Digest>Archives> February 2002

1943 Alaska Lighthouse Expedition


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The Lighthouse Depot in Ketchikan Alaska. ...

Late in September of 1943 with five fellow officers Louis Schindel of Monroe Township, New Jersey left the Ketchikan (Alaska) Lighthouse Depot on an inspection and instruction tour of government installations, including lighthouses, in Southeast Alaska.

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Truck at the Lighthouse Depot in Ketchikan, ...

As the District Chemical Warfare Officer (this was during WWII) it was Louis’ job to lecture on the dangers and at each station to give gas mask drills to the personnel.

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Cape Decision Light, Alaska

During that time Louis kept his own journal, where he recorded everything from weather conditions to conditions of the light stations and memories of the people serving there. He also took photos of each station.

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Five Finger Light, Alaska

He recently donated some of his notes and photographs to the American Lighthouse Foundation so those memories and photos can be preserved for future generations.

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Guard Island Light, Alaska

Following, we are sharing with our readers some excerpts from his handwritten journal. . .

Mary Island Light, Alaska - Square light tower - two living quarters - one occupied by old Lighthouse Service man (on leave), other by Coast Guard men - latter very clean - tower built 1937 (?) still looks new. Boathouse, gasoline/oil L.S. shed dated 1903 (?)- Man in charge took me through. Explained automatic machinery for diaphone, R.F. gear and light - everything in duplicate. Tram way over rocks, boat placed on tramcar, pulled up to boat house by winch.

Tree Point Light, Alaska - Large boom lowers and hoists boat, Light is on point of land, houses (3 large, one small) and slops some distance from light. Tramway runs from boom to light - about 500 yards. House used by the men (and the men themselves) not nearly as clean as Mary Island. Stayed for coffee.

Cape Decision Light, Alaska - Killed the morning while Hope messed around with his paperwork. Weather clear in early morning but started to close in about noon. Because the hoist was under repairs, we had to put the small boat on the beach and hike about 2 miles to the station. Thinking that it would be a wet trip we dressed in rain gear - what an error, how we perspired. Fog had set in sufficiently to merit use of horn - the vibration and racket were considerable. Station is set high on rocks but the sea often breaks over. Station is in good condition, men apparently happy. They have a great store of food and had added to their stock of food by shooting a deer - gave us two pieces. Butter is kept in ? - 100 lbs to a barrel. Ping-pong table, plenty of magazines, books, etc. Winch repaired while we were at the station.

Five Fingers Light, Alaska - Arrive about 1515. Fine looking station, situated on island. Usual boom but not sure, so we went up ladder over rocks. The sunlight sure makes these places look good. Four young Coast Guardsmen and one old Lighthouse Service man. Radios, D.F., fog, light and meteorological equipment. Lighthouse clean, fellows have plenty of books, cigarettes, magazines, etc. They have a X motorboat and a whaleboat, place very well kept. Fresh paint on everything. Inspected works.

Cape Spencer Light, Alaska - En-Route - Icy waters and Cross Sound were rough but not extremely so. Last half-hour a bit uncomfortable. Passed Brady Glacier- a mammoth baby. Near the glacier the water took a sudden change form blue-green to a muddy gray.

The sea and wind combined to make the landing at Spencer a wee-bit rough. Three men came out in the whaleboat to meet us. Boat nearly swamped . . . All hands thoroughly wet by the time we got ashore. Seven men on station. The mail increased their high spirits. Spent minimum time because storm threatened.

This story appeared in the February 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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