Exploring Alaska Lighthouses

Lighthouses are a beacon. Properly used, they’re a beacon of hope to ward off impending danger, yet protecting from and warning of danger is exactly what they’re for.

The earliest lighthouses go back to biblical times, all with a mission to protect mariners. Navigating boats & ships safely means that aids to navigation had to be used to warn of the rocks & shoals, the sudden changes of seascape, and other hazards that prevented safe passage. I’ve been interested in lighthouses and what they mean for a few years now—even to the point of receiving a lease agreement in the late 1990’s from the US Coast Guard for Mary Island Light in SE Alaska. Mary Island lies at the entrance of Revillagigedo Straits and a clear path from the Pacific Ocean.

 Mary Island sits across from the Misty Fjords National Monument, is about 22 miles south of Ketchikan, and is surrounded by beauty. This low, wind-swept island gets battered by storms. Although a small island, it’s nearly impossible to traverse it due to the tangle of trees that jigsaw the land. The second paragraph of the prologue in John Vaillant’s “The Golden Spruce” touches on the challenges of this part of our world and Mary Island specifically: “The combination of high winds, frequent fog, and tidal surges that can run over fifteen knots make this coast a particularly lethal one, and when boats or planes or people go missing here, they are usually gone for good.” A winter storm arriving from the Pacific can, and have, stranded travelers or occupants for months, if they survived at all.

Our decision to not move forward with the lease revolved around the lack of space of the current lighthouse reserve (now at about five acres) that had been trimmed back from the original 194 acres that would have allowed for adequate use of this NE corner of the island—especially where the bulk of that five acres is made up of a very rocky shoreline with no place that would have allowed us to move forward with our vision.

 The lighthouses of Alaska, which you’ll find in this site, are testament to the challenges of marine navigation, life along the coast of Alaska, and the inherent dangers that can swell up and crush a concrete structure in moments, witness Scotch Gap. Yet for the many lives that have been lost, the lives saved because of these amazing aids to navigation can barely be quantified.

We hope you enjoy our site. My gratitude to my webmaster, Peter Ratner, for his taking on this project and giving it the beauty, historical context, and appreciation it deserves.

Point Sherman Lighthouse

Tree Point Lighthouse

Guard Island Lighthouse

Eldred Rock Lighthouse

Cape Sarichef Lighthouse

Sentinel Island Lighthouse

Lincoln Rock Lighthouse

Cape Hinchinbrook Lighthouse

Scotch Cap Lighthouse

Odiak Pharos Lighthouse

Five Fingers Island Lighthouse

Cape St. Elias Lighthouse

Umatilla Lighthouse

Fairway Island Lighthouse

Cape Spencer Lighthouse

Point Retreat Lighthouse

Cape Decision Lighthouse

Mary Island Lighthouse