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Way of Life

The way of life for a lighthouse keeper was at all times demanding, rigorous, and often lonely. In addition to the many responsibilities of maintaining the light, there were several other duties that needed the keeper's attention. One of the most time-consuming activities for a keeper was that of obtaining and maintaining resources necessary for the maintenance of the light and the survival of those who lived there.

Lighthouse Resources

Some common supplies needed to maintain the light and other related devices included:

  1. Oil and wicks for the lantern
  2. Paint for the tower and adjacent buildings
  3. Tools for repairs
  4. Cleaning supplies for reflectors, lenses, windows, etc.
  5. Water for steam-powers fog signals
  6. Coal
Personal Resources

In addition to the many supplies needed for the operation of the light itself, there were obviously many other resources necessary for survival that had to be acquired and maintained, such as:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Medicine
  • Feed for livestock
  • Tools and materials for carpentry

Acquiring and maintaining all the necessary supplies for a lighthouse was a significant task in and of itself. Since most lighthouses are located in remote locations with access being inhibited by rough, unsettled territory, supplies could be difficult to obtain. Lighthouse keepers and their families often had to brave rough seas and treacherous terrain in order to get the things they needed to do their jobs, not to mention survive. Many were also dependent upon others to deliver supplies to them, often by boat, and dangerous storms that lasted over extended periods of time could postpone much needed deliveries, forcing those at the lighthouses to go without.

© 2002 Lights of the Coast