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Archive for July, 2009

99th Birthday of Split Rock

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Each July 31 all of the staff at Split Rock Lighthouse anticipate the date as it is the anniversary of the first lighting of the Split Rock beacon by Keeper Orren “Pete” Young.  That was 99 years ago!  After the two-year restoration project on the light station buildings I think Pete Young would be amazed how good the place looks after all those years.

Split Rock Lighthouse after restoration - June 2009


It is interesting to think that 100 years ago, on this date, at this location, this rock dome overlooking Lake Superior was abuzz with up to fifty men working hard six days a week  to complete the construction of the light station by the end of the season.  By July of 1910 the lighthouse was complete and the third-order Fresnel lens was in place.  The last night of the month Keeper Young climbed the spiral staircase and lit the incandescent oil vapor lamp for the first time.

Keeper Orren "Pete" Young, ca. 1910

Tonight at sunset I will climb the steps in Keeper Young’s, and many other keeper’s footsteps and light the beacon for an hour at sunset.  That is one big birthday candle!

Independence Day at the lighthouse

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

What could be more American than lighthouses?  I never mind spending  July 4th at the lighthouse.  While I could have hopped on my motorcycle and ridden into town to watch the fireworks from close up I found it more peaceful, and just as good of a show, to observe from the observation deck at the base of the lighthouse 130 feet above Lake Superior.

This was much better than the Fourth of July ten years ago, the day that the massive storms blew through northern Minnesota washing out Highway 61 and causing the devestating blowdown damage to hundreds of thousands of acres of mature forest in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness just a few miles to the north of the lighthouse.

This Independence Day show was a bonus.  A near-full moon, a clear and warm evening, and a calm breeze made sunset and darkness especially captivating.  From my vantage point next to the lighthouse at a little after 10 p.m. I counted fourteen fireworks displays up and down the North Shore, across the lake in Wisconsin, and even 45 miles away in Duluth and Superior.

The beacon at sunsetTowns from Tofte, Silver Bay, Two Harbors and Duluth in Minnesota to Superior, Port Wing, Cornucopia, Bayfield and Ashland in Wisconsin were celebrating our country’s independence in small town style.  Granted, the displays were pretty small when viewed from where I was standing but to see the flashes and displays of bright explosions followed minutes later by muffled booms over the calm lake added an element you can’t get from up close.

To celebrate in my own way I lit the lighthouse beacon for an hour at sunset.   Not a bad evening after a very busy day at the lighthouse.

Why people visit Split Rock Lighthouse

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Now that the summer season is here…finally…it is great to see the families, bicyclists, hikers, campers, kayakers, motorcyclists and just plan lighthouse enthusiasts back visiting Split Rock Lighthouse and the North Shore.Sailboat below the lighthouse

Even after the many years of living and working at Split Rock and talking to the many visitors to the lighthouse it is obvious that everyone has their own reasons to visit…and to often return many times.  There is a saying that nobody hates a lighthouse, and it is plain that many people think very highly of them indeed, even if they do not continue to guide ships every night.

A person could point to all of the philosophical reasons that people relate to a lighthouse.  Lighthouses, and light keepers, often conjure up words like romantic, heroic, protective, spiritual and reflective.  All of those reflect emotional ties to lighthouses, and their locations along rugged and isolated shorelines, but I think many people just enjoy the experience of being at the contact point between the land, the water, and the human element that a lighthouse adds.  Throw in killer scenery, miles of hiking trails, an All-American Roadway to get there on, and miles and miles of cliffs and forests and you have a winning combination. Fog and June visitors

In any event, the visitors to Split Rock are always friendly and enjoy themselves.  It sure makes my job fun and makes it easy to see that “everybody loves a lighthouse”.