Status: Indexed


The "romance" of the old Lighthouse has been lost, for the most part, by the mechanization of the lights and the modernization of related equipment. Isolated lighthouse sites have radio or telephone communication, motor launches, and electrically operated lights or signals. The oil lantern has been superceded and supplemented by radio aids - raidobeacons, RADAR beacons and LORAN. In addition to the lights' rays, there are "pips" and "blips" and "pulses" to guide the mariner to safety. However, though these electronic aids be far more reaching and provide greater accuracy than the light, they can never instill the same warm rush of relief and thanksgiving that fills the sailor's heart when the first pale rays of a familiar light beacon breaks through the fog and rain after anxious hours on a stormy sea.

When the Lighthouse Service consolidated with the Coast Guard, 31 major light stations were among the facilities transferred to the Seattle District.¹ Many of these Light Stations had tales of heroism, danger and tragedy woven into their histories. The oldest of these stations were the lights at Cape Disappointment and New Dungeness, completed in 1856 as the first activity of the Lighthouse Service in the new frontier - the Pacific Northwest.

The New Dungeness Lighthouse was built in 1857 on a spit off the south shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca near the entrance to Puget Sound. Cape Disappointment Beacon was constructed on the only headland of the low beach between Tillamook Head and Point Grenville (80 miles), on the north point of the entrance to the Columbia River. The following year, another lighthouse was erected on Tatoosh Island just off the tip of Cape Flattery. The Island had previously been used as a whaling station and fishing headquarters by the Indians who had been, until then, the sole inhabitants. Before the Lighthouse was built, a blockade was established and muskets furnished to the workmen as protection against marauding Indians. The first Keeper of the station resigned because of the "annoyances" he and the other 3 white men suffered at the hands of the 250 Indians living there. Because of the treacherous waters and shoals, the easiest access to the Island was by a huge basket. In calm weather, boats could land on the beach but the basket method was the more dependable. This was by no means a "primitive" devise, for the basket and its hoist are still the best means to effect a landing.

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