After jumping off the Connie K into shallow waters on the west side of the island, Fred and I climb up out of the intertidal zone and into the small Sitka Spruce forest that covers the southern half of the island. I am always struck by how lovely this little forest is. Lichens decorate the trees and there is always a view of the water. We hear song sparrows at the edges and a family of raucous crows sounds the alarm from from farther down the island. We walk north on the path to the lighthouse and through the detritus of 100 years of operation.
Five Finger Lighthouse has had a remarkable resurgence since being automated and then shuttered up by the Coast Guard in 1984. This new life for an old gal is largely due to the love and dedication shown it by two people- Jennifer Klein and Ed McIntosh from the Juneau Lighthouse Association. The U.S. government deeded the lighthouse property to JLA in 2004 and their mission it is to make the lighthouse accessible to the public and have it serve as a center for research and education.
As Fred and I unlock the doors and walk inside,we can see how much work has been put into the place. The refurbished galley and main living area have a nice feel to them. It is welcoming and comfortable, which is no small accomplishment in what was a working platform for isolated men for eighty years.
There is still lots to be done, plenty of junk has accumulated over the years and sits in piles outside. Obsolete systems fill the lower room where paint hangs from the walls in large peels. Rusting tools lie in jumbled piles on old workbenches. The old gal sorely needs a fresh coat of paint. Nothing insurmountable, all it takes is time, money and people-power.
The lighthouse is subjected to fierce winds and high seas in the winter. Keeping the forces of Nature at bay is a significant undertaking. There is no government stipend to take care of the lighthouse structure, all monies are raised through grants and private donations. Anyone interested in making a donation to JLA can contact them on the primary website, 5fingerlighthouse.com .
Our next blog will be about setting up our hydrophone system, what crazy thing happened after one hour of deployment and a first peek into the eagles nest.
Thanks for reading.