Light is out at the Amelia Island Lighthouse
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED.
The Amelia Island Lighthouse went dark Thursday afternoon during a routine cleaning. The light usually flashes every 10 seconds and has red sector on the southeast, indicating shoals.
According to an email chain forwarded by City Manager Dale Martin to the News-Leader last week, “One of the twelve bulls-eyes in the Fresnel lens fell out during routine dusting by a local Coast Guard Auxiliary team. U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation Team inspected the lens and determined it must be turned off (rotation and lamps) until an assessment can be made by a Fresnel lens expert.
“Curtains have been installed to protect the lens from sunlight while it is not rotating. The US Coast Guard will use the expert’s assessment to make the decision to either stabilize the lens in place or remove it to a protected environment,” the message states.
“At this time, there are no plans to place a temporary beacon in place of the 115-year-old third-order Fresnel Lens,” it concludes.
Petty Officer Luke Clayton, a media contact for the Coast Guard in Jacksonville, said Monday that it is a Coast Guard-maintained light, but there is “no ETA (estimated time of arrival) on when it will be repaired.”
“There are only about five vendors who can work on that lens and it has to be bid out through a normal work order process,” Clayton said, noting that though there is only one manufacturer of the lenses, there are few who know how to repair them.
Clayton said he is familiar with the rarity of the third-order Fresnel lens.
“There is one person in the world, like in Germany or something, who still makes it,” Clayton said in a prior interview on Sunday.
The city took possession of the lighthouse in 2001 when the Coast Guard, which had operated the lighthouse since the 1950s, declared it surplus property.
In 2002, the city used a $350,000 grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources to have the 64-foot tower restored by Worth Contracting, Inc.
The lighthouse has been situated on the north end of Amelia Island since 1838, when Congress provided $7,500 to have the structure moved brick by brick from its original location on Cumberland Island, where it was built in 1820. It is the state’s oldest lighthouse.
The lighthouse went dark for the duration of the Civil War and was operated by approximately 20 civilian keepers before being transferred to the Coast Guard.