Sentinel of the Seas

Bookshelf: Sentinel of the Seas

Sentinel of the Seas – Dennis M. Powers

Sentinel of the Seas
Sentinel of the Seas

Lighthouses are beautiful and captivating, often positioned in lonely, windswept locations at the very edge of human settlements. The idea of being a lighthouse keeper, custodian of a light that is a warning against the might of stormy seas over submerged reefs, seems romantic and heroic. It is for these reasons that I am surprised there aren’t more books about lighthouse life; perhaps we are fortunate that there aren’t.

Sentinel of the Seas is about the St Georges Reef Light, situated on a rock about 10 kilometres off the northern Californian coast. The subject was researched in painstaking detail by the author, and he provides a great deal of colour to the process of constructing the lighthouse and its subsequent manned use as a warning to shipping. The cover photograph at left shows the small size of the rocky outcrop on which the lighthouse stands. The challenges of construction work at this location, combined with frequent salty inundations and fluctuating tides, were considerable. The main theme related to the St Georges Reef Light is, however, interwoven with several other ideas and story lines and the entire book is poorly edited, rendering the overall thread of the narrative disorganised and difficult to follow.

Today the lighthouse is in disuse after being replaced by a floating light buoy (apparently these days all but one or two lighthouses off the American coast are unmanned), but has been the subject of efforts to restore and preserve it. It has an official website, and at various times tours to the facility by helicopter have been offered.

There are no photographs in this book – I thought it could have done with some, even if they were only of the lighthouse as it appears today (although historical photos do exist). I was struck by the similarity between this light and Roman Rock, although I suspect Roman Rock’s location is a little more sheltered. Since the rock on which Roman Rock is built isn’t visible (the lighthouse base may cover it completely – I’m not sure), I wonder how it was constructed. Something to find out!

You can buy the book here. I’d recommend it primarily for die-hard pharologists. For the rest of you, check out the Hobermans’ beautiful offering about the lighthouses along the South African coast.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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