Wednesday, November 21, 2012

History Lesson: Lighthouses

We had an interesting history lesson a few weeks ago that focused on lighthouses.  Our family hasn't visited the lighthouses in Maine that were featured in the lesson, but we have visited some others and are very interested in them.  When we are on vacation and there are lighthouses anywhere on our route, we try to include a visit.  We only started taking vacation field trips to lighthouses a few years ago, but it's something that the kids are all somewhat interested in, so it could become more of a family vacation tradition as the years go on.

Lighthouses have been used since the early history of America to help ship captains know their location and the presence of dangers.  Lighthouses are used not only along the ocean coastlines, but along the shores of the Great Lakes as well. Ship captains could recognize where they were by looking at the distinct size, shape, and color or pattern of the lighthouse, as well as by the unique series of light flashes they send out.

The first lighthouse in America was built in Boston Harbor in 1716.  There were many lighthouses built during the 1800s.  Most used Fresnel lenses, developed by a French physicist named Augustin Fresnel in 1822.  A Fresnel lens uses multiple prisms in the glass to bend and focus the light and greatly multiply its strength.

When we visited Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Florida, we learned a lot about the lenses and how they worked in the Ayres Davies Lens Exhibit Building.






The Ponce Inlet lighthouse, near Daytona Beach, was constructed starting in 1884.  There are 194 steps up to the watch room, and walked up all of them, and back down again!









A couple of years ago we visited Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie.




The Keeper's house at Marblehead

This is Covehead Lighthouse in Prince Edward Island National Park.  It is not open to visitors so we couldn't go inside.



A few lighthouse facts we learned:
-The oldest original lighthouse in America still in service is in Sandy Hook, NJ.  It was built in 1764.
-The first American lighthouse on the west coast was Alcatraz Lighthouse.  It was built in 1854.
-The first lighthouse to use electricity is the Statue of Liberty, erected in 1886.
-The newest shoreline lighthouse in America is in Charleston, SC.  It is also America's only triangular-shaped lighthouse, the only one with an elevator, and it is the most powerful lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.
-The tallest lighthouse in America is Cape Hatteras Light, at 191 feet.

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1 comments:

kewkew said...

I am sorry it has taken me so long to comment on your post. I did stop by last week, but I got distracted by multiple things and never posted a comment. I just wanted to thank you for sharing this with Throwback Thursday Blog-Style. I love lighthouses, but haven't really ever learned any of the details you have shared here. One of these days I would love to visit a light house.
Have a great day!

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