White Shoal Lighthouse
March 3, 2009
A few days ago we had a ghostly tale from Waugoshance Shoal Lighthouse on Absolute Michigan. When I was researching that, I read on Terry Pepper’s page about Waugoshance Light that as much as the reputed keeper’s ghost, the construction of the more powerful White Shoal Light led to the decommissioning of Waugoshance. It was neat to see this photo of White Shoal Light show up in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr.
The White Shoals are located 20 miles east of Mackinac Point and just northwest of Waugoshance Island. So shallow that they break the surface in places, they long presented a hazard to navigation for ships entering the Straits of Mackinac. On his White Shoal Lighthouse page, Terry relates that beginning in October of 1891, the Lightship LV56 anchored at White Shoal during the shipping season for 19 years. Finally in 1907 funds were appropriated for a permanent lighthouse:
Spring of 1908 saw work begin on the White Shoal light on two separate fronts. While a crew at the site leveled a one hundred and two-foot square area on the shoal through the addition and careful placement of loads of stone, a second crew worked on building a timber crib on shore at St. Ignace. Seventy-two feet square and eighteen and a half feet high, the huge crib contained 400,000 square feet of lumber, and on completion was slowly towed out to the shoal and centered over the leveled lake bottom. Once in location, the crib was filled with 4,000 tons of stone until it sank to a point at which its uppermost surface was level and two feet below the water’s surface.
On top of this crib, a seventy-foot square stone block base was constructed to a total height of four feet, with the remainder of the pier being of poured concrete atop the block base. With the base complete, an acetylene-powered lens lantern was installed atop a temporary steel skeletal tower on December 5th, and with the onset of winter storms, work at the shoal ended for the season.
Seeing the Light has much more about the construction and history of White Shoal Light including shots of the tower and crib under construction and information about lighthouse tours offered by Shepler’s Ferry, on which you can see White Shoal, Waugoshance and Gray’s Reef Lights.
Wikipedia’s entry for the White Shoal Light notes that White Shoal is the only aluminum-topped lighthouse on the Great Lakes, the only ‘barber pole’ lighthouse in the United States and is the lighthouse featured on Michigan’s Save Our Lights license plate. There’s also a link to really cool Google Map of lighthouses in northern Lake Michigan. There’s a few more pics of White Shoal at boatnerd.