The Trials of Lighthouse Keeping




In 1792 Patos Island was named Isla de Patos (Island of Ducks), by Spanish Explorers Galiano and Bazan maybe due to the various ducks which inhabited the island. Interestingly, the island was a topographic point for smugglers thanks to its nearness to the Canadian border and its many trees and caves.

The island's dawn was on Boundary Pass just opposite Canada's Saturna Island. Patos Island is at the northern entrance to the Canal de Haro. This was a really dangerous passage due to strong currents and foggy weather. In March of 1891 Congress appropriated $12,000 to erect an aid to navigation which consisted of a double dwelling, fog signal building, water tanks and a post light at the western end of the island. the particular building was completed late in 1893.

Thus there was a white light on the Canadian side of the channel and a red light on a ten foot tall white stake on Patos Island.

By 1915 several improvements were made with the results of a replacement fog signal and a lighthouse with a Fresnel lens . Harry Mahler was paid $700 per annum as head keeper and Edward Durgan received $500 per annum as assistant keeper.

After serving as custodian at several different locations on the West Coast Durgan returned in 1905 to Patos Island because the head light keeper. He received at Patos with wife Estelle and their thirteen children where he became very well-known. albeit it had a light climate, Patos Island was very isolated. The Durgan family would travel twenty-six water miles once a month to Bellingham, Washington for supplies. Their nearest neighbor was Saturna Island in Canada which was just over three miles away by water.

Seven of the youngsters decreased with smallpox and keeper Durgan, so as to signal for help flew the lighthouse flag the wrong way up . Eventually help did come but one account says that three of the youngsters died. While another account was that one child succumbed. a 3rd accounting states that the kid who died likely died of appendicitis, not smallpox

Helene Durgan Glidden, one among the surviving children later wrote a memoir titled "The Light on the Island". during this writing she told of her talks with God, how she played together with her pet cow and wandered the shores of the island which she called "the petticoats" of Patos Island.

George Loholt replaced Durgan as headkeeper with Mary Durgan's husband, Noah Clark, staying on as assistant keeper.

Trips over the rough waters for visiting or shopping were dangerous. In 1911 Noah Clark motored to Blaine,Washington to select up his wife, Mary and their young son who had been visiting the Durgans. On their return trip the boat's motor failed because it was nearing Patos Island. The boat started filling with water and Clark jumped overboard for help to save lots of his family and he was never seen again. His family, after drifting within the water all night, eventually crawled on top of the cabin when the boat crammed with water. Fortunately they were rescued after grounding onto a shoal.

In August 1912, a distress call was coming from Patos Island. Captain Newcombe of the Canadian fishery protection tug noticed the signal and stopped at the island to research . The assistant custodian , William Stark, told the captain that Keeper Loholt was exhibiting signs of insanity. That Loholt had left the station during a boat two days earlier with none explanation leaving Stark to hold out all the duties alone. Captain Newcombe notified the lighthouse inspector in Portland, who proceeded to Patos Island.

Inspector Beck received Patos and discovered that the 2 men had been fighting which one had threatened to kill the opposite and drove him from the island. Ultimately the assistant was suspended and Keeper Loholt continued on as head custodian for an additional ten years or more. During which era he rendered assistance to many vessels in distress.

Those accounts were mentioned within the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lighthouses.

Telephone service came to the island in 1919 and took care of much of the communication issue.

The lighthouse is now a part of Patos Island State Park and has been restored and is being cared for by a gaggle of selfless volunteers.

The lighthouse are often visited by boat from either Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. In recent years there are docents to open the lighthouse to visitors during the summer months.

The lighthouse is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Grounds.open, lighthouse closed

The lighthouse is best visited by boat. Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor on San Juan Island are two of the closest harbors to Patos Island Lighthouse. Keepers of the Patos Light have had docents on the island in recent years to open the lighthouse to visitors during the summer months.

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters has offered Lighthouse Tours within the past that travel by Patos Island. Outer Island Excursions offers trips to Patos Island that include a hike to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is owned by the Bureau of Land Management. Grounds.open, lighthouse closed

Katy Beacher may be a retired RN . She has decided its more fun to run an internet site and write articles than it's to take a seat and knit. She relies on her lifetime experience in home decorating on a budget and study of trends to work her site. She loves animals and is interested nature and in marine life and coastal living. Visit her site at [http://www.endlesscoastaldecor.com]



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