Sunday, October 22, 2017

GULL ROCK LIGHTHOUSE

Location: WEST OF MANITOU SOUND, LAKE SUPERIOR, NEAR COPPER HARBOR, MI
Station Established: 1867
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1867
Operational? YES
Automated? 1913
Deactivated: N/A
Foundation Materials: MASONRY
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: SQUARE 
Markings/Pattern: ORIGINALLY YELLOW LATER PAINTED WHITE
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER, FRESNEL
Characteristic: FLASHING RED, 0.4 SECONDS
Fog Signal: NONE

Historical Information:

  • The prevailing northwest winds on Lake Superior can make the most experienced mariner look for a harbor of refuge. The Keweenaw Peninsula offers such a place but getting through the passage to it can be tricky.
  • Gull Rock Light is situated on a rocky outcropping on the western side of Manitou Island. Construction began in 1867. It is similar in design to several other Great Lake lighthouses that were built at the same time. The original optic was a fourth order Fresnel lens which was lit on November 1, 1867.
  • Gull Rock was considered one of the most isolated posts for a lighthouse keeper. There was no fog bell or out buildings to tend to. Assistant keepers were assigned to the station to combat loneliness and boredom more than to ease the duties of the keepers. The turnover rate of the assistant keepers was still high so it was decided that the Keepers’ wives could be appointed Assistant Keeper.
  • In 1901 a 40 foot retaining wall was built near the northeast corner of the structure to protect it from the waves that would wash over the island.
  • The responsibility of care and maintenance of the light were transferred to the keeper at Manitou Light in 1913 when it was automated. Gull Rock Light was then secured and all but abandoned.
  • On November 8th of that same year, the freighter Waldo was pushed aground on Gull Rock by hurricane force winds. The ship split in two. The crew of 24 sought shelter in the front half of the ship. Because of heavy seas and ice it took the life saving crew four days to reach the battered ship. Twenty-two men, 2 women and the ships dog were all safely rescued.
  • Lake Superior has taken its toll on the structure. It has fallen into vast disrepair. In 2005 the light station was transferred to the non-profit group Gull Rock Lightkeepers. The group is working to restore the lighthouse. It is currently closed to the public and is still an active aid to navigation.

Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.