A beacon in the dark
October 5, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Everything you ever wanted to know about lighthouses - The Lighthouse Directory - "which provides information and links for more than 12,900 of the world's lighthouses."
posted by awfurby (15 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Nice link....

I've visited nearly every lighthouse in Michigan (which has more lights than any other state).... wonderful history!
posted by HuronBob at 8:29 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is pretty cool. I grew up across the river from this one and never stopped to give it a second thought until now.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:31 PM on October 5, 2010

Sharp's Island is my favorite. Thing broke loose in a storm and floated 5 miles with its crew still inside it! And it still has a rakish tilt.
posted by The otter lady at 8:34 PM on October 5, 2010

I like the 'faux lighthouses' sections, like these two in my native New Hampshire. I also like that our 18 mile Atlantic coast has three lighthouses, but apparently one (despite being in the Portsmouth harbor) is actually in Maine's water, so isn't even listed in the New Hampshire page.

Are there people who work in lighthouses for a summer, a la fire lookout towers decades ago, or is it pretty entrenched and hard to get into?
posted by Corduroy at 8:35 PM on October 5, 2010

My dad's head will explode when he sees this. Thanks!
posted by brundlefly at 8:45 PM on October 5, 2010

Aw yeah, represent! I hadn't realized that the Enoshima lighthouse used to be a roller coaster, either.

Are there people who work in lighthouses for a summer, a la fire lookout towers decades ago, or is it pretty entrenched and hard to get into?

"You know how many kids come up to me at lighthouse trade shows and say they want to work in a lighthouse? I could light my corncob pipe with you every day and still have enough to carry my dinghy down to the water. Listen, this knit cap costs more than your car. I spotted sixty ships last year. How many you spot? You see, pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing. Foghorn engineer? I don't give a shit. Qualified rigger? Fuck you! Go home and play with your knots. You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you landlubber? You can't take this, how can you handle the spiral stairway? You don't like it, leave. But be careful of those rocks on your way out."
posted by No-sword at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wonderful. My favorite's Cape Leeuwin, for getting me home safe once or twice.
posted by Ahab at 9:52 PM on October 5, 2010

My husband is a huge lighthouse fan. I bet he gets no work done tomorrow after I show him this.
posted by immlass at 9:57 PM on October 5, 2010

My wife and I are looking up at this one in this photo (you can see it reflected in our sunglasses).
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:06 PM on October 5, 2010

This site is great.
This site + this Alison Krauss song + a glass of red = pure bliss.
posted by prinado at 10:15 PM on October 5, 2010

Terrific! would be great to have this in hard copy.
posted by Racy at 1:00 AM on October 6, 2010

Superb. Thank you very much indeed. For me Point of Ayr in North Wales and South Stack in Anglesey will always hold a special place in my heart. Point of Ayr for a school trip when I was around ten and remember the wide expanse of shoreline and first sight of the lighthouse as something quite magical. South Stack for those cold dark stormy nights cooped up in a caravan near RAF Valley and seeing on the horizon the familiar swish of the light house and counting the 10 seconds until it came around again.

On a slight tangent but for requisite atmospherics can I point you lighthouse fans towards the icelandic band Múm who recorded their 2002 album Summer Make Good in two remote lighthouses in Iceland.
posted by numberstation at 1:40 AM on October 6, 2010

The quintessential lighthouse to me will always be Nubble Light. My family lived in Western Mass and our summer vacations were an extended family affair, always in or about the York, Maine area.

When I was 10 years old or so I got the idea to try a message in a bottle on one of our weeklong Maine vacations. I cleaned out and took the label off of an empty Polar seltzer bottle and wrote out a note. At this point I don't recall what exactly I wrote, but the gist was that I was a 10 year old kid from Mass who was hopeful the bottle would miraculously make it to far off shores, that I had thrown this bottle into the water at the accessible viewing area across from Nubble Light, and my address. I surely hoped that my future exotic foreign penpal could read and write english.

As 10 year olds are wont to do, I promptly forgot about my message in a bottle until around four months later when a letter arrived in the mail, stuffed full and bulging. It turns out that my message actually HAD reached someone and they'd even responded! Fully expecting correspondence from a new Uruguayan friend despite the tidal impossibility, I tore open my letter.

Turns out that the Friends of Nubble Light hold a yearly picnic on the nubble and while exploring around, someone had spotted my bottle stuck in the rocks about 100 yards across the water from where I'd thrown it in. They wrote me a very nice letter, saying they enjoyed finding my message (even though it hadn't made it very far) and included a photo of one of them picking the bottle up from the rocks as well as some Nubble Light and lobster patches and stickers.

Even at 10 I think I appreciated that it was maybe even better that my bottle had only made it about 100 yards (and still gotten a response!)
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:16 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

For anyone interested in the Herculean efforts sometimes required to get these things built, I commend to you this book. (Who knew that Robert Louis Stevenson was actually the black sheep in his family of engineers?)
posted by Mike D at 7:20 AM on October 6, 2010

I vacation frequently along the Great Lakes, and I like visiting lighthouses when I can. I can't claim to have visited as many as HuronBob, but I have been to a couple dozen.

On my most recent trip (which included climbing the towers of six lighthouses, plus others I saw only from the outside, on Lake Michigan), I pondered what the attraction of lighthouses was to so many, myself included. On a practical level, they are aids to navigation to be sure, but that's not it; when various lighthouses were decommissioned, they were often replaced with lights on bare metal scaffolds, but those scaffolds, just as good as far as being a navigational aid, do not inspire the same feeling of wonder. Even lighthouses which do still operate as lights are largely automated; though some are also open as museums operated by historical societies or parks or such, the maintenance of the light itself is done by the Coast Guard (in the U.S.), and require only infrequent visits from Coast Guard personnel.

I think the charm of lighthouses from the days when lighthouses had to be manned is at least partly because, beyond their mere status as navigational aids, they must have sent a powerful emotional message to sailors who had spent days or weeks at sea with only a handful of crewmates: "You are not alone. There are others here who care about you and will do what they can to see that you complete your voyage safely."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:47 AM on October 6, 2010

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