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of Great Britain or France; the latter being far superior in every_respect. 5th query. The best sea-coast lights we have are the Highlands (French ;) these will compare very well with the Lizard lights (Lands-end, England,) in point of range and brilliancy.
6th query. The lights in Europe are more diversified in the color and style than those on our own coast.
7th query. The light-ships of Great Britain maintain their positions much better than those of this country, and generally show a better light.
Sth query. The system of buoys, beacons and sea-marks of Great Britain are far superior to those of this country; in fact I may say that our system is far inferior to that of almost any other maritime country, notwithstanding our vast amount of commerce.
Trusting that this will serve the ends for which it is intended,
THORNTON A. JANKINS, Esq., Lieut. U. S. N.,
Letter from Captain Asa Eldredge, of New York.
NEW YORK, April 18, 1852.
Query. How many passages do you make on an average per annum, and between what ports?
Answer. Six passages between New York and Liverpool.
Q. What lights do you run for in those passages?
A. Cape Clear, Tuskar, Holy Head, Skerries, are the principal.
Q. What the location of the foreign lights, the description of apparatus employed, the comparative range, &c.?
A. The apparatus is the reflector with improvements.
Q. What the general character of the lights of this country compared to those of Great Britain, France, and the West Indies, with reference to usefulness, range, and brilliancy?
A. The general character of our lights is far inferior to those of Great Britain, which are inferior to those of France.
Q. What the best seacoast lights of this country, and how do they compare with the best of other countries (please name those which you have seen) with reference to range and brilliancy?
A. The best seacoast lights in our country are those of Navesink, New York harbor, which are as good as navigation requires.
Q. How do the lights on the coast of the United States compare with those of Europe, &c., in their characteristic distinctions?
A. There is a want of distinctness in our lights, and we are apt to make mistakes from that cause.
Q. How do the light-vessels on the coast of the United States compare with those of Great Britain, as to usefulness, certainty of position, brilliancy and range of light? How does the system of buoys, beacons and sea-marks of the United States compare with that of Great Britain?
A. In England their light-vessels are almost permanent fixtures, and their buoys and beacons are marked and distinct, which is not the case in this country.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Lieut. T. A. JENKINS, U. S. N.,
Secretary to Light-house Board, Washington, D. C.
Letter from Captain C. Foulkes, of Philadelphia.
PHILADELPHIA, April 20, 1852.
SIR: I received your favor of the 20th instant, requesting information upon the difference between the light-houses of this country and those of other countries; and I hasten to comply with your request with the greatest pleasure, as far as I am able to do so.
1. I make six voyages every year between Philadelphia and Demerara, British Guiana, touching at Turk's island on my return, making twelve
2. The only lights I run for in my outward passages are, sometimes the light-house on Bermuda and the light-ship off the Demerara river, and on my return those on our coast from Cape Charles to Cape May,
3. The light-house on Bermuda is a very good light, showing plainly at the distance of twenty-five miles in cloudy weather. The light-ship off the Demerara is eleven miles NE. by N. from the light-house, in five fathoms of water, and shows a fixed light visible about twelve miles. The light-house on the entrance of the river is about eighty feet above the level of the sea, and visible about fourteen miles in clear weather. I connot give you any information respecting the apparatus used for these lights, but they are about equal in brilliancy to our second class lights. I have made twentynine voyages to Demerara since I have commanded a vessel, and always found the lights lighted from sunset to sunrise.
4. As far as I can judge, I think the lights in this country inferior in brilliancy to those of England or France. Their range is also less. I have often tried in the Channel, after losing sight of a light from the deck, to go up a few feet above the rail, and always saw the light as brilliant as if but a few miles distant. Our lights are generally but very faint at a great distance, particularly the fixed ones.
5. Although I have been going to sea for twenty-four years, I have but a very slight knowledge of the lights on the coast of the United States, having been constantly sailing from Philadelphia, and in the West Indies or South American trade. I can therefore speak but of those which I see oftener than others. Chincoteague light I see often, and although of great use to all vessels coming from the southward, it is in my opinion not sufficiently elevated above the sea, as there is almost always a haze over the land. Its brilliancy might be greater, to enable vessels to see it in cloudy or rainy weather, which generally prevails during easterly winds. The light-house on Cape Henlopen is also deficient in brilliancy, owing probably to the reflection of the sand hills on which it is placed. Cape May light is
a very good light, and will compare with any other. I have often, when coming from the southeastward, seen Cape May light before Cape Henlopen. The new light on the Brandywine shoal is the brightest of all, and a light-house of great elevation, fitted with a lamp like the one on the Brandywine, would show a great distance.
6. I am not sufficienly acquainted with the light-houses in Europe to be able to institute a comparison between them and those of the United States.
7. To this question I must also decline making any answer, as my knowledge of the light-vessels of Great Britain is very slight.
8. I am not able to answer that question, having no insight into the system, but should think that one of the causes why the lights in Great Britain are better than ours, is the fact that the vessels pay for the lights on the coasts on which the port to which they are going is situated. This not only pays for the lights, but leaves a large surplus.
I think the lights on the coasts of the United States are too uniform in color. A great many shipwrecks happen through one light being mistaken for another, which would not happen were they of different colors.
I should think that a small light-house on the middle of Fenwick island, showing a bright red light, could be of great use, as there is hardly a year passes without some vessel being stranded in the vicinity.
I beg to inform you, that you may make it known, that the English government is building a light-house on the north part of Grand Turk island, in latitude 21° 32', which will be lighted on the 1st of July. It can be approached when bearing S.S.E. within three miles, and nearer when bearing more to the eastward. Vessels coming from the eastward should not run for it, but keep it well open to the southward, until bearing south. Hoping that this will be of service to all concerned in navigation, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THORNTON A. JENKINS, Lieutenant U. S. N.,
Letter from Captain N. M. Attwater, commanding the barque Jeanette, of New York.
NEW YORK, April 20, 1852.
SIR: In answer to queries contained in your circular, dated Washington city, May 29, 1851, I respectfully reply:
My voyages are various-Europe, South America, West Indies, and the coast of the United States.
Some of our lights compare favorably (especially our northern ones) with the English, but we are far behind Great Britain in affording aids in lights, beacons and buoys, to assist in the navigation of our coast.
The Florida channel, from Tortugas to Cape Canaveral, is of a very dangerous character, and little aid (to be depended upon) by good lights is given to assist the ship-master in navigating the channel to advantage. At a small cost beacons could be erected on all the outer shoals. A light-ship
midway Bahama Bank is wished for by all the shipmasters, and also a light on the Orange-key. A light on the Isaac would facilitate heavy-draught ships.
South from St. Marks (Florida) lighthouse, twelve miles, is a shoal with only three feet water, and directly to the westward are the shoals extending off from Southwest cape ten to twelve miles, erroneously laid down on charts and Coast Pilot as being only three miles. A light-ship near the Three-foot shoal would mark both. As many as one vessel per month grounds on these shoals.
On the Farallone islands a light (revolving) is much wanted, and also a light (steady) on Boneta or Lobos Point, to mark the entrance to San Francisco.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Letter from Captain John H. Young, commanding the ship Venice, from
PHILADELPHIA, April 21, 1852.
SIR In compliance with your circular, I beg leave to call attention to the following answers to your questions:
1. I make six passages per annum, mostly between Philadelphia, New Orleans and Liverpool.
2. I run for "Abaco," Gun-key, Double-headed Shot-key, Key West, Tortugas, and lights at mouth of Mississippi, and all the lights on south coast of Ireland, Georges channel to Liverpool.
3. The locations of foreign lights are generally high, particularly those of Great Britain, arranged mostly by "flash," "revolving" or "steady alternately. The steadiness and brilliancy of foreign lights are infinitely more to be depended upon than the lights on our coast; range much greater; to be seen generally twenty to thirty miles; more attention is paid to early lighting and late extinguishing.
4. The general character of the lights in this country will not compare with the French and English in all the great requisites-range, brilliancy and usefulness. With regard to distance (I speak confidently) the French and English are to be seen on an average double the distance of American lights. First class American lights cannot be seen more than twelve to fifteen miles.
5. Boston, Navesink, Cape May and South Pass, (Mississippi) lights are the best American lights which have come under the writer's notice. The first only will compare with lights of similar magnitude in England and France, viz: Skilligs, Cape Clear, Kinsale, Cork, Ballycotton, Waterford, Tuskar, Wicklow, Bardsey, South Stack, Point Lynas, Cordouan, besides many others in the British channel.
6. Their characteristic distinctions are inferior to the English and French
lights, the two latter being located generally on the most conspicuous promontories, with a view to as large range as possible, generally embracing twenty to twenty-four points of the compass.
7. The light-ships are infinitely better than the houses as compared with the European; and with the addition of very powerful "gongs" struck regularly, say every five or ten seconds, in foggy or thick weather, will put those now in use on a very respectable footing. The bells used formerly by the European light-ships have in every instance (I believe) been abolished.
8. The buoys, beacons, &c., of Great Britian are very superior, particularly at all the large commercial ports. The tub or barrel-buoys are altogether in use, distinguished by black, red and white paint for starboard or larboard side of the channel. The land-marks are generally high and prominent, easily distinguished, and consequently of much utility in entering dangerous ports, as London, Liverpool, &c., &c.
The writer begs to call attention to several lights on the coast of this country, and which most loudly call for the attention of your honorable body. Cape Henlopen has one of the poorest lights on the coast. As most large vessels bound into Philadelphia are obliged to keep south of Cape May to clear "five fathom bank," that light is rarely ever made by ships from Europe, running in on the parallel of Cape Henlopen, rendering the sight of this light of the highest importance.
With the strong southerly current created by easterly winds, (which always make thick weather,) the navigator generally finds himself to the southward of Cape Henlopen, and in great uncertainty, as the quality of soundings is a very imperfect guide, the general character being simila from Cape Henlopen to Chincoteague. The writer has often found himsel as far south as Chincoteague (forty-five miles south of Cape Henlopen ) after a few days of easterly wind and thick weather, and seriously felt the want of a first rate unmistakeable light at this place, to point out the dangerous shoals which line that part of the coast. The present light cannot be seen more than ten miles in clear weather, and the shoals lie off nearly that distance, having ten to twelve fathoms close too, and even in some places inside of them. So great is the importance of an unmistakeable light at this point, that the writer respectfully recommends a flash light, similar to Ballycotton on the south coast of Ireland.
The next (or rather the first) in importance is the much and justly feared Cape Hatteras, than which there is no place on the whole coast of the United States, more requiring a light of the first brilliancy. The great anxiety of navigators to haul out of the Gulf at this point when bound north, seems to require such a light as would enable them (by the certainty of position) "to haul up" without hesitation, particularly during the winter months, when the westerly winds require the mariner to "hug" the land, not only shortening the passage, but preventing the immense wear and tear consequent upon being blown off. The present light can rarely be seen outside the dangerous Diamond shoal. The great importance of a light to be seen (under ordinary circumstances) eighteen or twenty miles will be apparent to your honorable body, when reflecting on the immense number of vessels approaching that point, particularly with easterly winds, as fully two-thirds of the shipping of this country, besides all the European vessels from the many Gulf ports are directly interested in having a first class light (with