Lamps of the Lighthouse
From 1845-1849, four lamps were used with Parabolic Reflectors. They were fueled with seal oil which was supplied by locals. These lamps proved to be insufficient because the reflected rays from the Parabolic Reflectors did not meet within a long distance from the light. An additional three lamps were added in 1849.
In 1849 the lamps were replaced by kerosene lamps. One duty of the keeper was to trim the twelve kerosene wicks every day. Angus Murchison of Point Prim, keeper from 1920-1955, was so “in tune” to the intensity of the light at night while he slept in the Keeper’s cottage, he could sense when the lamps started to dim. He would instantly wake up and refill the lamps, keeping the light brightly shining for the safety of all mariners.
In the spring of 1958, the kerosene lamps were replaced with kerosene vapour equipment. This equipment consisted of a kerosene vapour burner floating in a mercury bath and a 4th Order Fresnel Lens. The Fresnel Lens, also known as a Bull’s eye optic, originally from France, was removed from the Lighthouse at Cape Egmont.
Mercury was used mainly because it acted as a lubricant bearing for the light optic to turn in. It was also convenient because it was not greatly affected by changes in night and daytime temperatures.
Mr. Manson Murchison, keeper from 1956-1969, has described how the kerosene vapour burner was fueled. A tank containing kerosene oil was connected to an air tank. A pressure of 45 pounds was maintained in the air tank by pumping air in with a hand pump. The proper air pressure then forced the oil to the light.
Besides keeping the light in good working order, putting air in the tank and winding the clock gear, Manson also had to perform many other duties. These included keeping a daily log, cleaning the windows and pulling the canvas shades down over the windows during the day.
The shades were a precaution, taking into account the fire hazard of parabolic reflectors magnifying the sun’s rays on a burner of kerosene oil. As a further precaution, buckets of water were placed on all three levels below the lightroom, on shelves attached to the central shaft.
The light was converted from kerosene vapour to automatic electric on March 10, 1969. The polygonal cupola now housed the4th Order Fresnel Lens and a battery that powered a small emergency light. This light was attached to the railing of the walk-a-bout circling the lightroom. The battery system was set to go automatically for 10 minutes in the event of a power failure, after which the propane generator would kick in. The light was supplemented with a foghorn to alert mariners when the light was obscured by heavy fog.
The 4th Order Fresnel Lens was replaced by a modern, energy efficient Solar Tech Light with a photo eye. The Fresnel Lens is now on display in the Keeper’s Cottage.