Cape Spencer Light Station

Located on a remote, rocky island in Cross Sound Alaska. This lighthouse was built in 1925 and manned untill 1984 when it was automated.

8-7-02
Explorers: Freak, the J-boat crew.
The Cape Spencer lighthouse is a US coast guard lighthouse. Thhis one has a short, square tower topped by a round light room, under which is a square "Art Deco" building where the crews lived. On the same rock as the lighthouse is a helicopter pad, a boathouse, and a crane used to launch boats, as well as some radio towers and telecom trailers. I’d had my eye on this for a while, I’ve been working on a fishing boat this summer and we’ve been in the area of the lighthouse for the last few days. My first attempts to kayak to the rock failed, although a friend of mine managed to do it with exactly the right combination of tide and wave action. I finally got a chance to go with two other people who had an inflatable skiff, and who I’d mentioned the lighthouse to. We got dropped off by a larger boat near the lighthouse rock and rowed in, landing on a ledge below the cliffs and hauling the skiff up above the tideline.
   After climbing the cliff, the first building we looked at was the crane winch house. There was no dock here, so crews had to launch boats off with the crane and pick them up the same way. At the top was a platform to put the boats on, with a boathouse and tram rails on which the boats and other items could be moved around. When we looked in there we found that the boats were gone and there were only some tools and lumber. An old sign recommended safe and courteous behavior for visitors or “visiting privileges may be revoked”. (There were a few humorous signs like this, my favorite was the “Goggles must be worn while operating this machine” posted over the toilet)
    The tram rails led up a boardwalk past the helipad to the main lighthouse. There were also some equipment trailers from the phone company and fuel tanks for the generators which power the lighthouse and radio equipment. Previous visitors had told me that nothing was locked up, so we entered the lighthouse by the front door. As we came through the first door into the entryway I could hear a beeping noise from inside, but there were no alarm sensors on the door so we decided it was something else. The second door did have a magnetic sensor on it, and when we got in we heard some beeping and found the following sign: “Welcome to the Cape Spencer Lighthouse, when you entered an alarm was activated and a response team was notified. You are trespassing on government property, if you are in distress, a radio, food, and water are (locations given). Damage to equipment can result in a $250,000 fine” (this isn’t the exact wording, there's a blurry photo below). We located the source of the beeping as a carbon monoxide detector, and since the last visitor a few days ago hadn’t caused a response we figured the alarm wasn’t hooked up.
    The main room we came to first was the lounge, with couches and tables, a kitchen, and some paintings and maps on the walls. Three bedroom/offices were off to one side, and the bathroom, a storage room, and an electronics room were on the other side. There was a surprising amount of stuff left; food, magazines, files and papers, bedding and clothes in the lockers (along with graffiti from the crews about how much the place sucked). In the back were the generators and a stairway leading up and down. We ascended the rough concrete stairs, which were in poor condition, up to a square room filled with weather monitoring electronics, and then up a spiral staircase to the glassed-in light room. The light itself was a new addition, the original rotating mechanism being rusted solid in a shaft which led all the way through the structure. The lens on the new light was spinning slowly but the light wasn’t on (It was still daytime). A video camera was duct-taped to the window, pointing out towards the fishing grounds (probably to monitor the sea conditions for the weather service). After getting some photos up in the tower, we went down to check out the basement.
    In the basement we found a pool table complete with cues and balls, and some graffiti that looked like it had been done with the cue chalk. More miscellaneous equipment like portable generators and cans of fuel and paint were down here, but mostly it was empty. Parts of the basement were floored with the natural rock of the island, which was very uneven in places, but most of it was a concrete floor.
    After we’d photographed and examined most of the lighthouse we messed around outside for a while, one person climbed to the top and posed standing on the roof of the tower. I looked around and found some foundations from former buildings and fuel tanks, as well as a lot of metal scrap and other trash that had been thrown over the cliffs and into crevices. We finally decided we’d seen everything and returned to our boat, launched off the cliff “SEAL team style” as someone commented, and left without encountering the  “response team” which would probably take at least an hour to get there by helicopter anyway.
 




Some exterior scenes; approaching the lighthouse and some of the communications equipment outside.


Interior photos: Crew living quarters, informative sign, and recreational equipment.


Inside (and atop) the light tower. The center photo looks south towards Yakobi Island.


Auxillary buildings; the first three are of the boathouse and the last two are of the boat launching crane.
 
 
 

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