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Archive for July, 2009

I took a trip with my family up Cape Cod to explore the lighthouses after Heather and Mom read an article in Yankee Magazine about New England lighthouses.  Heather picked out the 5 prettiest and printed up a MapQuest map for us.  She even had little trivia bits for us at each stop.  And because I’m a nerd, I had to look up each lighthouse’s light pattern.  Anthony, our tour guide when we visited Ledge Light in New London, said that sailors recognize which lighthouse they’re at because all the flash patterns are written down in a book.  And I think that’s really cool.  Yes, I did say it: NERD!

1. Nobska Point Light

Location: Woods Hole Harbor entrance, Cape Cod (cutest little neighborhood with windy roads).

Characteristic: Flashing white every six seconds with a red sector.

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2. Chatham Light

Location: Chatham Harbor

Characteristic: Group flashing white – two flashes every 10 seconds.

Chatham is supposed to be one of the foggiest places on the Cape.  I read online that the Cape Cod Baseball League regularly delays games when the infamous “Chatham fog” rolls in halfway through and settles on the field.

The lighthouse at Chatham used to have two lights (in separate towers).  Instead of using a flash pattern to distinguish the lighthouses on this part of the Cape, they used number of lights.  So there was one light south in North Truro, two here in Chatham, and three north at Nauset Beach.  This way sailors could tell where they were as they rounded the Cape to Boston.  But due to cliff erosion, they kept having to rebuild the lights, moving them further back off the cliff.  Eventually they dismantled the second light at Chatham and moved it to Nauset Point, replacing the Three Sisters lighthouses there.

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3. Nauset Light

Location: Nauset Light Beach, east coast of Cape Cod.

Characteristic: Alternating red and white flashes every 5 seconds.

If you think this lighthouse doesn’t quite look like its Chatham twin, you’re right.  It’s tower was painted red in the 1940’s to make it more visible during the daytime.  This is the lighthouse on the Cape Cod Potato Chip bags!!  Nom!

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4. Three Sisters Lighthouses

Location:  Eastham, Cape Cod.

Characteristics:  Three lights.

The Three Sisters were named for looking like three ladies in white dresses with black hats.  They were finally traded in for Nauset Light when people began arguing the necessity of three lighthouses over one.  Erosion forced the issue as well, and the lights were moved from the bluff and sold off.  The last one supposedly sold for $10 (TEN DOLLARS!  Can I please buy an ex-lighthouse for $10?) to someone named Albert Hall.  Albert craftily incorporated the lighthouse into a residence.  The Three Sisters were later bought from the Hall family by the National Park Service and restored.  Now they sit in a forest, which is odd. (:

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5. Highland Light

Location: Cape Cod National Seashore, east side of Cape Cod.

Characteristic: Flashing white every five seconds. (This is the light at North Truro, the “single light”).

This lighthouse has been moved back from the bluff because of serious erosion, which you can see from the observation deck.  It’s very scary!  But its newest location is right on the Highland Golf Links, which is a very picturesque golfing location, if I do say so myself (I’m definitely NOT a golfer). (;  Some joke that it’s the world’s first life-size miniature golf course.  Supposedly a golf ball once broke a window in the lantern room, and now they have unbreakable panes.  Classy (:  (That had to be one *bad* golfer!)

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“I’ll tell you a story, paint you a picture from my past.” –Nickel Creek, The Lighthouse’s Tale
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While I was up visiting my parents in Connecticut, we took a tour of the New London Ledge Light, reportedly one of the “Scariest Places on Earth.”  The story goes that an early light keeper, Ernie, leapt off the roof of the lighthouse because his wife ran off with the captain of the Block Island Ferry.  Ernie is rumored to haunt Ledge Light to this day, and members of the Coast Guard who kept the lighthouse in its pre-automated years claimed to hear mysterious knocks at night, doors opening and closing, and electronics turning on and off by themselves.  The lighthouse is now automated, and the log from the last day of manned operation reads: “A Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth. May New London Ledge’s light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.”

For the record, I felt the lighthouse had zero creepiness-factor. (;

The lighthouse sits on the Thames River at the entry to the New London Harbor.  We took a boat out from Avery Point with Project Oceanography.

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On our squiggly route out of the harbor we passed both the Avery Point Light and the New London Harbor Light (which happens to be the fourth lighthouse in North America and the first on Long Island Sound).

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Then we saw it–the beautiful New London Ledge Light!

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It’s a pretty unique lighthouse.  It does have a small cylindrical tower, but this part sits on top of a 3-story square French Second Empire style dwelling.  Its red brick is one of it’s three “voices” (along with its light and fog horn).  As our tour guide, Anthony, explained, sailors use the mnemonic device “Red, Right, Return” to arrive safely at port, keeping the red building (or light/buoy) on their starboard side as they enter the harbor.

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When we got inside the lighthouse, Anthony showed us the lightbulb that is used to light the lighthouse.  It was tiny!!!

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We learned that it’s actually the lens, not the lightbulb, that makes the light so bright.  You can see the light up to 18 miles away.  When the light bulb dies, it automatically rotates to the next bulb.  So cool!  Am I a nerd?!  I’m a nerd.  When we got to climb to the tower, Anthony showed us the lens.  The lightbulb stays on the whole time and there are rotating panels to make the light flash.  The Ledge Light flashes white three times and then red.  Boaters can tell by the pattern which lighthouse they are at.

The view from the top was beautiful.  You could see everything.  Here’s the view of the New London Harbor Light from Ledge Light:

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Once everyone had had a look from the tower we had to hurry home to beat some threatening clouds on the horizon, but it was really cool because there was a paranormal investigation team that pulled up right after us to stay the night.  I doubt they found anything. (;

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Overall it was a really fun tour and the Steeds left very happy (and windblown)!

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