Category Archives: Daily Operations

When It’s Raining in the Lighthouse

We recently had to close the Lighthouse to our climbing guests due to moisture in the Tower.  This is an interesting phenomenon that occurs, at least in my experience, only in the month of January. January is the month where we experience our coldest temperatures here in Northeast Florida, and this year was no exception. Several nights here on Anastasia Island, the temperature reached to below freezing. During these conditions, the bricks and mortar, granite and marble, that form the Tower, as well as the cast iron landings, stairs and railings, all become very cold to the touch and remain that way on the until the air flowing to the inside of the Tower warms them up again. Then, seemingly suddenly, as temperatures outside increase, a warm air mass with very high humidity surrounds and enters the Tower. As this warm air moves inside the Tower and comes in contact with the very cold surfaces, the water in the air condenses into droplets on all of those cold surfaces. During these times, every surface in the Tower is literally dripping wet, and water can be seen running down the inside walls. We always say, “It’s raining in the Tower”. No amount of wiping or mopping will make any difference until the interior surfaces of brick and iron warm sufficiently to begin to evaporate the water. This usually takes a day or two of significantly warmer air temperatures combined with lower humidity.

A recent foggy night which led to the unprecedented Tower shadow and subsequent morning closures due to “raining in the Tower”.

This same effect can be seen all around our country in the early spring as warmer air moves over the cold ground of the countryside and steamy fog begins to rise off of the frosty fields.

So if you come to visit us in January, you may be able to witness this rare phenomenon in person, but bring your rain gear. It may be raining in the Lighthouse.

Contributed by Director of Museum Services Rick Cain, Edited by Student Intern Jayda Barnes

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.

###

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

WWII Era Maintenance Garage Restoration

On April 5th, the World War II-era garage here on the light station was raised by professional house movers. As part of restoring and maintaining our historic campus, the building will be converted for use as WWII Coast Guard exhibit space and for the Museum’s café. For years, soil built up around the foundation, causing moisture and termite problems that almost completely destroyed the original structural fabric. In 2008, the Museum completed some internal work to sure-up the back wall and installed a new shingle roof using replica 1940s green asphalt shingles. The 2016 work goes far deeper into the structure and it will be made as good as new by the time it re-opens to the public later this year.

The building will sit upon a new foundation slab, approximately one foot higher than the old foundation. This will prevent soil buildup and ensure the integrity of the structure for years to come. After the new foundation is poured, and utilities are installed, the moving company will lower the building onto its new home. There is a lot going on here at the Lighthouse to create new opportunities for our visitors and members and better house our existing programs. You may have noticed the new maintenance building to the south of the Visitors’ Center and the new Maritime Archaeology and Education Center on the north end of the campus. Much of the construction should be done by the middle of the summer and we look forward to opening the new buildings, exhibits, and labs to our community and patrons. Follow our activity here on the blog, on Facebook, and by visiting with us here in beautiful St. Augustine!

Click below to see the video of the raising of the WWII-era Maintenance Garage!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyGYWJIFTSE&feature=youtu.be 

Brendan Burke joined the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum in 2007 as an archaeologist for the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program. He holds a graduate degree in Anthropology from The College of William & Mary.

We’re Ready to Make a Difference in 2017!

The new year arrived with a burst of cold air (Florida winter last three whole days this year, it was tough, but we powered through!) and the promise of exciting things on the horizon.

MAREDec2016
Construction has begun on our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center!

We’ve written before about our new Maritime Archaeology & Education Center, which is finally under construction, but we haven’t shared what this new facility will mean for us in terms of telling the stories of St. Augustine’s connections to World War II. Continue reading