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BROOKLYN, June 5, 1852.
SIR: Your letter of inquiry respecting lights, buoys, beacons, &c., has been received, and I would have replied to it before, but I have been absent from the city.
T. A. JENKINS, Esq.,
Letter from Captain H. Coffin, commanding ship Argo.
I have been to sea fifty-three years, and am sorry to say that with the exception of the light on Sankaty Head, on the southeast end of Nantucket, and those on the highlands of Navesink, are the only ones that will compare with the English or French lights. All our southern lights are poor. I would especially call your attention to the one on Tortugas. When you are near enough to it to see the light, you are too near.
None of them compare with the lights on the "Hole-in-the-Wall," Gun key and North Elbow key." If the English government would put a light on the Great Isaacs and a floating light on the Bahama bank, their side would be well lighted.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary Light-house Board.
Of the two hundred and ninety-six stations of light-houses in the United States, there are only twenty having elevations above the level of the sea of one hundred feet and over, (according to Mr. Pleasonton's list,) the rest having much less elevation. These twenty are respectively as follows, with the distances at which they ought to be seen from the deck of a vessel ten feet above the level of the sea. The last column gives the distances taken from the printed list of the Fifth Auditor.
The calculated ranges are given on the assumption that the lights are of sufficient intensity and brilliancy to be seen as far as the curvature of the earth will permit for their respective elevations.
Height of light, in feet.
150 to 175
125 to 150
100 to 125
Calculated range, in Mr. Pleasonton's ranges, nautical miles.
• English colonial lights.
24 to 30
22 to 30
18 to 24
The forty principal French lights fitted with first and second order lenses can be seen under ordinary circumstances of weather as follows, and in very clear weather, under a favorable state of refraction of the atmosphere, farther:
1 light 34 nautical miles.
4 lights 26
4 66 234
The third and smaller lens lights in France can be seen from ten to fifteen nautical miles.
The principal Trinity House (English) lights, as in the case of the French, can be seen as follows:
1 light 30 nautical miles.
66 " 191
38 lights out of a total on the English coast of 68.
The remainder of the Trinity House lights are very superior, of their class, to the lights of this country occupying positions of equal importance to the mariner.
The principal Scotch lights can be seen, under similar circumstances to those of France and England, viz:
33 nautical miles.
33 lights out of 99 on the entire coast of Scotland, and the remainder are equal to the same classes of France and England.
The principal Irish lights can be seen under similar circumstances of weather as follows:
1 light 291 nautical miles.
1 66 28
2 lights 25
25 lights out of 63 on the entire coast of Ireland.
The harbor, river, bay and channel lights, with the exception of some of the principal channel lights of the English and Irish channels of England, are under local Trinity boards; consequently, as has been already seen, of the sixty-eight Trinity House lights, fifty-eight are of the two largest classes of seacoast lights.
It has also been shown that out of the two hundred and ninety-six light stations in the United States, but twenty have ranges of fifteen nautical miles and over, and but one over twenty-one and three-fourths nautical miles. It is evident, too, from the inferior apparatus, that of this small number, with the exception of the lens lights, they cannot be seen so far as has been stated, except under the most favorable] circumstances of weather.
First-class seacoast lights--
Algiers and the colonies
By the returns of the Trinity House corporation, 31st December, 1848, there were 68 light-houses, of which there were
First order Fresnel lights
Reflector, beacon and harbor lights-
Second order lens light
The same return shows light-vessels 29; of that number 23 are placed in exposed open sea positions.
By the latest returns from France there are
Reflector light, second class---
Total colonial lights--
Here it is seen that the Trinity House corporation has sixty-six per cent. of the lights of the first class under its charge, and one-third of those are Fresnel lenses; twenty per cent. of secondary seacoast lights, five of which are Fresnel lenses; and only fourteen per cent. of harbor and channel lights, some of which are fourth order lenses.
The French have twenty-four per cent. of all their lights of the first order lenses; four per cent. of second order lenses; ten per cent. of third order lenses; forty per cent. of fourth order lenses; and only twenty-two per cent. of small reflector beacons, tide, harbor and river lights.
If Sankaty Head is admitted as one, then we have two stations equal to second order lens lights, and probably ten or fifteen fitted with reflectors, which are about equal to the third order larger model lens on Brandywine shoal.
Of the twenty-nine Trinity House light-vessels, twenty-three are placed in open sea positions in the Atlantic ocean, English channel and North sea.
Of the forty-one floating lights of the United States, thirty-six are in Long Island sound, Vinegard sound, Buzzard's bay, Chesapeake bay, Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, &c., &c., and only five are placed in open sea positions.
While the English light-vessels placed in these exposed positions, manned by full crews and fitted in a manner to warrant their lights being seen nearly, if not quite, as far as the curvature of the earth will permit objects of their elevation to be seen, cost in the average about $5,500; the Sandy Hook light-boat which is in the most exposed position of any of ours, and the third class light-boat off Stratford point, Long Island sound, cost last year $12,026 for maintenance, making the Sandy Hook light-boat cost according to the Fifth Auditor's average upwards of $9,000 per annum, and that for a light which can only be seen from four to six miles. (See letter of Captain Lunt in appendix to light-house board report.)
The Pollock Rip light-boat $3,700, and Five Fathom bank light-boat, and a small one in the Delaware bay, $7,472 22.
As for the other light-boats they are chiefly placed in rivers and bays, or inside of bars, with four to five men only attached to them; afford very little light, and of but little use, except for daylight operations. A large number of these light-boats are in the sounds of Carolina and Georgia and in Chesapeake bay and its tributaries.
The Trinity House (English) lights, cost with sperm oil, per lamp, per annum, (1844) $142 88.
Scotch lights, as above---
1844 Irish seacoast
United States average for six years to 1851----
The average number of lamps per light-house in the United States, is (1851) nine and a half.
1843 Trinity House (English)
American lights have but one keeper except in a dozen or fifteen cases, where an assistant is allowed. In Europe, on the contrary, every seacoast light has not less than two keepers, and in exposed positions, three to four for both reflectors and lens lights, no difference being made in that respect.
The returns of 1848 show the expense in France of
eclipse 66 fixed
Average expense of first order lens
Second order revolving lens light-
eclipse Average expense of second order lens----
Third order fixed lens (larger model) -· eclipse "
Fourth order larger model-66 66 smaller 66
-7,017f. 55c. =
WILLIAM L. HODGE,
Average expense for third order (larger model) lens 2,886f. 45c. $541 22 1,460f. 10c.=
$1,336 54 1,317 79 1,255 67
$1,220 88 1,356 14
Acting Secretary of the Treasury.
Fifth Auditor's Office, April 3, 1851.
SIR: In answer to your note of the 2d instant, just received, I have the honor to inform you that no steps have been taken by me for building any of the light-houses or light-vessels for which appropriations were made on the 3d March last; considering necessary that the several sites should be previously re-examined and reported upon by the officer to be appointed for the purpose.
And with respect to the three which it had been previously determined to build, and for which additional appropriations were necessary, and were made by that act, I was prevented from taking any steps towards building them by a clause in the act, requiring the President to cause to be detailed two engineers of the army for the purpose of superintending the construction and renovation of light-houses.
I have the honor to be, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,