Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cape Spear Light

Cape Spear in Newfoundland is considered the most eastern point in North America.   At night you can look across the bay and see the lights of the capital city,  St. John.

The tall lighthouse on Cape Spear was built in 1955 and uses the dioptric lens from the original.

The original lighthouse began operation in 1836 in this small square building.  It is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador. A stone light tower was built inside to support the lantern room in 1850 after a storm lifted one side of the lighthouse several inches off the foundation. The original light came from a lighthouse from Scotland and used seven Argand burners with curved reflectors. The lamps and reflectors were on a metal frame which rotated to produce 17-second flash of light followed by 43 seconds of darkness.   The first fuel was sperm whale oil and seal oil, acetylene in 1916 and eventually electricity in 1930.  The original curved reflectors were replaced by a dioptric lens system in 1912.  A foghorn was added in 1878.

This was the second lighthouse in Newfoundland.  The first light was placed at Fort Amherst, the entrance to St. John's harbor in 1810.

Today, the interior has been restored to the period of 1839 and is open to the public, giving visitors a glimpse of the life of a light keeper.  Generations of the Cantwell family lived and worked at Cape Spear for over 150 years, maintaining this vital light for the mariners. A detailed history of the Cantwell family and the Cape Spear Light can be found at the Lighthouse Friends website.

I loved the parlor. I can really image the lightkeeper and his family spending time here.

The flag room housed the marine signal flags, an easy and universal way for ships and lighthouses to communicate important messages. 

Cape Spear is also a great place to watch for birds and whales.  During the summer, it is possible to see shearwaters such as Manx shearwater, Sooty shearwater, and Greater shearwater which are usually only seen far out at sea.  Other bird species such as murres, razorbills, skuas, and jaegers may be seen as well. While the humpback whale is the most commonly sighted whale, minke and fin whales are also seen.  Other marine mammals such as beaked dolphins, porpoises, harbor seals, and otters have also been spotted.