Lighthouse Tales: Someone turned on the dark

March 22, 2007 12:00 am

On March 8, the Battery Point Lighthouse went dark.

We assumed that the lamp had been burned out, but the alarm did not sound. The switch that turns the light on and off has a backup so I switched over to that backup, but nothing happened. The switches are driven by a special electric clock drive and it appeared that both drives were inoperable. This was confirmed, as there was still power to the light circuit itself.

Light pattern

Before going any further, we contacted the United States Coast Guard and reported that we were dark. Battery Point Lighthouse is a private aid to navigation but we still operate under the rules established by the Coast Guard to keep the system from becoming confused.

The light has a specific light pattern called the characteristic.

A simple on/off switch will not work. The Battery Point characteristic is 3.5 seconds of light followed by 26.5 seconds of dark. To perform this pattern a special switch is needed and a visit to the hardware store just won't do. We needed to repair the switch that we had or have a new and expensive solid-state switch manufactured.

I looked on the Internet for a company that might be able to supply new clock motors for this old system. If one could not be found, then a new solid state switching apparatus would need to be purchased.

My search yielded pay dirt when I found the American Time and Signal Company in Minnesota. These good folks carry hundreds of specialty timing devices and they had the drive motors that I needed.

Because of a special clutch assembly on our unit, they asked that the unit be sent to them so they could get us exactly what we needed.

Good to go

After they received out clock part, I talked to them on the telephone. They admitted that this was an unusual device, but they were up to the challenge. On March 16, we got the units back, we reassembled the switch and tested and tweaked the unit.

After confirming that the system was once again working properly, we put the lighthouse back into service and once again called the Coast Guard.

The Battery Point Lighthouse ran for many years without mechanical breakdown and with the new clocks, main and backup, it will illuminate the rocky shore of Crescent City for many more years.

Smooth sailing everyone.

Randy Ansley, the Battery Point Lighthouse keeper, can be reached at

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