I’m still in the 4th of July frame of mind! So, Happy Late Independence Day!
In 2007, our grown daughters and their families rented a house on Bolivar peninsula a short ferry ride from Texas’s Galveston Island. Not only did we have a wonderful time by discovering that the rustic island is as wild and free as Galveston is tame and settled; but, I fell in love with one of the peninsula’s landmarks … the Bolivar Lighthouse. Once vital to shipping it now stands forlorn and rusted. Built in 1860 of brick and clad in iron, the old structure not only guided countless ships to safe harbor but has itself been a lifesaver during hurricanes.
Of course the writer in me took over. Once I found out that for hundreds of years the lighthouse keepers lived most if not all of their lives either inside of the lighthouse or a dwelling or house (thus the name lighthouse) not far away, the idea for a historical romance came to me about a lighthouse keeper. So far unwritten, I’ve got plenty of ideas in my head and notes in a binder.
Before the era of automation, responsibility for operating and maintaining a light station was placed in the hands of a keeper, sometimes aided by one or more assistants. During the 18th and 19th centuries, keepers were appointed by the Treasury Department or even the president himself in return for military service or political favor. Although the work was hard and the pay minimal, these appointments were coveted since they offered a steady income, free housing, and no specific background or training required. It may surprise you that many where women.
Now can you see a romance coming together?
Here are some interesting facts I found during my research.
Each lighthouse beacon has one or more identifying features. To help mariners distinguish one beacon from another, maritime officials assigned each light in a given region a distinct color or pattern of flashes. Among the most famous lighthouse characteristics is that of the offshore Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse near Scituate, Massachusetts, which displays a single flash, followed by four quick flashes, then three more. This one-four-three flashing sequence reminds some romantic observers of I-LOVE-YOU! Great fodder for a historical romance writer’s mind, huh?
We’ve all heard of foghorns. The distinctive sound that warn vessels about prominent headlands or navigational obstacles during fog or periods of low visibility is truly called a foghorn or a fog signal.
Have you ever heard of breakwater light? I hadn’t until I began researching. Often harbors are protected from high waves by a lengthy barrier of stone known as breakwaters. Because they rise only a few feet above the surface, breakwaters are hard to see, especially at night, and may threaten vessels entering or existing the harbor. Breakwater beacons are meant to make mariners aware of this hazard and allow them to safely navigate the harbor entrance. For obvious reasons the light tower usually is placed near the end of the breakwater.
The last thing I’d like to share is about the Fresnel lenses. Have you ever wondered if the concentrated light of the powerful beam that can be seen so far out into the ocean, gulf, or seas was a new invention? Surprisingly, it isn’t. Invented in 1822 by Augustin Fresnel, a noted French physicist, the light consist of individual hand-polished glass prisms arrayed in a bronze frame. They now come in many sizes or “orders”. A massive first-order lens may be more than six feet in diameter and twelve feet tall, while a diminutive sixth-order lens is only about a foot wide and not much larger than an ordinary gallon jug.
I love lighthouses, especially since they are part of our history, but I’ve seen many restored ones that are breathtaking. I’m glad to share with you one of my favorite lighthouses and there are many more I’ve personally visited that I hope to share their history with you in later blogs.
Please share with us your favorite lighthouse, if you have one.
To one lucky winner who leaves a comment, I will give away an eBook copy of my newest Kasota Springs contemporary romance The Troubled Texan.