Thank you, David Welch, for this stunning and very current (shot on November 8, 2015) drone footage of the Gay Head Lighthouse. Click the full-screen icon (see below) and watch in HD for the full, gorgeous effect. Toward the end, you’ll see the early stages of the new landscaping we will all enjoy next spring when the lighthouse reopens to the public.
From Vineyard Current, Sept. 27th on WMVY Radio, listen to Beverly Wright discuss the lighthouse rescue and the Gay Head 10K. Beverly’s segment begins at 9:36:
Gay Head Light closes Monday for the season – Timothy Johnson
The Gay Head Light will close to the public on Monday until next spring, marking the end of its first season in a new location and the beginning of a multi-year restoration project, focusing on the historic brick-and-masonry tower and its immediate surroundings.
Between May 27 and May 30 this year, the lighthouse was moved 129 feet away from the eroding cliffs, buying at least 150 years before erosion may require another move inland. A stone wall similar to one that existed just east of the lighthouse in the 1880s now marks the boundary between town and Coast Guard properties, and a circular stone- and-brick bench marking the building’s original footprint is under construction.
The area around the lighthouse has been covered in sod, with a split-rail fence along the cliff edge, and other landscaping features taking shape. The 400-ton tower survived the move without a single crack, but decades of wind and rain have eroded some of its cast-iron features, including a railing surrounding the upper gallery, and an exterior ladder leading to the light room. During a severe storm in the 1800s, a portion of the brick wall below the light room shifted and cracked, and was replaced with a new brick wall that has also deteriorated over the years.
Hurricane Joaquin stayed away, but runners in today’s Gay Head 10K faced stiff winds as they raced the scenic up-island course. Overall winners were Rene Da Silva of Vineyard Haven and Alex Testa of Somerville. You can see full results, overall and by age group, by clicking here.
Check back here for photos.
Thanks to all who participated, including our fabulous volunteers, police, EMS and town employees, for making this year’s race a huge success!
Letter to the Editor:
With the relighting of the Gay Head Light on Tuesday, August 11, the monumental task of saving the Gay Head Light has come to an amazingly successful conclusion. Based on the relocation of the structure to its new location, 180 feet back from the cliff face, U.S. Geologists predict that another move won’t be needed for a minimum of 150 years. The remarkable work done by everyone in our Vineyard community, as well as contributions those from across the country and even overseas, has made it possible to save this iconic landmark for future generations to visit, learn its history and utilize its maritime beacon from the open waters of Vineyard Sound.
There are many people to thank for this incredible project, starting with the Aquinnah community. On a cold February night in 2013, residents came to a special town meeting and voted to acquire the Gay Head Lighthouse, and to initiate a process to relocate the lighthouse within the town of Aquinnah. With a town annual budget of only $4 million, it seemed quite formidable to know that $3 million would have to be raised separately to relocate the lighthouse safely away from the eroding cliff face, after first acquiring it from the US Coast Guard. But that was the challenge to be faced and it was met with unanimous approval.
U.S. Coast Guard Captain John Kondratowicz, Southeast Sector Commander, and Save the Gay Head Lighthouse relocation head Len Butler survey building plans
Capt. John Kondratowicz, Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast Sector, toured the relocated Gay Head Lighthouse with Richard Skidmore, lighthouse keeper, and Len Butler, relocation committee head.
Impressed with the light’s history, Capt. Kondratowicz commended the committee and the Town of Aquinnah for their successful move of the structure. He also expressed great interest in the artifacts discovered during excavation and incorporated into the new location.
and tour of the relocated Light. “This is a terrific start to a long-lasting partnership between the Town and the USCG,” he said.
Following the relighting of the Gay Head Light two weeks ago, mariners, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are updating their charts to account for the light’s relocation away from the eroding cliffs at the western tip of the Island.
The change was noted last week in the Coast Guard’s weekly notice to mariners from Maine to New Jersey. In nautical terms, the lighthouse is now about 8.4 seconds east and .4 seconds south of its previous location. A temporary beacon that had been put up by the U.S. Coast Guard has been extinguished.
Gay Head Light is considered a critical beacon for navigation in ledge-strewn waters off Cliffs. — Timothy Johnson
The Coast Guard’s Aid to Navigation Team in Woods Hole has already updated its paper charts, whiting out the old location and placing a sticker where the lighthouse now stands, 129 feet farther from the cliff edge. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which charts all U.S. waters, will issue an update online.
Since 1856, the Gay Head Light has watched over the western entrance to Vineyard Sound. Its alternating red-and-white light warns of the cliffs and boulder-strewn shore, along with Devil’s Bridge, which extends west from the tip of Aquinnah, and Sow and Pigs Reef, another dangerous ledge just south of Cuttyhunk. It replaced an earlier lighthouse that was built in 1799.
NOAA updates its digital charts weekly, in response to critical changes such as a sunken ship or a storm-altered shoal. The Coast Guard notifies the agency of any changes, including relocated buoys and lights. Updated charts are immediately available to the public at charts.noaa.gov.
Aquinnah Town Administrator Adam Wilson captured the newly-moved lighthouse and its famous red/white beacon on an August evening.