Lighting the Way

When it comes to lighthouses, lots of folks have lots of questions:

  1. Do they really need these things anymore?
  2. Does it still work? 
  3. What time does the light come on?

The answer to all three is a resounding “yes”!

You see, navigational lights along our nation’s coastlines are just as important for ship captains and mariners as runway and airport lights are for airline pilots. Just imagine telling airline pilots that they don’t need those runway lights because they have all of those instruments in their cockpits. The truth is, we still use our eyes more than any other of our five senses. Ship captains train for a very long time to be able to navigate a vessel in and around dangerous inlets and waterways and rely on coastal lights to tell them the same thing that their instruments are telling them. Just imagine if their instruments stopped working?

So does it still work? Yes! The St. Augustine Lighthouse still functions as a private aid to navigation for the U.S. Coast Guard and is the navigational beacon for St. Augustine, Florida. It really is simply a reference point along the coast telling ships where they are. Beginning in 1789, the U.S. Lighthouse Service eventually built one large navigational beacon (lighthouse), every sixty miles, on every coast of America. The purpose is so that ships can stay well offshore in deep water where they know they are safe, and every sixty miles there is a light telling them their exact position along the coast. Smaller buoys and lights are used to mark inlets and channels. The focal plane of the light needs to be approximately 160 feet above sea level so that the light is visible many miles out to sea. In the southeast United States where the land is very low and flat, many tall towers had to be built to get the light to this level as opposed to a location that has a 130 foot bluff.  In that location you would only need a 30 foot tall lighthouse to reach 160 feet like the lighthouse at Split Rock, Minnesota on Lake Superior for example. Some lighthouses can have a focal plane of closer to 200 feet above sea level, like Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and Heceta Head, Oregon.  

Each light has different characteristics so you tell which one you are seeing. The “daymark” is simply a physical description of the lighthouse structure from the sea. But many of the tall towers looked the same and were thus assigned a special mark or fancy paint job so you can identify them more easily. Our daymark is black and white spiral stripes with a red lantern on top. At night, each light has a different flash pattern, or “nightmark”, so you can easily identify them after dark. The St. Augustine Lighthouse has a “30-second fixed flash.” This means that the light is visible all of the time at night, and it also flashes every thirty seconds. No other lighthouse has this “nightmark.” Each light’s distinguishing characteristics are published for ship captains in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation (ATON) guide as well as in books and computer programs.

Even though we still have keepers here at the Lighthouse, our Lighthouse is automated. An electric motor turns our first-order Fresnel lens to create the flash every 30 seconds while a photo cell on the west side of the tower turns the light on when the sun sets and off after the sun rises. We keepers ensure that the automated systems are working and the original lens rotation mechanism is well oiled and maintained.

P.S.  Our Lighthouse even changes its own lightbulb! More on that in another entry.

Post contributed by Rick Cain, Director of Museum Services Division

For National Pickle Day, Museum announces new name and logo for its treats-on-the-go concept, the Tin Pickle

Chosen from 34 Flagler College design students’ submissions, the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk logo debuts

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A winner has been chosen from among thirty-four submissions from Flagler College Professor Natalie Stephenson’s design classes for a new food concept at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Lauren Curtis’ torpedo design with nose art will be the logo for the Tin Pickle which is a snack counter in the newly-restored WWII Garage, recently unveiled during the Museum’s Grand Opening in September. The WWII Garage featuring the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk is one of two buildings in the Maritime Heritage Park depicting local WWII history.  The second building in the WWII story is the Barracks for which the Museum is planning a restoration start date in December.  The name was coined the Tin Pickle in early September and a joint project with Professor Stephenson’s class was launched soon after.  As part of the design challenge, the project began with a visit to the Museum and the Tin Pickle to get an idea of setting, food offerings and goals for how the staff wanted to convey the local WWII history through this new food experience.

Museum spokesperson Tonya Creamer said, “We are excited to announce the official name – the Tin Pickle Local Gedunk.  From the outset we knew we wanted it to be a fun, quirky and unique place to grab a bite to eat while visiting the Museum.  The name is WWII slang, as is the tagline, Local Gedunk, meaning local snack counter.  That portion of the name was suggested by our winning student designer, Lauren Curtis.  She and the other students really took our design challenges head on in their design and tagline suggestions.”  The logos were presented to Museum staff, eventually narrowing down the choices to four finalists:  Sean Brunner; Caitlin Lopez; Lauren Curtis; Lisa Schweikert.  In regards to the chosen design, Creamer said, “Lauren’s design really spoke to us and checked off all of our boxes.  It uses the colors from our era buildings, has a 40s personality to it and also introduces to the visitors the Local Gedunk phrase which we hope will encourage conversation between the staff and visitors.”  Curtis has already agreed to continue working with the Museum on further design needs as they develop materials relating to and for the Tin Pickle.

Student design winner Lauren Curtis stands with her logo at the Tin Pickle

Students who participated in the collaboration project shared their thoughts on the process of working with a nonprofit client.  One student, Caitlin Lopez, said, “It was a fun and unique experience to create a logo for this local community business. Having visited the Lighthouse many times in childhood, I was excited to try and create something for them, and interested in the changes that were occurring there. This design also came with many challenges that were fun to try and find a solution for: a tagline, the relationship of the Lighthouse to the eatery, what to call it, the historical context, etc.  In the end, it is satisfying to create something for a local business that needed our help.”

The Tin Pickle is currently undergoing testing for its menu.  It is open to the visiting public during normal Museum operating hours of 9 AM – 5 PM daily.

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ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org

Storm Wreck, a 1782 St. Augustine shipwreck, added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places

Pulling up an artifact on the site of Storm Wreck shipwreck. The cannon is now on display in the Wrecked! exhibit at the Museum.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – On Friday, November 3rd, Florida Department of State Secretary Ken Detzner announced three Florida resources on the National Register of Historic Places. Amongst the three was Storm Wreck, a wrecked British Loyalist ship from 1782 discovered by St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) archaeologists in 2009. The site now joins only a handful of other inaccessible offshore wrecks given this designation of distinction due to the level of its historical significance.

In a press release from the State of Florida on Friday, Secretary Detzner says, “I am pleased to announce the designation of these three resources on the National Register of Historic Places. The Michigan Avenue Bridge is one of the last bobtail swing span bridges in our state, and Oaklawn Cemetery, the first public cemetery in Tampa, has been a consistent presence in the city’s history. The Storm Wreck, a mile off the shore of St. Augustine, dates back to the American Revolution. These resources demonstrate the wide variety of historic sites throughout Florida.”

From 2009 to 2015, LAMP archaeologists mapped, recorded and excavated the site. Since then, conservators at the Museum in partnership with the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research Conservation Laboratory have worked together to preserve the objects and ready them for display at the Museum’s Wrecked! exhibit. The wreck site is one mile off St. Augustine’s coast and therefore inaccessible to the public, but the artifacts found onsite of Storm Wreck are now on display daily at the Museum. The Wrecked! exhibit tells the story of Charleston colonists seeking refuge in one of the last colonies loyal to the British Crown, which at the time was St. Augustine. The ship itself has not been identified but LAMP archaeologists were able to determine that the ship was one of sixteen in total making this desperate journey to a safe harbor when it ran aground on St. Augustine’s dangerous sandbars.

When asked what this designation means for the shipwreck and its story, LAMP Director Chuck Meide says, “the Storm Wreck is of national significance for two primary reasons. The first is that this ship brings to life such a dynamic yet mostly forgotten story, that of American Loyalists seeking refuge in British Florida during the Revolution. The second reason is that this shipwreck is full of stuff—it is a well-preserved time capsule with thousands of artifacts related to the daily life of Americans during the Revolution. It’s wonderful to see such a world-class shipwreck get the recognition and protection it deserves.”

The Museum looks forward to seeing more important archaeological sites such as Storm Wreck added to the Register in the future as the designation helps facilitate meaningful preservation efforts. In the meantime, locals and visitors alike are encouraged to go to the Museum to see artifacts such as the ship’s bell, personal belongings and 18th century weaponry on display in the exhibit.

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ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:
A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for over 140 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime
Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES:
The National Register of Historic Places is a list maintained by the National Park Service which includes historical or archaeological properties including buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts, that are considered worthy of preservation because of their local, statewide and/or national significance. Nominations for properties in Florida are submitted to the National Park Service through the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. Florida has over 1,700 listings on the National Register, including 292 historic districts and 174 archaeological sites. There are more than 50,000 sites contributing to the National Register in Florida. For more information, visit flheritage.com/preservation/national-register. For more information about the National Register of Historic Places program administered by the National Park Service, visit nps.gov/nr.

ABOUT THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S BUREAU OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION:
The Bureau of Historic Preservation (BHP) conducts historic preservation programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, preserving and interpreting the historic and cultural resources of the state. The Bureau manages the Florida Main Street Program, and under federal and state laws, oversees the National Register of Historic Places program for Florida, maintains an inventory of the state’s historical resources in the Florida Master Site File, assists applicants in federal tax benefit and local government ad valorem tax relief programs for historic buildings, and reviews the impact that development projects may have on significant historic resources. For more information, visit flheritage.com/preservation.

20th Annual Luminary Night set to take place during City’s Nights of Lights celebration

Family-friendly event offers free admission to the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum after hours

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Luminary Night at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a family-friendly tradition during St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights celebration. On the evening of Wednesday, December 6th, the Lighthouse grounds will open for an evening celebration that will delight both young and old. This popular event is a wonderful opportunity for visitors to get a taste of the holidays, St. Augustine style. The event takes place from 6 PM to 9 PM.

The Keepers’ House illuminated with white lights and luminaries.

“We love hosting all of our neighbors, Museum members and holiday tourists for this event and I know it’s my favorite time of year to deck the halls at the Lighthouse,” says Darlene Humphreys, head decorator for the event. She continues, “And, of course, what holiday event is complete without Santa Claus? Kids of all ages can visit Santa while enjoying the festive atmosphere.”

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum goes all out for Luminary Night, offering children’s activities and holiday crafts, yuletide refreshments and live music, including a string quartet inside the Lighthouse tower and the St. Augustine High School choir led by Mr. Jeff Dodd. Guests also get a close-up look at the Lighthouse’s spectacular holiday decorations and lighting displays. Nautical ornaments are donated by people from all over the country to grace the centerpiece Christmas tree set up in the Keepers’ House, with at least ten other decorated trees dotting the property. Guests will be able to visit the Museum’s newest additions: Legends of the Light exhibition; and the Maritime Archaeology & Education Center with special viewing spaces of the archaeology conservation lab.

Aerial view of the Light Station during the event. This year, the event will extend into the Museum’s new Maritime Heritage Park area which in this photo, is to the left.

As a finale to the evening, guests can climb the Lighthouse tower to see St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights from the top – it’s a spectacular view!

Quartet performing at the base of the Lighthouse stairs.

In the spirit of giving, the event is free and open to the public with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item which will be donated to a local food pantry. Throughout the event, holiday-themed refreshments will be available for purchase. All monetary proceeds go directly back to the Museum to continue the work of the Museum’s mission.

 

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A Quick Retelling of the Cuban Archaeologists’ Visit

From second left to right: Roger Arrazcaeta Delgado; Marcos Antonio Acosta Mauri; and Yoser Martínez Hernández of the Gabinete de Arqueología of Havana, Cuba at their rowing stations in the chalupa, “San Agustín”.

By Dr. Sam Turner

Between August 25th and September 14th the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum hosted an archaeological cultural exchange which consisted of a visit by three Cuban archaeologists, Roger Arrazcaeta Delgado, Yoser Martínez Hernández, and Marcos Antonio Acosta Mauri, from the Gabinete de Arqueología, or Archaeology Cabinet, based in Havana, Cuba. This cultural exchange was possible through collaborations with the St. Augustine Archaeological Association which sponsored their travel and the Friendship Association which provided financial and logistical support. The purpose of the archaeologists’ visit was to participate in both underwater archaeological fieldwork with the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and in terrestrial archaeological projects with the City of St. Augustine archaeologist as well as to exchange ideas and methodology from within the international field. Additionally, the guest archaeologists assisted with the analysis of the ceramic material found on the Anniversary Wreck, which is the current focus of LAMP’s field work.

This particular cultural exchange program works to establish and deepen contacts between archaeologists and historians in both St. Augustine and Havana, Cuba in hopes of restoring cultural and scholarly ties between these two cities following a thawing in international relations. This is considered especially important given that these two cities’ histories have been closely intertwined for much of the last 450 years.

The Cuban archaeologists were able to explore the Anniversary Wreck with Museum archaeologists as well as use a new airlift – an underwater excavation tool – which LAMP has been experimenting with this field season. During their visit, they also visited many historically-significant sites in order to get a comprehensive overview of the history of our city. After visiting Fort Matanzas and the Castillo de San Marcos they became particularly interested in the bronze Spanish artillery captured during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Spanish-American War (1898). Other visits included: the Alligator Farm; the Spanish Military Hospital; St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine; Tolomato Cemetery; and the Father Felix Varela Shrine.

Director of the Gabinete de Arqueología, Roger Arrazcaeta Delgado, was the featured speaker for the St. Augustine Archaeological Association’s monthly speaker series delivered at Flagler College on September 5th. His talk, entitled, The Frigate Navigator and its British Shipment: History and Archaeology, focused on a shipwreck east of the city of Havana which they have recently investigated and identified. The talk was well attended by approximately 75 people.

Our Cuban colleagues were especially pleased to meet and spend time with St. Augustine resident Dr. Kathy Deagan, one of the world’s foremost experts on Spanish colonial archaeology who took them on a guided tour of the first colony exhibit in Government house and discussed her work on numerous Spanish colonial archaeological sites in St. Augustine and abroad. They also had the pleasure and honor of helping crew St. Augustine’s tall ship, the San Agustín, an authentic and faithful replica of a Spanish watercraft known as a chalupa. This watercraft was built as a legacy project of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine as a partnership between the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, The St. Augustine Maritime Heritage Foundation, and the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. This replica vessel is used every year to reenact the landing of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés on Founders Day. Our Cuban colleagues were able to take part in the full landing rehearsal and were to have participated in the landing day festivities set to take place on the September 9th but those plans changed when an unwelcome visitor named Irma came to town.

While here, our colleagues pitched in with the rest of the Lighthouse staff to prepare the entire Lighthouse site for the hurricane which was a two-day process that included striking all the tent tops in our Heritage Boatworks area and boarding up windows. They weathered the storm at Lighthouse Field House where field students and visiting scholars are housed during their stay in St. Augustine. Following the storm, they helped reopen the site for business. Towards the end of their visit, we conducted a study and examination of the ceramic assemblage that was excavated from the Anniversary Wreck and currently under archaeological investigation by LAMP. This included a visit to the city archaeology lab where they met with outgoing city archaeologist, Carl Halbirt, as well as his recently-arrived-replacement, Andrea White. Carl shared a great deal of information including some of his most interesting finds here in St. Augustine, especially the recent excavations of the Spanish cemetery associated with the church of Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios on Charlotte Street.

Unfortunately, as another result of the storm, no archaeological work with the City Archaeologist was possible during this visit. Hopefully next time! We were honored to have international colleagues come to share with us. Our thanks to them and to all who helped host!