Tuesday, August 30, 2005

1 4 3: Minots Ledge Lighthouse

Illustration: U.S. Coast Guard

"A mile and a half off the coast of Massachusetts and twenty miles southeast of Boston Harbor, Minots Ledge Lighthouse protects the shipping lanes for miles around. The lighthouse rests upon the rocky reef known as Cohasset Rocks. This lethal ledge caused the death of many sailors and the wreckage of countless ships over the years. Between 1833-1841 over a hundred square-rigged ships and over three hundred schooners were lost with insurance claims of over $150 000 000. In addition, most of the three thousand sailors who were shipwrecked perished at that ship-killing shoal. No one has ever tried to estimate the cost in lost lives or vessels that were smaller than the schooners. Because of the enormous losses, something had to be done to protect the shipping lanes. In 1851, a light ship was put on station, but a small storm took it out of commission. The sunken light ship was replaced with a lighthouse in 1860. Since then, many times Minots Ledge Lighthouse has been repaired and updated.

Several years ago, the Coast Guard planned to install a new, state-of-the-art computer to automate the lighthouse’s operations. They announced that they would discontinue the traditional 1-4-3 signal with a standardized computerized beacon. A great outcry went up from the local residents like a hurricane roaring up the coast. No one was going to change their lighthouse with any standardized signal. The old one was good enough for those in that part of the country. What was so special about Minots Ledge’s signal?

The 1-4-3 signal was a Morse Code like signal that stood for this simple sentence, 'I love you.' Sailors and residents of this part of the Atlantic coastline were not going to have the Coast Guard replace this loving and warm message with generic flashes of light. Just knowing that their lighthouse was signaling to them, "I love you," was important to those who live along and sailed off that stretch of the New England coast. They were so troubled about the change that they were able to pressure the federal government to drop the planned updating of their lighthouse. If you are sailing off the coast of Boston Harbor, by day or night, in good or bad weather, you will receive that caring message from the lighthouse at Minots Ledge: 'I love you.'"

- E.Allen Campbell

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