(capeforchulight.com) Cape Forchu Lightstation, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia is the Beacon to Canada. The Cape has been welcoming visitors since 1604, when Samuel de Champlain landed and named the area “Cap Forchu,” meaning forked tongue of land. By the mid-nineteenth century, the Town of Yarmouth was a booming seaport with vessels coming in an out of the harbour and therefore the Cape was the ideal position for a lighthouse and foghorn; by 1870, Yarmouth was at its peak and was the second largest port of registry in Canada.
Here the lighthouse could protect vessels both approaching and entering the harbour. And so the Cape Forchu light, also commonly known as the Yarmouth Light, was constructed in 1839. The light itself stood 126 feet above sea level and 91 feet above ground. In 1869, a fog alarm was installed that sounded with a four-second blast every 26 seconds. The alarm was kept in another building away from the light, and in heavy storms, the keeper had to make a dangerous march along a narrow, exposed path overlooking cliffs to tend to the fog alarm.
The light in the original tower was lit on January 15th, 1840. The first lighting apparatus was a kerosene lamp and had to be watched carefully for it could easily go out. It was later changed to a kerosene-fueled vapor system. A tank of kerosene was lugged up the circular steps every evening, heated until it became a vapor and fed into a mantle. One lightkeeper, Herbert Cunningham, said that in his 30 year tenure, he climbed the tower stairs at least 47,000 times. Life as a lightkeeper became a lot easier when, in 1940, electricity finally came to the Cape.
It was then replaced in 1962 by a globe made up of a series of prismatic rings of glass; each ring cut at such mathematically precise angles that, as the globe rotated, the light from within refracted and reflected to send rays out over the ocean. The fundamental theory was simple: a bright light inside a revolving globe. The white beam of light was visible up to 32 kilometers [20 miles]. The first Cape Forchu lens was built in France by a French physicist named Augustin-Jean Fresnel, who improved the way lighthouses radiated light by replacing mirrors with compound lenses. These flashes not only warned sailors of impending danger, but actually identified the particular light. The lens weighed approximately 3,300 pounds and was surrounded by a ring of 360 prisms. The cost was $38,000.00.
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