The annual Midcoast Maine Lighthouse Challenge offers the general public a fun-learning way to experience the lights up close and personal by having the opportunity to climb to the top of seven Midcoast sentinels and enjoy the rich history and beauty that surrounds these special places.
This year’s event, sponsored by the American Lighthouse Foundation and its local chapter, Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights, took place on June 29 and 30 and was as popular as ever. The “challenge” of visiting all seven lights in one weekend – Dyce Head, Fort Point, Grindle Point, Rockland Breakwater, Owls Head, Marshall Point and Pemaquid Point, was a feat many people once again looked forward to undertaking with their family and/or friends.
After reaching the pinnacle of a lighthouse, some of the most common questions lighthouse volunteers fielded from visitors during the event centered on the optics atop the light towers, including the lamps that burn bright inside Fresnel lenses and acrylic beacons.
Questions ranged from…
How old is the Fresnel lens? How do modern optics compare with the Fresnel lens? How long do the lamps last? What turns the light on automatically? Does the U.S. Coast Guard still maintain the light?
Of course, many of the well-versed volunteers that greeted visitors at the seven lights could answer these questions and many more, but if Midcoast Maine Lighthouse Challenge participants were further intrigued by the lenses and lamps that help guide mariners, they had to look no further than inside the keeper’s house at Owls Head Light Station to satisfy their curiosity.
For the fifth straight year, the United States Coast Guard was on hand during the Challenge to share with visitors a variety of modern beacon displays, fascinating imagery showing how the USCG keeps the lights shining bright today and to answer questions pertaining to lighthouses, optics, fog horns and fog detectors.
Personnel from U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Southwest Harbor, which cares for twenty-six lighthouses from Port Clyde to the Canadian border, staffed the educational exhibit from 9 am to 5 pm and talked with over 300 people during the weekend event.
Coastguardsmen explained the evolution of lighthouse optics in recent years and shared with visitors how light emitting diode (LED) technology is beginning to supplant traditional incandescent beacons in lighthouses, and how this trend will continue as the wave of the future.
Visitors to the USCG exhibit also asked other great questions, such as how a VM-100 fog detector operates, how far the sound of a fog horn can be heard and what the life span is of a 1000-watt and other incandescent lamps presently in use at lighthouses.
Many thanks to U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Southwest Harbor, which is under the command of BMC Brian Hawkins, Officer-in-Charge, for once again playing an important educational role with the Midcoast Maine Lighthouse Challenge. The Coast Guard’s participation elevated the public’s learning opportunities as it relates to lighthouses and other aids to navigation, all the while adding to the overall fun of the event.
Special thanks goes out to EM1 Steve Horner for helping create the exhibit, and to FN Alex Lozanski, SN Sami Jasser and Auxiliarist Bob Trapani, Jr. for staffing the exhibit throughout the weekend. Mr. Trapani also serves as the Executive Director for the American Lighthouse Foundation.
In the end, visitors learned about the changes in technology with our nation’s lighthouses, but they also walked away from the experience knowing that as much as things change – one thing that will not change is the Coast Guard’s longstanding commitment to keeping a good light. The USCG will certainly continue to “leave the light on” for those at sea – and YOU on land too.