at 8 o 'clock located the disabled schooner 80 miles westward of the location given by the transport Madawaska and about 225 miles from Honolulu. All the members of the crew were rescued by the Kukui, but the dilapidated condition of the schooner made it impossible to tow it to port, and it was set afire to prevent its becoming a menace to navigation.
Motor boat in distress.—At 6 o'clock on the morning of March 29, 1921, the keeper of Bakers Island Light Station, Massachusetts, sighted a small open motor boat in distress about 2 miles northeast of the light station. The wind was northwest and very strong, the weather cold and clear. The keeper and assistant keeper went to the assistance of the boat and found two men who were nearly exhausted from cold and hunger, the boat having broken down the preceding evening. The men were taken to the light station, where they were given a hot breakfast by the light keepers.
Grounded steamer.—On the morning of December 17, 1920, at about 10 o'clock, the U. S. Shipping Board steamer National Bridge, a vessel of 3,545 tons, was found to be aground on Bald Head Shoal, Cape Fear River Bar, N. C, by the lighthouse tender Cypress. A strong southwesterly breeze was blowing. The Cypress ran close enough to throw a heaving line on board the disabled steamer, and with a towing line succeeded in pulling her off the shoal into deep water. The captain of the Cypress states that the tender arrived just in time to save the National Bridge.
Endangered lighthouse.—About 5 o'clock on the morning of December 24, 1920, the keeper of Long Point Shoal Light Station, North Carolina, discovered that a string of 12 or 15 barges had become entangled around the lighthouse, causing violent vibration of the structure. The keeper thought the lighthouse in serious danger, as the sea was running high, with a strong tide. The keeper stated: "I knew that something had to be done, and that quick, or the lighthouse would soon be torn up. When I descended I found that the barges were connected with a heavy wire cable. I got an ax and managed to cut the cable, and by hard labor and perseverance for quite awhile I got the barges on the weather side freed. It was the worst job I ever tackled in the night, but I believe I saved this house from serious damage, if not wreck, for just after this it blew hard."
Disabled motor boat.—On November 11, 1920, at 11 o'clock in the morning, the lighthouse tender Mayflower picked up the disabled motor boat Alleppo, of Newbwyport, Mass., at a point about 10 miles southeast of Cape Ann Light Station, Massachusetts, with two men aboard, who stated that they had been adrift for two days without food or water. The motor boat was without gasoline, had no sail, and the oars were lost. There was no compass and the men had no idea of their location.
Floating dry dock.The 8,000-ton floating dry dock owned by the Charleston Dry Dock & Machine Co., of Charleston, S. C, and which had been temporarily removed from its slip and moored during dredging operations, parted its moorings and went adrift during a heavy squall about 11 o'clock on the night of July 2, 1920. The tide was ebbing and the dry dock was beginning to drift out of the harbor, when the lighthouse tender Mangrove, which was at the lighthouse depot, was notified and promptly got under way. The tender found the' dry dock floating out through Folly Island Channel, a little below Fort Ripley Shoal Light Station, made fast and, assisted by the tugs Cecelia and Manomet, returned the dry dock to the company's wharf. The loss of the dry dock or its serious damage would have been in the nature of a disaster to the owners, its value being estimated at half a million dollars, and would also be very detrimental to local shipowners, who depend on it for docking their vessels.
Wrecked power boat.—On November 17, 1920, during a heavy windstorm, the power boat Stroller, Capt. Langley, was driven upon the dock at the Lazaretto Lighthouse Depot, Maryland, staving in her side. The officers and crew of the lighthouse tender Maple assisted in removing from the sinking vessel the wife and three small children of Capt. Langley and afterwards beaching the vessel.

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