The Turks and Caicos National Museum in the British West Indies is assisting in the restoration to service of the lighthouse on Grand Turk. The 60 foot high iron tower, designed by Alexander Gordon on a British Board of Trade contract, and manufactured by Chance Brothers Ltd. of Crawley England was erected in 1852. It was originally equipped with a set of Argand lamps with reflectors.
In 1942, Chance Brothers installed a fourth order lens turned by a weight-driven clockwork with the light source being a 55 mm Autoform kerosene burner. This lasted until 1972 when the beacon was electrified and automated.
The government of the British West Indies now wants to replace the inoperative light with a Pharos solar-powered one. However, they have agreed that the Turks and Caicos National Museum can restore the lighthouse to its 1942 status, if they can find the equipment. It is believed that this would make it the fourth kerosene burning lighthouse left in the world. The museum believes it can maintain the light since they have the clockwork, which is being reconditioned, and the lens. The pedestal with mercury bearing is still in place, although it will need some work. The problem is that the 55 mm Autoform burner has vanished, as have the pressure tanks. In a pinch, they can probably rig the tanks, but the burner is essential.
If any of our readers out there can help, please contact Barry Dressel at the Turks & Caicos National Museum, P.O. Box 188, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies. The museum does have photographs of the missing equipment if anyone needs a photo to help them in the search.
The lighthouse was erected to warn ships of the treacherous Northeast Reef off Grand Turk, which stretches several miles to sea and was the cause of hundreds of wrecks. The lighthouse is located on the north end of the six mile long island which is the site of the capital of the Turks & Caicos, a British dependent territory and Crown Colony, located on the southern end of the Bahamas archipelago. The lighthouse is important, as Grand Turk has only the Museum as an historic site open to visitors.
This story appeared in the
August 1997 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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