To the lighthouse.

It is hot in New Jersey. Very, very hot. For the past four days, excessive heat warnings have been issued, and the temperatures have been in the upper 90’s with high humidity. The forecast called for slightly cooler temperatures at the shore, so yet again DH and I headed down to the southernmost tip of the state, to stay at my family’s beach home.

Sunday morning after church, while temperatures were still not oppressively hot, I thought I would pay a visit to another very cool attraction: the Cape May Lighthouse. Built in 1859, the lighthouse stands at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, a beacon for ships transiting to and from the Philadelphia harbor. The current lighthouse is the third one built in Cape May, replacing the previous structures which were built in 1823 and 1847. Owing to beach erosion, the locations of the previous lighthouses are now both underwater (via the Lighthouse FAQ from the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities). The current lighthouse has been functioning for 156 years, and is now operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Located in Cape May Point, the lighthouse serves as a beacon for ships entering and leaving the Atlantic Ocean.
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The lighthouse, at Cape May Point State Park.
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The lighthouse stands 157’6″ tall. It is built to survive winds stronger than those during hurricanes. To increase its strength, it has two walls. The outer wall is 3 feet, 10 inches thick at the base of the lighthouse and 1 foot, 6 inches thick at the top. The inner wall is 8.5 inches thick, which support the interior staircase. Even so, it still noticeably sways in the wind.
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The oil house, which is now a gift shop. Oil for the light was originally stored in the lighthouse itself, but the great risk of fire saw this oil house built in 1893.
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The entryway to the lighthouse. Guests can climb the stairs- all 217 of them!
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Have I mentioned that I have a fear of heights? The iron steps are see-through. (Gulps)
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As you climb the lighthouse, you come to six landings. Each landing  has windows, which allow you to mark the progress of your climb. Here we are on the second landing.
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Interior design of the lighthouse. Fun fact: for the first six years of operation, the lighthouse stairs (all 217 of them) had no railings. It’s a long, long way down.
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From the fourth landing. If you look closely, you can see DH parked in the middle of the lot, all by himself.
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Portholes such as this provide lighting to the upper reaches of the lighthouse. You can also see how thick the walls are.
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Finally at the top! The Watch Room is where the lighthouse keeper would ensure that the light burned continuously.
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When originally built, the light used a Fresnel lens. It was initially powered by whale oil and then later, kerosene. The lighthouse has been automated since 1933.
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View from the top. Even with the safety rails around the walkway, I still tried to stay as far from the edge as possible. Heights, you know?
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Looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. DH looks like a Hot Wheels car from up here. The large structure on the beach is an abandoned US military bunker from World War II. Its job? Search for German U-boats (submarines) and sink them.
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A replica of the lighthouse keeper’s uniform. A lighthouse keeper was employed from 1859-1933. The keeper lived in a house on the property. The pay? About $600 per year. The granddaughter of the last keeper still works as a volunteer at the lighthouse.
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Lighthouse keepers would need to carry oil to the light at the top several times a day. When filled, this five gallon can would weigh about 40 pounds. Imagine carrying it up the stairs, in the dark, with no railings…
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Cape May Point State Park. There are also some great hiking and biking trails, and a pristine beach.
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Cape May Point beach. It was a pleasant morning, but by the time I was ready to leave, it was hot!
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To the lighthouse!

On my way out, I spoke to one of the volunteers and asked him, in this age of GPS and electronic navigation, if lighthouses were still valuable. He told me that a few years ago, he was sailing with friends from Florida to New Jersey, and a bad storm hit while at sea, knocking out the boat’s radar and GPS unit. A lighthouse off the coast of Virginia was the only thing that kept he and his friends from either running aground or drifting dangerously out to sea. While there are less lighthouses now than there were a century ago, they still provide a valuable resource for sailors, and the US Coast Guard operates over 500 lighthouses nationwide.

The Cape May Lighthouse is open during the summer from 9:00 am until 8:00 pm every day. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12 (children 2 and under are free). On hot days, take your time, bring some water, and then venture to the top. The view, and the learning experience, are well worth it!

One other quick item. My friend Jason, who is an expert on all things from 80’s and 90’s pop culture, sent me this story: the Sonic the Hedgehog Honda Civic. The iconic video game Sonic the Hedgehog turns 25 this year, and Honda celebrated Sonic’s birthday with the “Sonic Civic.” Honda rolled it out at the San Diego Comic Con this year. If this was my car, I’d drive it proudly every day.

‘Til next time.

6 thoughts on “To the lighthouse.

  1. Sonic Civic! Gotta hand it to Honda for their marketing innovation sometime. That lighthouse is awesome. I’m totally with you on the fear of heights, and the fact that those steps are see-through makes it even worse! Looks like the view was worth it, though. Thanks for sharing the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful view and experience. Afraid of steps.. would suggest that charge for Seniors 70 or over be the same or LESS than small children, to cover those who can only make it to partial heights …. it would make it just as colorful and breathtaking a view, no matter how far they could get.

      Liked by 1 person

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