CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Diamond Head Lighthouse on Oahu

     The Diamond Head Lighthouse is a prominent symbol of Hawaiian history to residents and visitors alike. The lighthouse rests aside a tuff-cone volcano, formed by explosive eruptions thousands of years ago.

     In 1825, British sailors ascended the crater and found hard, clear calcite crystals among the black rocks. Mistaking them for diamonds, the sailors named the crater Diamond Head. Once of the Hawaiian names for Diamond Head is "leahi", meaning "wreath of fire". The name reflects the ancient Hawaiian practice of lighting a fire on the crest of the volcano to guide canoe fleets back to the island.

     The first lighthouse on this site was built in 1899. It was rebuilt in 1917 when cracks developed in the earlier structure. The Diamond Head Lighthouse still uses the original Fresnell Lens. The flash of a modern 1000-watt electric bulb is focused by the lens so it can be seen more than 18 miles out to sea.

     Located at the eastern end of Waikiki Beach, the Diamond Head Crater is a familiar landmark to the throngs of tourists who today pack the high-rise hotels in the area. For mariners of yesteryear, Diamond Head also served as a landmark for their approach to the harbor at Honolulu from the west coast of the United States.

     In the 1820s, sailors discovered what they believed were diamonds in the rocks on the volcano's slopes. Although the sailor's diamonds turned out to be clear calcite crystals, the name Diamond Head has been associated with the crater ever since.

     With the increase of commerce calling at the port of Honolulu, a lookout was established in 1878 on the seaward slopes of Diamond Head for spotting and reporting incoming vessels.

     During the night of October 2, 1893 the SS Miowera grounded on the reef just off Diamond Head. As Diamond Head was obscured that evening, the vessel's captain had mistaken the high land to the north of the crater as Diamond Head and had brought his ship too close to shore. All passengers and cargo were safely off-loaded, but it took six weeks to free the Miowera. Four years later, the magnificent steamship China also ran aground. It was widely believed that both of these incidents could have been avoided had a light been shown from Diamond Head.

     Captain James King, minister of the Interior for the Republic of Hawai`i, had been petitioning the Hawaiian legislature for a light on Diamond Head for several years, and according to the following account from the December 4, 1897 edition of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser steps were finally being taken to rectify the situation.

     Captain King became weary of hearing the pros and cons of the case, and after a few trips to the vicinity with Mr. Rowell, the Superintendent of Public Works, drove a stake for the site of the beacon. ... There was ordered at once the material for the illumination and for the towers. The iron for the structure has arrived and as soon as some road is made to the slope point, work on the structure will begin.

     The selected site was just 250 yards west of Charlie's lookout tower, and the original structure was a forty-foot-tall, iron, framework tower built by Honolulu Iron Works. Barbier and Benard of France manufactured the third-order Fresnel lens along with the lantern room for the tower. Due to concerns over the stability of the structure, the open framework was enclosed with walls constructed of coral-rock, excavated from a quarry on O`ahu. The light, which had a red sector to mark dangerous shoals and reefs, was first lit on July 1, 1899. A circular hole was left about midway up the tower so that Diamond Head Charlie could have an unobstructed view towards Barbers Point. John M. Kaukaliu was the first keeper of the Diamond Head Lighthouse, and as no keeper's dwelling was provided, he lived at a private residence about a quarter of a mile from the lighthouse.

     When the Lighthouse Board took control of all aids to navigation in the Hawaiian Islands in 1904, it reported that the Diamond Head Lighthouse was the only first-class lighthouse in the territory. However, during an inspection in 1916, it was noted that growing cracks in the structure were compromising the tower's integrity. In 1917, funds were allocated for constructing a fifty-five-foot tower of reinforced concrete on the original foundation.

    Scaffolding was built around the old tower and the original lantern room was removed and placed atop a new metal framework, allowing the continuous operation of the light. The old tower was then dismantled and replaced with the modern concrete structure, which strongly resembles the original tower. One notable difference is that the old tower had an external staircase that wrapped partway around the tower, whereas the new tower houses an internal, cast-iron, spiral stairway. When the tower was complete, the lantern room containing the Fresnel lens was placed atop the new lighthouse.

     The first keeper's dwelling at the station was built several yards west of the tower in 1921, three years after the new lighthouse was activated. Before that time, the keepers typically lived in a nearby village. A keeper occupied the dwelling for just three years, as the station was automated in 1924.

      During World War II, a Coast Guard radio station was housed in the keeper's dwelling, and a small structure was built on the seaward side of the tower. Following the war, the dwelling was remodeled and has since been home to the Commanders of the Fourteenth Coast Guard District.

     Besides continuing its nightly vigil over the reefs at Diamond Head, the lighthouse also serves as one end of the finish line for the biennial Transpac Yacht Race, which starts 2,225 miles away in Long Beach, California. During the race, members of the Transpacific Yacht Club are allowed to use the tower as a lookout for recording finishing times. The road near the lighthouse is packed with people watching the beautiful yachts, under full sail, riding the trade winds towards Honolulu. Even when there isn't a race to watch, the pullouts near the lighthouse offer amazing views of the surf and those who are drawn to ride it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Aloha Tower Lighthouse in Honolulu, Ohau

     The second stop on our cruise was in Oahu where we found three much lighthouses that seemed much more traditional in structure.  The first, in Honolulu Harbor was the Aloha Tower lighthouse.

     On June 20, 1851, the House of Nobles and the House of Representatives of the Kingdom of Hawai'i passed an act, later signed by King Kamehameha III, for the establishment of lights for Honolulu Harbor. The provisions of the act, however, were never implemented, and in 1862-1863 the private sector led a campaign to raise funds for its own lighthouse at Honolulu Harbor to honor Captain James Cook. These efforts failed to produce a lighthouse as well, and it wasn’t until 1869 that real progress was made when the Hawaiian government purchased a small island near the harbor entrance to serve as the site for a lighthouse.

    Two bids were submitted for the harbor lighthouse. Honolulu Iron Works agreed to provide a lighthouse on iron pilings for $2,141, but a lower bid of $360, submitted by L. L. Gilbert for an all-wooden structure, was accepted. Wooden pilings were driven into the reef that formed the small island, and atop these a keeper’s residence and a square pyramidal lighthouse topped by a lantern room were constructed. Keeper Captain McGregor first exhibited the light from whale oil lamps, concentrated by a fourth-order Fresnel lens, on August 2, 1869.

     Though visible from a distance of nine miles and found to be quite useful to mariners, the lighthouse, which was given the nickname of the “Harbor Wink,” was called “an infantile structure which more resembles a birdcage than a lighthouse,” by Honolulu’s newspaper, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Working in conjunction with a light onshore, the maligned lighthouse also served as a front range light.

     The Honolulu Harbor Lighthouse was situated in the middle of the entrance channel, so ships carrying cargo to and from the port passed on either side. In 1875, the Reciprocity Treaty, a free trade agreement between the United States and Hawai'i, was ratified. This treaty greatly boosted the flow of sugar from Hawai'i to the United States, and pineapples became a second major export a few decades later.

     In 1906, after Hawai'i had become a territory of the United States and the Lighthouse Board had assumed control of the islands’ navigational aids, work began on a new entrance light for Honolulu Harbor. The Annual Report of the Department of Commerce and Labor records the following description of the second harbor lighthouse, which was located on Sand Island and first lit on February 15, 1910.

    The structure is rectangular in plan, one and a half stories high … The main floor contains quarters for two keepers, each provided with kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. There are ample closets and pantries for each keeper. The main entrance and hall are approached from outside by a flight of concrete steps, and there are steps in the rear of the structure for both sets of quarters. The roof is framework, covered in metal tiles. Atop the keepers’ quarters is the square tower supporting: an occulting fourth-order lens, revolving on ball bearings.
Sixteen years after the new lighthouse commenced operation, a large-scale project was undertaken to provide a modern freight and passenger terminal at piers 8, 9, and 10 in Honolulu Harbor. As part of this project, a tower was constructed to provide offices for the harbor master, pilots, and customs officials. Honolulu Iron Works constructed the tower’s steel frame for $161,063, while the total cost for the twelve-story structure came to $190,000. The eleventh floor of the tower served as a lookout for the harbor pilots, with balconies on all four sides. Right below the balconies, the word ALOHA was spelled out in large letters, certainly the reason the structure was called the Aloha Tower. Besides its giant greeting displayed for arriving passengers, the tower, the tallest structure in Honolulu when it was finished in 1926, was also topped by a beacon to help captains enter the harbor.

     An article in the May 30, 1926 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser provided a detailed description of the tower, including the following lines on its beacon. “On top of the tower the harbor light, which is now located on Sand Island, is to be installed, and the light on Sand Island done away with. The light will be known as Honolulu Light, and will be visible to ships at sea for many miles.”

     Besides its light, the Aloha Tower had several other functional features. A giant clock face was   mounted on each of the tower’s faces, just below the ALOHAs. The master clock was powered mechanically by large weights suspended in the tower. If a ship or person was too far away to read the clock, two other means of time synchronization were provided. A time ball was lowered to the bottom of the forty-foot mast atop the tower each day at noon, and the blast of a siren was sounded at 7 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. The novelty of the blasts was soon lost on nearby residents, and use of the siren was restricted to welcoming ships and warning residents of dangers from such sources as tsunamis and fires.

    A yardarm was also used atop the tower for signaling messages to mariners. When an orange ball and cone were both displayed, the harbor was closed. Right-of-way belonged to incoming ships when just the ball was displayed, and outgoing ships had the right-of-way when just the cone was present.
     The Aloha Tower received little damage during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but shortly thereafter, it was camouflaged with brown and green paint, and its light was extinguished for the remainder of the war.

    A reopening celebration for the tower, which was returned to a uniform color, was held in 1948. By the late 1960s, tall hotels and business buildings were crowding the tower, and the Coast Guard decided to discontinue the beacon atop the Aloha Tower and install one on a 220-foot television tower. This navigational aid served until 1975, when the present Honolulu Harbor Light was established on a metal pole at the end of Pier 2.

     Ron Billian serviced navigational aids on Oahu from 1967 to 1969 as a BM2 in the Coast Guard. By the time of his service, the light had been moved from the Aloha Tower to the TV tower. Ron remembers how difficult it was to service the TV tower light. "It was one of the hardest and most dangerous lights to climb. There was a concrete base and you had to have a wooden step ladder. You would climb the ladder then step over onto a rung on the tower. The tower was round and rungs were on each side. Your legs had to be spread apart and you had to push up with your one leg and pull with your arms. We had a safety belt, and we wore it hooked to a metal pole running up the center of the tower. Once you got up to where the light was you had to unhook from the safety belt and step onto the platform where the light was - you would reverse the steps to come down. The danger was unhooking and rehooking from safety belt. I will confess I never made it up to the light. I'm 5ft. 7in. tall, and I didn't have the height or the strength to climb this tower. I tried more than once. We would get a sailor from the Coast Guard base that was also a diver, and he would climb the tower."

     Owned by the State of Hawai'i, the Aloha Tower was extensively renovated in 1994, at no cost to   taxpayers, by the developer of the adjacent Aloha Tower Marketplace.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Coconut Point Lighthouse in Hilo, Hawaii

     Our first stop on our cruise to Hawaii is in Hilo on the island of Hawaii.  Like many of the in the Pacific, the Coconut Point Lighthouse is quite nondescript.  It is a simple, quite small tower with a small beacon on top.  Many of them are equipped with a green light as shown in the second photo below.

      The first beacon at Coconut Point was built by the Hawaiian government on the southwest shore of Hilo Bay and was tied to the city's electric lines. In 1904, when the Lighthouse Board assumed control of the navigational aids in Hawaii, a new lens lantern was installed at Coconut Point. The Board reported, "The present small fixed red lens lantern light, located on the old and dilapidated government wharf at the foot of Waianuenue Street, is entirely inadequate for the requirement of the growing trade of Hilo," and recommended that a new structure be built, as Hilo was deemed the second port of importance in the islands.

     The original tower was replaced by a concrete one in 1915, and the present thirty-four-foot pyramidal tower was erected in 1975. The signature of the Coconut Point Light is flashing green.

     A live shot of the Coconut Point Light can be seen in the video stream from the webcam mounted on top of the Pacific Tsunami Museum.

Los Angeles Harbor (Angel's Gate) Lighthouse

    The Los Angeles Harbor Lighthouse was the culmination of a almost forty years of infighting between railroads and politicians over the best site for a major port in the Los Angeles area. The Southern Pacific Railroad completed a line to the area in 1874, and established a small port in the area. A rival line and port was built in Santa Monica. The Southern Pacific bought and closed this line in 1876. The Santa Fe railroad later established a line to Redondo Beach, and established yet another competing port. In 1893, the Southern Pacific re-opened the Santa Monica port.

    When determining the best location for a deep-water port in the area, three congressional commissions from 1891-1897 all favored the San Pedro site. Despite strong resistance from Collis P. Huntington, owner of the Southern Pacific and proponent of the Santa Monica site, a breakwater was built in San Pedro Bay. The two-mile breakwater was completed in 1910, and a lighthouse established at the end of the breakwater in 1913. The lighthouse housed a first-order Fresnel lens, and compressed air sirens to serve as fog signals.

    The lighthouse has survived earthquakes and battleships. In 1933, the lighthouse was severely jolted by an earthquake. The lens was undamaged. Several years later, in an incident which the U.S. Navy marked "classified", a battleship scraped the side of the lighthouse, tossing the keeper from his bed and violently rattling the platform.

     The light's color was switched to green in the early 1930's to distinguish it from the lights of the San Pedro Bay. The Coast Guard assumed control of the station in 1939. The light was automated in 1975. After a storm cut off the lighthouse power by slicing through the breakwall, the lighthouse received solar panels to power its generators. A new lens replaced the Fresnel lens. When locals complained of the reduced range of the new light, it was replaced with another lens, similar to the first. 

Flowers Fron the Island of Hawaii