Friday, March 6, 2015


6 March 2015: Today happens to the anniversary of when a Committee of the New York Provincial Congress instructed Major William Malcolm to dismantle the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. The tower stood in the then disputed territory of Sandy Hook and the good folks in New York were afraid the light would guide British ships around the treacherous waters of the "Hook" and into New York Harbor. Now, a glance at the light house would suggest that "dismantling" it might be challenging at best, impossible at worst.

Realizing the impossibility of the assignment they gave the major, the committee subsequently told him to "use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless." Which he did by removing the lens and oil lamps from the tower. Of course, it only delayed the British for a short while; they soon put new lamps and reflectors in place. And then invaded New York, which they still held at the conclusion of the Revolution in 1781! They did not pack up and leave until the Treaty was signed in 1783! The Patriots tried again to put out the light but using cannon mounted on small boats in Sandy Hook Bay and shooting at it. While they did manage some damage, they were chased away and the mission failed.
The light house was first turned on the night of 11 June 1764 after the Provincial Congress of New York had raised the funding for it by conducting two lotteries. This after 43 New York merchants requested it, having lost over 20,000 pounds sterling in shipwrecks at the Hook. Of course, then, the land was part of the colony of New York, not New Jersey. The two states bickered over who owned the land and the light house for many years, until, in 1787, the Federal Government assumed control of ALL lighthouses. IN 1996, Sandy Hook Light fell into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, now part of Gateway National Recreation Area

What many people who visit the lighthouse don't realize is that when it was built, it was at the tip of Sandy Hook. In the subsequent 250 years, littoral drift has piled sand up beyond the light and adding nearly two miles of land beyond it! See the map, here:
And while the very top of the map is cut off, you can easily place the light house well inside the tip of the Hook!
During the Spanish American War, WWI and WWII the light was dimmed to preclude the enemy from finding New York Harbor. Unlike the British during the Revolution, the Germans did not turn it back on! And during the Cold War, the Army still controlled Sandy Hook and kept it closed to tourists, making the light "off limits." The Army maintained a Nike missile base there, and one can still see artifacts from those days. But now it's back on the tourist "hit parade" and daily visited by zillions of school children and families alike.
See you soon.
                                 Fair Winds,
                                    Old Salt

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