Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heading home

On our way home from The Clearing we took a side trip to see Cana Island Lighthouse, one of 10 lighthouses in Door County, northeast of Bailey's Harbor.  The steel cladding encases the original 1869 Milwaukee cream brick lighthouse.  The lighthouse and associated structures sit on a small island surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan.  The rooms in the attached Keepers House have exhibits and displays that explain what life on the island was like.  Excerpts read from the Keepers journal fill the air, describing interesting and dangerous events from the past.

At 89 feet it is the tallest lighthouse in Door County, and you have to climb up a graceful cast iron spiral of 97 steps to for a view from the top.  Luckily for the climbers there are three landings along the way with port hole views which allow you to catch your breath, and for ascenders and descenders to safely pass each other.

The third order Fresnel lens was hand-crafted by Henry Le Paute in France.  The lens previously lit by an incandescent oil vapor burner that used oil (whale, lard or mineral) or kerosene, later an acetylene light was installed.  Electrified and automated in 1944, no Keeper is needed today.   The current apparatus uses a 500-watt bulb, and can tell when it is burned out and automatically rotate to put a fresh bulb in place.

The lighthouse was once described by a Keeper as "one of the most inhospitable and undesirable places that can be imagined".  Which is not surprising.  Due to its location it is vulnerable to severe storms which resulted in waves flooding the causeway and crashing through the buildings.  However, the view from the top looking out at Lake Michigan is wonderful.  As you move around the top, views of Moonlight Bay, North Bay, the island grounds and the peninsula appear.

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