The Trials of Lighthouse Keeping

The Trials of Lighthouse Keeping

Plouzane, Lighthouse, France, Landmark

In 1792 Patos Island was named Isla de Patos (Island of Ducks), by Spanish Explorers Galiano and Bazan perhaps due to the numerous ducks that inhabited the island. Interestingly, the island was a hiding place for smugglers because of its nearness to the Canadian border and its many trees and trees.

The island’s first light was on Boundary Pass only contrary Canada’s Saturna Island. This was a really dangerous passage due to strong currents and foggy weather. In March of 1891 Congress appropriated $12,000 to erect an aid to navigation that consisted of a double dwelling, fog signal building, water tanks and a pole light in the western end of the island. The actual construction was finished late in 1893.

Thus there was a white light on the side of the station and a red light on a ten foot tall white bet on Patos Island.

By 1915 several improvements were made with the consequence of a new fog signal and a lighthouse with a fresnel lens. Harry Mahler was paid $700 per year as head keeper and Edward Durgan received $500 per year as president.

After serving as lighthouse keeper in a number of distinct places on the West Coast Durgan returned in 1905 into Patos Island as the head light keeper. He came at Patos with wife Estelle and their thirteen children where he became really renowned. Despite the fact that it had a mild climate, Patos Island was quite isolated. Their nearest neighbor was Saturna Island in Canada that was just over three miles away by water.

Seven of the kids came down with smallpox and keeper Durgan, so as to signal for assistance flew the lighthouse flag upside down. Finally help did come but one account states that three of the kids died. While another account was that one kid succumbed. A third bookkeeping states that the kid who died likely died of appendicitis, not smallpox

Helene Durgan Glidden, one of the living kids later wrote a memoir titled”The Light on the Island”. In this writing she told of her discussions with God, how she played with her pet cow and wandered the shores of this island that she called”the petticoats” of Patos Island.

George Loholt substituted Durgan as headkeeper with Mary Durgan’s husband, Noah Clark, staying on as assistant keeper.

Trips over the rough seas for seeing or purchasing were dangerous. In 1911 Noah Clark motored to Blaine,Washington to pick up his wife, Mary and their young son who was visiting the Durgans. The ship began filling with water and Clark jumped overboard for help to rescue his loved ones and he was never seen again. His loved ones, after drifting in the water all night, eventually crawled on top of the cottage once the boat full of water. Luckily they had been rescued after grounding on a shoal.

Captain Newcombe of the Canadian fishery protection tug noticed the signal and stopped at the island to research. This Loholt had left the station in a ship two days earlier with no explanation leaving Stark to perform all the responsibilities alone. Captain Newcombe advised the lighthouse inspector at Portland, who proceeded to Patos Island.

Inspector Beck arrived at Patos and found that the two men were fighting and one had threatened to kill another and drove him from the island. Ultimately the helper was suspended and Keeper Loholt continued as head lighthouse keeper for another ten years or longer. During which time he rendered assistance to many vessels in distress.

Those accounts were cited in the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses.

Telephone service came to the island in 1919 and took care of a lot of the communication issue.

The lighthouse is now a part of Patos Island State Park and has been revived and is being cared for by a group of selfless volunteers.

The lighthouse can be seen by boat from Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. Lately there are docents to open the lighthouse to people throughout the summer months.

The lighthouse is best seen by boat. Keepers of the Patos Light have experienced docents on the island in recent years to open the lighthouse to people throughout the summer months.

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters has provided Lighthouse Tours previously that pass by Patos Island.

The lighthouse is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Grounds.open, lighthouse closed


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