Dry Tortugas Light

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Dry Tortugas Light
Dry Tortugas Lighthouse 2005.jpg
The Dry Tortugas Light is on Loggerhead Key
Dry Tortugas Light is located in Florida
Dry Tortugas Light
Location Loggerhead Key
Dry Tortugas
United States
Coordinates 24°38′0.1″N 82°55′14.0″W / 24.633361°N 82.920556°W / 24.633361; -82.920556Coordinates: 24°38′0.1″N 82°55′14.0″W / 24.633361°N 82.920556°W / 24.633361; -82.920556
Year first constructed 1858
Automated 1988
Foundation stone basement
Construction brick tower
Tower shape tapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / pattern white lower half tower,
natural gray upper half tower,
black lantern
Height 157 feet (48 m)
Focal height 151 feet (46 m)
Original lens 1st Fresnel lens
Later, 2nd order
Current lens VRB-25 aerobeacon
Light source solar power
Range 20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi)
Characteristic Fl W 20s.
Racon "K" (−∘−)
Admiralty number J3060
ARLHS number USA-236
USCG number 3-1095[1][2]

The Dry Tortugas Light is located on Loggerhead Key, three miles west of Fort Jefferson, Florida.


Dry Tortugas Light when the upper part was painted black.

In 1856, Capt. Daniel Phineas Woodbury supervised construction of the lighthouse, based on an 1855 design by Capt. Horatio Wright, and became operational in 1858.[3]

The Loggerhead Key lighthouse has a stone foundation and a conical brick tower. The walls are 6 feet (1.8 m) thick at the base and taper to 4 feet (1.2 m) thick at the top. The tower was painted black on the upper part and white below (later unpainted on the upper part and white below). A radio room is attached to the base of the tower. The original lens was a first order Fresnel lens, which is now on display at the United States Coast Guard Aids to Navigation School in Yorktown, Virginia. The light was automated in 1988.[4][2]

The first lighthouse in the Dry Tortugas was on Garden Key, and became operational in 1826.[5] After several proposals for a new lighthouse on the "outer shoals" of the Dry Tortugas, a new lighthouse was built on Loggerhead Key and completed in 1858 at a cost of US$35,000, which was the amount that had been projected to upgrade the existing lighthouse on Garden Key.[6]

The Dry Tortugas lighthouse, along with the Garden Key lighthouse at Fort Jefferson, were the only lights on the Gulf coast that stayed in full operation throughout the American Civil War.[2] A civilian prisoner of Fort Jefferson, John W. Adare and a companion, used planks to swim to the Key and stole the keeper's boat. Although they made it to Havana, the Spanish authorities there extradited them back to Key West. Undeterred, Adare attempted a second escape, one in which he needed a second plank for his ankle ball and chain. This time the boat was locked and Adare was captured the next day.[3]:92-93

The tower was damaged by a hurricane in October 1873 and plans were drawn up for a new tower. The tower was repaired by rebuilding the top 9 feet (2.7 m) and extending the steel rods anchoring the lantern to the bottom of the tower. After the repaired tower survived another hurricane in September 1875, the plans for a new tower were deferred and eventually dropped.[6]

The Dry Tortugas Light received an electric lamp in 1931, becoming the most powerful lighthouse in America, with three million candela.[6] The rotating beacon stopped working in April 2014, and was formally decommissioned in December 2015.


  • Benjamin H. Kerr (1858 – 1861)
  • James P. Lightburn (1861 – 1862)
  • Robert H. Thompson (1862 – 1872)
  • William B. Taylor (1872)
  • Thomas Moore (1872 – 1881)
  • Robert H. Thompson (1881 – 1888)
  • Charles A. Roberts (1888)
  • George R. Billberry (1888 – 1907)
  • Edgar J. Russell (1907 – at least 1915)
  • Charles Johnson (at least 1917 – at least 1921)
  • Andrew M. Albury (1928 – at least 1947)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Light List, Volume III, Atlantic Coast, Little River, South Carolina to Econfina River, Florida (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2009. p. 12. 
  2. ^ a b c "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Florida". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 
  3. ^ a b Reid, Thomas. America's Fortress. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. p. 19-22. ISBN 9780813030197. 
  4. ^ McCarthy, Kevin M. (1990). Florida Lighthouses. Paintings by William L. Trotter. Gainesville: University of Florida Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-8130-0982-0. 
  5. ^ Dean, Love (1982). Reef Lights: Seaswept Lighthouses of the Florida Keys. Key West, Florida: The Historic Key West Preservation Board. p. 17. ISBN 0-943528-03-8. 
  6. ^ a b c Cipra, David. "Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, Dry Tortugas, Florida" (PDF). United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 

External links[edit]