Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Minot's Ledge Lighthouse - Cohasset, Massachusetts

The jagged Cohasset Rocks feature the unique Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse.  Unique in that it is not constructed on land, most of the Cohasset Rocks are under water.  The rocky sea ledge and lighthouse has had a troubled history.  The nearby Quonahassit Indian tribe believed that the rocks were home to an evil spirit or demon who if angered would bring destructive storms down on their tribe.

Over the years, the rocks claimed hundreds of ships and many more lives as there seemed no feasible place to put a lighthouse as the shallow rocks are continuously hammered by huge waves.  In 1847 it was finally decided that in order to reduce the loss of life, something needed to be done.  After many pleas, grants were finally provided by the government to study the feasibility and construct a lighthouse on Cohasset Rocks.  It was decided to build a lighthouse on steel legs attached to piles drilled into the rocks. It was believed that the tremendous waves would pass right through the steel legs of the structure. Even during the construction of the lighthouse, the rocks claimed several ships including the Alabama.  The 70 ft tall lighthouse was finally lit in 1850 for the first time and it was the first lighthouse of it's kind in the United States.

A painting of the original Minot's Ledge Lighthouse built in 1850

The keepers complained that the structure was unsafe and that when a wave rocked the lighthouse, it would move and shake violently.  The first keeper and his assistants resigned from duty about 10 months afterward.  John Bennett took over as keeper and soon was also unconvinced that the tower was safe.  About a year after the tower was completed in 1851, the keeper went ashore and left his two assistant keepers in charge of things.  A severe gale moved in and the main keeper was unable to return to the lighthouse.  On the night of April 16th the last light from the lighthouse was seen around 10pm. Around 1am, the townspeople on the mainland could hear the fog bell in the tower begin ringing and then continuously all night.  Whether it was a call for help or the pounding of the waves that drove the bell to ring, it is unknown.  However, the next morning the main keeper went to the edge of the shore to find wreckage from the lighthouse washed up on shore.  At some point the assistant keepers Joseph Wilson and Joseph Antoine dropped a bottle into the water with a note that read 

"The lighthouse won’t stand over to night. She shakes 2 feet each way now.
J.W. + J.A

The body of Antoine was found soon after the storm passed at Nantasket Beach.  The remains of Joseph Wilson would not be found until October on a small island about a mile from Minot's Ledge.

In 1860, a new lighthouse was constructed on a 40 ft solid granite base and stood 97 ft tall and still stands to this day.  However, there has been trouble maintaining keepers in the lighthouse.  None of them seem to last very long.  Unusually high waves pound the structure from top to bottom and ice freezes doors shut.  Keepers have been driven insane.  Many have reported sightings of ghosts in the tower lantern room.  Some say that in the days were the sea is calm, the reflection of the water reveals the faces of Joseph Wilson and Joseph Antione in the doorway to the tower. 

The modern Minot’s Ledge lighthouse built of granite replace the steel lighthouse that was destroyed in 1851

No one mans the lighthouse anymore it is totally automated, however at times when a severe storm is moving in, there have been sightings of man climbing the tower ladder shouting and screaming something
in what was believed to be a foreign language as he climbs.  What is really interesting is that Joseph Antione was from Portugal.  Joseph Antione once swore that he would stand guard in the lighthouse as long as it stood during any catastrophic storm.  It looks like he may be fulfilling that promise.

Modern day Minot’s Ledge lighthouse during heavy seas

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