Welcome to the loneliest place on Earth.
Located in the
middle of Lake Superior, more than 24 miles from anywhere, the
Stannard Rock Light is further from shore than any other lighthouse
in the United States.
May 5, 2016 - The National Park Service named the Stannard Rock
Light one of top ten engineering feats in American history. (U.S.
Coast Guard photo by Lt. Kristopher Thornburg, U.S. Coast Guard
The remote lighthouse was home to many U.S. Coast Guard
lighthouse keepers who spent weeks biding their time on the
rock and keeping the light shinning until it was automated
Later the Duluth, Minnesota-based Coast
Guard Cutter Alder and Duluth Aids to Navigation Team
maintained the light.
Under the National Historic Lighthouse
Preservation Act, Stannard Rock was transferred to the
Superior Watershed Partnership for Great Lakes in September
2015. The Marquette, Michigan-based partnership works on
climate research with American and Canadian agencies,
including the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
The 110-foot-tall sandstone
lighthouse is one of nine lights with an elevator named
after it in U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington,
D.C. The lighthouse's Second Order Fresnel lens is featured
in the Marquette, Michigan, Maritime Museum.
Rock's lens display is the primary focus of our main exhibit
hall and takes up a large portion of that space,” said Ken
Fosburg, vice president of the museum, which hosts more than
10,000 visitors every year between May and October.
lighthouse lampist who has worked on more than 60 lamps,
Fosburg said the lighthouse was built to mark an uncharted
hazard discovered by Capt. Charles C. Stannard from the
American Fur Company in 1835. The rock rises hundreds of
feet from lake bed near the shipping lane between Sault Ste.
Marie, Michigan, and Duluth, Minnesota.
workers took five years to build the lighthouse in the
middle of Lake Superior and the National Park Service named
it one of the top ten engineering feats in American history.
The lighthouse is in waters covered by the 9th Coast
Guard District in Cleveland. The command ensures the safety,
security and stewardship of the Great Lakes.
Safeguarding mariners and enabling commerce, the 9th
District maintains and regulates more than 5,500 federal and
private aids to navigation. More than of a third of its aids
are seasonal aids that have to be removed every fall and
replaced every spring to minimize damage from ice and severe
The district employs six Coast Guard
cutters, six Aids to Navigation Teams and one station ANT.
These cutters and teams are based in Detroit; Port Huron,
Michigan; Cheboygan, Michigan; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan;
Saginaw River, Michigan; Muskegon, Michigan; Duluth,
Minnesota; Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; Two Rivers, Wisconsin;
and Buffalo, New York.
The 9th District's
navigational aids are among the U.S. Coast Guard's more than
48,000 ATON, including buoys, beacons, ranges, sound signals
and electronic aids that mark the 25,000 miles of waterways
in the U.S. Marine Transportation System, or MTS.
Connecting eight U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, nearly
40 tribal nations and several major metropolitan areas, the
Great Lakes are some of the busiest waterways in the U.S.
Living up to their name, the Great Lakes are
bordered by more than 6,700 miles of shoreline, the distance
of a round trip from Miami to Seattle. The lakes also
contain 84 percent of North America's fresh water and 21
percent of the world's supply.
ships on international voyages, colloquially known as “Salties,”
pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway every year and call on
Great Lakes ports. The seaway connects the Great Lakes to
the Atlantic Ocean and markets around the world
Great Lakes are also heavily traveled by U.S. and Canadian
commercial and recreational vessels.
shipping traffic on the Great Lakes mainly consists of large
freighters, called ‘Lakers,' which carry grain, coal, iron
ore and other cargo,” said Chief Petty Officer Scott Lenz,
officer in charge of Duluth ANT. Steel for the U.S. auto
industry is shipped across the Great Lakes to Michigan,
Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois – five of the top U.S. auto
U.S. and Canadian vessels carry
more than 125 million tons of cargo through the Great Lakes
every year. This trade is enabled by nine U.S. Coast Guard
ice breakers that keep the waterways open for business
during the winter months.
In addition to operating
the only U.S.-flagged icebreakers capable of polar
operations, the Coast Guard breaks ice to clear the way for
emergency response and search and rescue missions. As a part
of the domestic ice breaking mission, the Coast Guard aids
communities and mariners in crisis and clears a path for
essential marine commerce.
The 9th District also
maintains more lights than any other Coast Guard district,
and Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other
state. But even in Michigan, which is surrounded by four of
the five Great Lakes, no other lighthouse is quite like
“Stannard Rock Light was built in
response to a large increase in shipping traffic across Lake
Superior, with most ships making stops in Duluth, Minnesota,
or Marquette, Michigan,” said Lenz. “This increase in
shipping traffic coincided with the opening of the Soo Locks
(the locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, that connect Lake
Superior to the lower Great Lakes).”
A native of
Kaleva, Michigan, Lenz is a seasoned Great Lakes sailor. The
chief has served with three different ATON units and a
search and rescue unit during more than a decade on the
lakes. He said his experience on an emergency call at Coast
Guard Station Michigan City, Indiana, drove home the
importance of navigational aids.
“I was the coxswain
on a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat responding to a distress case
during a very strong storm,” said Lenz. “It was so intense
that the GPS was intermittent and not reliable.
were able to safely return to the harbor because we could
see the outer light and hear its fog signal,” continued
Lenz. “It was a memory that has always stuck with me and
drove home the point as to why the ATON mission is so
By Walter Ham. U.S. Coast Guard HQ
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