Sunday, 19 July 2015

Nottawasaga Island Lighthouse, a poem in tribute and a history

Like our imposing Terminal Building, the other local landmark that truly defines Collingwood and Georgian Bay is our stately lighthouse.  Sitting a relatively short distance offshore, the lighthouse resides on what is known locally as Nottawasaga Island, although it has also been called Clark's Island or Lighthouse Island. 

 The structure itself was constructed between 1855 and 1859, and was the handiwork of contractor John Brown, who had a reputation for both quality and honesty. The lighthouse was a necessity, as Collingwood was a bustling port in the 19th century, and there were many hidden dangers lurking just beneath the cool blue waters of Georgian Bay. When the Public Works Board commissioned it, it was to be one of 11 planned for Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.  However, only 6 saw completion, at Point Clark and Chantry Island on Lake Huron and Cove Island, Griffith Island, Nottawasaga Island and Christian Island on Georgian Bay.

Known as the "Imperial" towers, contractor Brown built them from dolomite limestone quarried from Owen Sound and capped them off with granite to support the enormous weight of the cast iron lantern room at the top of the structure.  The Nottawasaga Lighthouse is 86 feet high, and it's walls are 6 to 7 feet thick at the base tapering off to 2 feet at the top.  The inside diameter of the lighthouse remains constant at 10 feet 6 inches to accommodate the lantern room and the light which was supplied by the Louis Saulter Company of Paris, France.  Nottawasaga's powerful "second order" light was visible from a distance of some 17 miles and was the marker of dangerous shoals that lie to the north west.

The lamp first came to life on November 30th, 1858.  During the course of it's lifetime, it was manned by 13 men and their families over the span of 124 years.  It was abandoned by the Coast Guard in 2003, but it's solar powered beacon continued to guide mariners through the waters until it was finally extinguished forever in July of 2007.  Today, it is one of the last of it's kind, but is in danger of collapse.  It was severely damaged by a lightning strike on December 1st of 2004, and as a result about 35 percent of it's dolomite exterior coating was sent crashing to the ground.  Although it has been subsequently reinforced with protective metal bands, these have surpassed their useful life expectancy and without proper restoration, the lighthouse could soon be no more.

The glowing light
The crashing waves
Through fog, storm and night
It aimed to save
A beacon of hope
That shone so bright
Guiding generations before
Now a thing of yore
It once stood proud
Of stone and brick
Now it's crumbling facade
Faces time and nature's cruel tick
Once a saviour to many
Serving purpose no more
It's future uncertain
Knowing not what's in store
To save it we must rally
Our marker we must save
For without our intervention
It will become soon but a grave
A long forgotten memory
A ghost of the bay
A light forever extinguished
It's legacy forever lost to decay

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