LIGHTING THE HARBOR, Midland Beach

A pair of lighthouses appear near the horizon in this picture I got at Staten Island’s Midland Beach, the Romer Shoal Lighthouse (foreground) and West Bank Lighthouse (background).

From FNY’s Lighthouses of Southern New York Harbor page, which has closeup views of both that I got on a boat tour in September 2012…

Romer Shoal:

Southeast of West Bank Light and north of the tip of Sandy Hook is 54-foot tall Romer Shoal Light, raised in 1898. The lighthouse, and the shoals in Lower Bay, were named for Colonel Wolfgang William Romer, a British military engineer (of German birth) who sounded the waters of New York Bay in 1700 on order of the governor of New York. There has been a day beacon, and later, a lighthouse, on this site since 1838. Along with other lighthouses of the Lower Bay, it kept close watch for enemy vessels during World Wars I and II. The aforementioned Joe Esposito helped save it when there was a possibility that it might be torn down.

The light is “in excess to the needs of the Coast Guard” and may be moved to the new Staten Island Lighthouse Museum.

shoal is a sandbar, where the sandy bottom comes close to the surface. Lighthouses warn vessels away from them.

West Bank:

The West Bank Light, raised in 1901,  is located in Lower NY Bay approximately equidistant from Staten Island and the west end of the Rockaway peninsula. It is 55 feet in height, stands on a J-shaped rock jetty, and works in tandem with the land-bound Staten Island Lighthouse near Richmondtown.

Lighthouse life is not necessarily quiet. Generators for the lights and sound equipment hum all day and night. Then there are the storms…

I met a lady once who was all filled up with what she called the romance of the lighthouse. She said she often longed to be a keeper and live alone in a tower on a rock far out in the sea, and have peace and quiet. She couldn’t understand why I snorted. Peace and quiet! A lighthouse is about the noisiest place in the world. Out there on West Bank, for instance, with a gale blowing. When I was there the tower rose right out of the water, with no footing at all around it, so the waves crashed against the whole tower; shook it until sometimes the mantles over the burners in the light broke. Sometimes the waves went clear over the gallery, and the spray over the light itself. –Longtime West Bank keeper Ed Burge

West Bank Light was finally automated in the early 1980s.

Unfortunately, another lighthouse in Raritan Bay, the Old Orchard (cf. above link) was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, just a few weeks after I went past it.

Walking Midland Beach [FNY]

11/16/16


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