Langara lighthouse granted heritage status

  • Jul. 28, 2015 12:00 p.m.

By Evelyn von AlmassyHaida Gwaii ObserverThe light will keep shining at Langara Island’s lighthouse. Last week Parks Canada released a list of 74 lighthouses that have been granted heritage status, 21 of which are in BC, including Langara Island’s. In 2010 the Canadian Federal Government announced it would close 970 lighthouses across Canada, as modern technology made the iconic structures redundant and too expensive to maintain. Public outcry was heard from B.C. to Newfoundland, as communities were galvanized into action. Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees and the present and past councils, represented one of many communities across Canada who put in an application to the Heritage Ministry. There was a petition that needed to be signed, which supported their application for the community to review. Mr. Merilees said It was important that Langara Lighthouse be protected because of its proximity to Masset.”It is great whatever we can do to protect our historic buildings on the coast-the buildings are never going to be torn down.”McInnes lighthouse on McInnes Island, just east of Gwaii Haanas and south of Prince Rupert in Milbanke Sound, was also granted heritage status, a goal that Mayor Merilees also worked on. There is a personal connection for the Mayor, as his brother Fraser Merilees was the assistant lighthouse keeper for a year on that island.On Langara Island, five acres of forest were cleared and in 1912 the 30-foot hexagonal tower began to take shape. It consisted of reinforced concrete began, with six buttresses, topped with a single flashing light with a Fresnel lens costing $14,225. A fog alarm plant was bought for $10,200 from the Canadian Fog Signal Company of Toronto. In all, the station was built for $64,585. To help with deliveries from the supply steamers, a derrick was installed in 1915, and an aerial tramway in 1917. In 1929 a new building was added to house a radio beacon, and during WW II, a radar station was installed. During the war, the white and red buildings were painted a camouflage jungle green.James Forsythe, his wife Ellen and daughter Evelyn arrived on September 9, 1913 to be the island’s first light keepers. Since that time there have been 22 light keepers, with Gordon Schweer, his wife Judith, and son Guthrie, holding the record for being there the longest, from 1992 to 2010. When Guthrie was 13-years old, he was visited by Santa in an alternate red sleigh (a Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter). He showed the jolly visitor his eight goats, a pet deer, and a flock of chickens, before taking him on a tour of the Fresnel lens.During WWII rats invaded the island, which began a minor side story in the island’s history. So pervasive were the rats that in 1957 light keeper Ed Hartt killed 59 rats with his revolver in just one week. In 1995, 4,000 bait stations, in a ground-based eradication program was begun, and in less than a month all the rats on the island were exterminated. Since then, the five species of burrow-nesting seabirds that had abandoned the island have shown a steady increase.The original Fresnel lens is still working. Presently Stanley Westhaven has been the light keeper since 2010.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii residents to be allowed conditional entry to Gwaii Haanas next month

Gwaii Haanas will reopen Aug. 1 to people who ‘attest to a set of specific conditions’ set out by CHN

Following incident at sea, fishing lodge says it will reopen despite Haida travel ban

QCL reopens July 10, says president; Haida chief councillor describes ‘dangerous’ boating encounter

More than $1.2 million announced for Masset water treatment plant upgrades

Residents of Masset, Old Massett to benefit from $1,241,500 in joint provincial-federal funding

From the archives of the Haida Gwaii Observer

50 YEARS AGO (1970): Highways Minister Wesley Black visited the islands and… Continue reading

On the Wing: Interpretation of the natural world

By Margo Hearne It’s summer on Haida Gwaii. A quieter time for… Continue reading

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Budget officer pegs cost of basic income as calls for it grow due to COVID-19

Planned federal spending to date on pandemic-related aid now tops about $174 billion

Sexologist likens face mask debate to condom debate: What can we learn from it?

Society’s approach to condom usage since the 1980s can be applied to face masks today, one expert says

B.C. homeowners plead for action on condo insurance crisis

Strata property fees growing bigger than mortgage payments

Indigenous man behind complaint of BC Transplant’s alcohol abstinence policy has died

David Dennis, who is Nuu-chah-nulth, argued that six-month sobriety policy is a ‘lethal form of racism’

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Urge travellers to follow COVID-19 rules in a ‘gentle way’: B.C.’s top doctor

Cases surging in the U.S. have B.C. officials hoping the border stays shut all summer

96-year-old woman scales B.C. butte with help of family, friends

‘I did as I was told and I enjoyed every minute of it’

Most Read