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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan N453, October 29, 2017

The Bravery of the Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

It is estimated that the total number of lighthouses that have ever been erected around the world during the past four hundred years would stand at approximately 20,000. These lighthouses have been erected in order to warn ships of shallow and treacherous waters, the dangers of protruding rocks, and the existence of nearby land areas. However in addition to providing a signal warning of nearby danger, some lighthouses have been erected as a welcome to ocean going ships, indicating a proven safe entrance to a needy harbor at the end of a long voyage.

The modern era of the lighthouse began during the 1700s, at a time when European sea travel and international exploration was beginning to rise. As European societies were established in overseas countries, then the need for interconnected sea travel increased, and so too the need for the erection of lighthouses in nearby coastal areas.

In those days, the functions at each lighthouse were operated by at least one resident family and sometimes considerably more. The resident families were usually made up of a husband and wife, together with their dependent children. Quite often the children learned the duties of lighthouse keeping at a young age, and they could readily fill in in times of emergency.

Sometimes too, during times of stormy weather nearby, young girls have not only tended to the regular lighthouse duties, but they have also been responsible for rescuing shipwrecked sailors and travelers, plucking them out of the treacherous waters and providing food and shelter. No doubt the bravery of many of the lighthouse girls who have rescued stricken survivors has gone unnoticed and unrewarded, and their story is therefore completely forgotten and now unknown in the outside world.

As an example, a lighthouse story that is documented. Kathleen Moore began her astounding 72 year career at the Black Rock Harbor Light on Fayerweather (Fair Weather) Island in coastal Connecticut at the age of 12 when her father became the lighthouse keeper. Kathleen was credited with saving a total of 21 people from an icy death in separate incidents during the mid-1800s.

Lighthouse daughter Ida Lewis made her first rescue at the age of 12 when her father was the lighthouse keeper at the Lime Rock Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island in 1854. She assisted in the rescue of four men whose boat had capsized.

German-born Katherine Walker at the Robbins Reef Lighthouse in coastal New Jersey in the United States, was responsible for rescuing fifty or more people from the cold waters of the Bayonne Bay in several different episodes around the turn of the century from the 1800s to the 1900s. Katherine took over the care of the lighthouse after the death of her husband, retired sea Captain John Walker in 1866.

Ann Harvey lived on Isleaux Morts on coastal Newfoundland and throughout her lifetime she was credited with rescuing a total of 163 people from nearby coastal waters during the early 1800s.

Sixteen year old Grace Bussell lived in a farm house on the Western Australian coast near the town of Busselton. On December 1, 1876, Grace rode her horse into the stormy waters at Redgate Beach and aided in the rescue of some 50 people who were stranded when their coastal ship, the SS Georgette, sank in nearby waters.

The earliest known episode of bravery on the part of a lighthouse keeper's daughter involved another girl with the name of Grace. During the early hours of September 7, 1838, 22 year old Grace Darling happened to look out of her upstairs bedroom window in the Longstone Lighthouse off the Northumberland coast of England, and she saw the wreckage of a paddle steamer. The Forfarshire had run aground across the waters against Big Harcar Island.

Grace and her father rowed a coble (a traditional small open fishing boat) across the intervening waters and rescued five people. Grace was subsequently honored in many different ways throughout England for her bravery.

Many years later, a radio beacon system was installed in 1955 at the Longstone Lighthouse on Brownsman Island with equipment from the Marconi company. Each of four lighthouses in the area transmitted consecutively on longwave 303.4 kHz, thus enabling radio operators in passing ships to take position bearings while at sea. The Longstone callsign was LT in Morse Code. The radio beacon LT at Longstone was closed 20 years later (1975), though 15 years later again (1990) another radio beacon was installed again at this same lighthouse.

The Radio Scene on Matinicus Rock

A similar story is told about Abigail Burgess, who was the lighthouse daughter at Matinicus Lighthouse on Matinicus Rock, off coastal Maine in the United States. At the age of 16 she cared for the entire family and the light while her father was away during a violent storm in January 1856. In so doing, she saved the lives of all four members of her family, even though waters across the habitable area of the island were knee deep at the height of the storm.

At the time of the voting for the presidential election in November 1916, when New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson was pitted against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a voting count was forwarded by wireless from Criehaven Island to the town of Knox on the mainland in Maine. Criehaven Island, or as it is sometimes known Ragged Island, is quite small, occupying just 440 acres.

At the time, the Penobscott Bay Wireless Company operated a .5 kW amateur wireless station on the island under the callsign 1CH. The assembled voting statistics for the 1916 election from the nearby islands, including the personnel at Matinicus Lighthouse, were transmitted to Knox on the mainland via spark wireless station 1CH.

In 1945 a radio beacon was installed in a subsidiary building at the Matinicus Lighthouse and it transmitted the letter P in Morse Code on 294 kHz longwave. The transmitter was installed in what was called the Whistle House, which emitted an ear piercing boom during local heavy fogs. Two metal towers supported the antenna system for the radio beacon.

A few years later the radio beacon was destroyed during a heavy storm when three feet of water entered the lighthouse dwelling, though soon afterwards the radio beacon was rebuilt. In 1964, the operating frequency of the radio beacon was changed to 314 kHz, and in 1978 the Morse Code callsign was changed from P to MR. The radio beacon was withdrawn from service in 1994.