A rigid-hull inflatable small boat from the Coast Guard buoy tender Abbie Burgess speeds out to the site of the survey project. (Courtesy of Mr. Brian R. McMahon)

The Long Blue Line: Minots Ledge Lighthouse – the deadly “Lover’s Light”

On April 17, 1851, the newly constructed lighthouse at Minots Ledge collapsed into the sea surrounding the ledge killing both its lighthouse keepers. Located off the Massachusetts coast south of Boston, the failure of this state-of-the-art lighthouse had been in the making for years. The lighthouse was rebuilt and has withstood every subsequent gale, but the two keepers lost will remain an important chapter in the Coast Guard’s long blue line.


Illustration of the Potomac Flotilla attacking Confederate fortifications at Aquia Creek, south of Washington on the Potomac in 1861. Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Long Blue Line: Lighthouse tender and warship with the heart of a lion

In the early days of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, tenders were vessels equipped with lifting apparatus to deliver heavy cargo and construction materials to lighthouses. Such was the case with Lighthouse Tender Van Santvoort that was later renamed Coeur de Leon, meaning lion-hearted. The tender supported the construction of the famous Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse and aided in the development of hot air balloon technology.


The Long Blue Line: Hawaiian keepers of the light

Travelers visiting Hawaii admire the beauty of the state’s lighthouses and their picturesque surroundings. However, these structures are hollow reflections of the native Hawaiians who stood the watch through good times and bad. As members of the long blue line, they helped build the history and heritage of the U.S. Coast Guard.


Sea Stories: Coast Guard Light Station Five Finger

Five Finger Islands Lighthouse was built 115 years ago and became a part of the Coast Guard in 1939. The light once guided prospectors into southeast Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush and currently serves as a weather outpost for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Data Buoy Center, and remains a marine safety sight for the Alaska Marine Exchange. Hank O’Sullivan provides a first-person recounting of life as a member of the four-person crew stationed at the light in 1977.


Honor, Respect Devotion to Duty: Sally Snowman – keeper of America’s first light

America’s first lighthouse, Boston Light, is the only Coast Guard-manned lighthouse in the country. At 300 years old, it takes a special group of people to keep the light shining. Guiding a group of 32 assistant keepers is Coast Guard Auxiliarist Sally Snowman, the keeper of Boston Light.


Legacy of Light: Five Finger Islands Lighthouse guides mariners around last frontier

Built in 1902 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, which became part of the Coast Guard in 1939, the Five Finger Islands Light once guided prospectors into southeast Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush and still welcomes mariners, tourists and scientists today.


Legacy of Light: Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands lonely watch

Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands sentinel in the middle of Lake Superior, further from shore than any other lighthouse in the United States. One of the top ten engineering feats in American history, the lighthouse was built in 1835 to mark an uncharted hazard.


The Long Blue Line: Keeper Charles Anderson — defender of Fort Point Lighthouse during worst natural disaster

The men and women of the Lighthouse Service manned the lights in all sorts of sea and weather conditions and not only served in harm’s way, but lived in harm’s way. During the 1900 Great Galveston Hurricane, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, keeper Charles DeWitt Anderson maintained the Fort Point Lighthouse until the ferocious storm extinguished the flame.


The Long Blue Line: Harry Claiborne—Light Keeper and Lifesaver

For years, the U.S. Life-Saving Service boasted the unofficial motto of “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” This phrase refers to the fact that Life-Saving Service personnel often braved the worst sea and weather conditions to save the lives of others–many of them lost their own lives in the process. Such was the case in the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.


Legacy of Light: World’s largest lens shines Aloha light

From the Makapu’u Light on Oahu’s southeastern most point, the world’s largest lighthouse lens reflects a beam that can be seen from 19 nautical miles away. The light sheperds mariners through the well traveled waters around the Aloha State from freighters transporting goods to fishing vessels, dive boats and cruise ships.


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