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Sambro Island Lighthouse by George Cousins

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Edited slightly for brevity)

Sambro Island Lighthouse is a landfall lighthouse located at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia,Canada, on an island near the community of Sambro in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

It is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America and a Canadian National Historic Site.

The Sambro lighthouse was established by the very first act passed by Nova Scotia’s House of Assembly on October 2, 1758 which placed a tax on incoming vessels and alcohol imports to pay for the lighthouse. Construction began in the fall of 1758. Masonry work was completed by November 3, 1758 and a temporary light was first lit while construction continued. Construction was completed in 1759 and Joseph Rous was appointed as the first keeper. Cannons were used to provide fog warnings beginning in the late 18th century until the 1870s when a steam fog whistle was installed.
As the landfall light for the major strategic port of Halifax, Sambro has witnessed many shipwrecks, sea battles and the “Noble Light” served as the departure point from North America for Joshua Slocum’s famous solo navigation around the world in 1895, “I watched light after light sink astern as I sailed into the unbounded sea, till Sambro, the last of them all, was below the horizon. The Spray was then alone…”
Ref.: “Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum, 1900”

The lighthouse grew 22 feet higher in 1906, when two extra stories were added to the top of the tower and a new First Order lighthouse lens was installed. Acetylene was first tested and then manufactured for the light in a specially constructed “Gas House” in the cove below the lighthouse. Red stripes were added to the tower in 1908 to make the tower more visible against the snow. The lighthouse was declared a National Historic Site in the 1937. In 1966, the First Order lens was replaced by a rotating electrical beacon but the lens was preserved by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
The lightstation was destaffed in 1988 and the island is now uninhabited. One of the three 1960s keeper’s dwelling was demolished for salvage in 1989. The other two were abandoned to the elements. After lobbying by the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, the tower was declared a Classified federal heritage building and the Gas House was declared a Recognized heritage building in 1996. Major repairs to the lighthouse followed in 1998 when the lighthouse was reshingled and repainted. In 2003, Hurricane Juan caused major damage to the Gas House. In October 2007, after the underwater cable supplying power to the island was damaged, the Canadian Coast Guard turned off the fog horn, ending over 200 years of fog warnings from the island with plans for a solar system with just enough power for the lighthouse beacon. The move triggered a protest move to protect the navigational role and heritage value of the light station. Mariners and heritage groups have petitioned the Coast Guard and the Nova Scotia House of Assembly passed a resolution in November 2007 labeling the neglect of the island as “a careless disregard for the nation’s Maritime and its history of responsible government.” In the wake of these concerns, an enlarged solar system was installed in the spring of 2008 with enough power to run both the light and a foghorn. The tower was also repainted. On August 16, 2008, the community of Sambro Harbour and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society celebrated the lighthouse’s 250th birthday by bringing 150 people to the island for talks and tours.
The lighthouse is located at the summit of the half kilometre square Sambro Island. It is located on the western approaches to Halifax Harbour, about 6 kilometres southeast of Sambro Harbour. It is surrounded by a maze of dangerous shoals. The lighthouse and island are owned and maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard. In addition to the 18th century stone tower, the light station includes the endangered 19th century wooden building known as the Gas House as well as a fog horn shed which is in poor condition. Ruins on the island include the basement of one abandoned keeper’s house, the burned out ruins of another and a partially dismantled keeper’s dwelling, all from the 1960s. Several cannons used as fog signals can be found near the tower. A narrow sheltered cove runs into the centre of the island. The island is granite, covered by a thin layer of topsoil.

A unique geological formation, an intrusion dike, called “The Devil’s Staircase” can be seen near the lighthouse. The massive First Order Fresnel Lens used at the lighthouse until 1968 can be seen at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. Good views of the site are obtained from Crystal Crescent Beach and Sandy Cove near Ketch Harbour. The Canadian Coast Guard has discouraged regular tours of the island, but in 2008 and 2009 the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society and the community of Sambro offered one day open house tours of the island and a charter company run by a semi-retired local fisherman in Sambro Head began in 2008 to offer visits to the island by appointment.

Commemoration:

The Sambro lighthouse was declared a National Historic Site in 1937, marked by a plaque and cairn mounted beside the United Church in nearby Sambro Harbour. A $20 silver coin featuring the lighthouse was issued in 2004 by the Royal Canadian Mint. Canada Post announced a permanent stamp honouring the Sambro lighthouse in December 2007.

This photo taken from Crystal Crescent Beach
Sept. 16, 2008
Fuji S100FS camera
1/480 sec., F 5.3, ISO 200, 102 mm.

Tags

sambro island, lighthouse, sambro, nova scotia, canada, halifax, harbour, harbor, oldest lighthouse, national historic site, heritage, shipwrecks, shoals, george cousins

Comments

  • David Davies
    David Daviesabout 3 years ago

    Beauty, George, great narrative!

  • Thanks David..I knew the history but it was easier to cut and paste..lol!

    – George Cousins

  • PhotosByHealy
    PhotosByHealyabout 3 years ago

    Great capture, George. I missed this one when I was down that way last.

    -Gene

  • Hi Gene, many thanks. This one is a bit off the beaten track, you have to go down past Sambro itself and take a dirt road out to Crystal Crescent Beach in order to get this view.

    – George Cousins

  • Audrey Clarke
    Audrey Clarkeabout 3 years ago

  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyabout 3 years ago

    Marvellous capture, George, and a fascinating history!

  • Thanks again Mike, I learned some things I didn’t know either! I used to go to Sambro often when I lived down there, but never realized the lighthouse was that old.

    – George Cousins

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