Lighthouse Challenge Completed Attracting Far-Flung Turnout

Published by admin at 1:39 AM under

CHALLENGE11_FAMILY_SIGNFrom early morning to dusk a steady stream of people equipped with maps and determination found their way to Sea Girt Lighthouse the weekend of October 15-16 as they trekked up and down and around the Jersey coast in the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey 2011.

The Challenge was to visit 11 historic lights, two associated museums and two life-saving stations. This was the most challenging Challenge ever with 15 stops – one more than last year and four more than the Challenges of the 1990s. This is the 12th year of the Challenge.

From Across America and Beyond

In contrast to Sea Girt’s typical turnout of 30-40 people for Sunday tours, the 2011 Challenge attracted almost 500 people each day. A total of 982 people came to Sea Girt Lighthouse. They came from every region of the continental United States – from 20 states altogether and Washington, D.C.

While most folks were from New Jersey and surrounding states, the guestbook also showed the visitors came from as far away as California and Texas and from Florida and most every state on the Eastern Seaboard, as well as the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

For many, it was a family outing. Rosemary Everly, from Arkansas, did the Challenge with her daughter, Joyce Price, who lives in Oklahoma. Kristin and Christina Barneski and their 6-year-old niece Destinyann Christina make this an annual adventure. Destinyann has already done six Challenges.

Venturing the farthest of any of the visitors to Sea Girt were Martin Thompson, an IT engineer from Scotland who lives in Sweden, and his wife, Pernilla, and their daughters, Tindra, 9, and Lova, 5. The Thompsons were vacationing in New Jersey, visiting relatives. They were enjoying a sunny afternoon at the Sea Girt beach when they wandered over to see what was happening at the busy lighthouse and wound up joining the fun. Martin and his family opted for their own mini-Challenge – exploring every CHALLENGE11_ARRIVINGroom in Sea Girt Lighthouse and climbing into the tower.

Points of Light

The stops to make to complete the Challenge were (north to south and then up the Delaware):

o Sandy Hook Lighthouse (built 1764). Seized by British in American Revolution. Oldest U.S. lighthouse still on active duty.

o Navesink Twin Lights (1862). Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first ship-to-shore telegraph message to Twin Lights in 1899.

o Sea Girt Lighthouse (1896). Built midway between Navesink and Barnegat to illuminate a blind spot. In 1921 Sea Girt was first land station to have a radio fog beacon system.

o Barnegat Lighthouse (1858). Denotes 40th parallel, crucial point in transatlantic sailing.

o Barnegat Light Museum. Old Barney’s 1st order Fresnel lens on display here.

o Tucker’s Island Lighthouse (1868). Replica built 1999 of lighthouse lost in 1927 storm.

o Absecon Lighthouse (1857). Built near Atlantic City as warning of dangerous shoals. Black & white stripes distinguish this light from the red & white striped Barnegat Light.

o U.S. Life-Saving Station 30 (1885). Congressman William Newell, a New Jersey physician and life-saving volunteer, sponsored the 1871 bill creating the U.S. Life-Saving Service and funding stations like No. 30, a new stop on this year’s Challenge.

o Tatham Life-Saving Station 35 (1895). Built in Stone Harbor on the site of one of the earliest U.S. life-saving stations.

o Hereford Inlet Lighthouse (1874). Built in North Wildwood to guide coal carriers and other commercial vessels passing through the inlet.

o Cape May Lighthouse (1859). Replaced two earlier lights destroyed by storms and tides.

o Cape May Museum. Current tower’s 1st order Fresnel lens on display here.

o East Point Lighthouse (1849). At confluence of Delaware Bay and Maurice River, East Point guided cargo ships to/from Millville manufacturing plants and local oystermen.

o Finns Point Range Light (1877). Not a lighthouse but a Delaware River rear-range light. Mariners steered so beams of the front-range light and taller rear light aligned as one beam. If a mariner saw two beams, the ship was outside the channel’s safe area.

o Tinicum Range Light (1880). Rear-range light farther up the Delaware, teamed with a smaller front-range light to guide ships into Camden and Philadelphia.


Visitors carried the official Challenge booklets, which were available for purchase at each lighthouse for $1. The souvenir booklets had images of all the stops in the Challenge on which participants put the appropriate stickers as they collected them at each location.

Kylie, an 8-year-old third grader doing the Challenge with her grandmother Lynne, knew just what to do upon arriving at Sea Girt Saturday morning on their third stop. Kylie went straight to the check-in desk, presented two Challenge booklets and received a sticker for each, which she carefully affixed in the proper spot.

Then Kylie pulled out a lighthouse passport. Such passports are popular with serious lighthouse enthusiasts to record all the lighthouses they’ve ever visited – no matter the time of year. Kylie opened her book to a blank page and politely asked a trustee to stamp it with the official Sea Girt Lighthouse seal. The trustee happily complied, bringing to 14 the number of lighthouse stamps Kylie has in her passport. After a quick look about, she and her grandmother were off to their next stop – Barnegat. “We have more to see, but already it’s great,” Kylie enthused.

Challenge takers set their own courses. Some went north to south. Others south to north. Some zig-zagged. Kathy Reinke made Sea Girt her 15th and last stop Sunday, arriving at 10:25 a.m., having logged 439 miles in the two-day shore sojourn to all the sites.

After a participant collected the prized sticker from the last stop, he or she was given one more for the keepsake booklet – a golden shield reading:





By the end of the 1800s, there were more than 40 lights illuminating New Jersey’s treacherous coastline and almost as many life-saving stations. Today, only half the lighthouses survive and fewer life-saving stations. Less than a dozen lights are regularly open to the public and only a handful of life-saving stations, which made Lighthouse Challenge 2011 a rare opportunity.

The Challenge was a collaborative effort of the volunteers at each site who have succeeded against long odds in preserving these shore landmarks and their rich history. The much-anticipated Challenge gave these volunteers the chance to share that history with their many visitors.

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Third Graders at Lighthouse Researching Town History

Published by admin at 1:35 AM under

SG3_ARRIVESTeacher Maureen Masto recently brought her third-grade class from Sea Girt Elementary School to Sea Girt Lighthouse where her students toured, took many photos, asked good questions and wrote in their notebooks. They were doing research in preparation for each child writing an illustrated essay on the history of the town and its landmarks.

This is the fourth year Ms. Masto has brought her class to the lighthouse. As in previous years, the students, their teacher and several mothers walked the 10 blocks from school to the lighthouse, escorted by a policeman in a cruiser who guided everyone as they crossed the streets.

“We can read all about the history of Sea Girt and the lighthouse in books, but it means so much more to the students when we actually get to visit a historical landmark like the lighthouse,” said Ms. Masto. “The kids walk away with a great understanding and appreciation for the wonderful and unique town that they live in.”

Going Back In Time

The attentive and enthusiastic visitors were guided by docents through every room from the keeper’s office and throughout the living quarters. They enjoyed sitting in the parlor where keepers and their families spent their evenings in conversation, writing and reading and playing parlor games to entertain themselves in an era long before computers and television.

The students learned that before the living quarters were electrified in 1932, oil-burning lamps were used to light up a room. And during the winter, lighthouse families kept warm by burning coal in the parlor fireplace.

Ms. Masto well prepared the students by teaching them in class that the beacon projected by Sea Girt enabled mariners to fix their ship’s position and guide the crew safely in their journey to the next beacon, which then guided them further. Each lighthouse had a different sequence of blinks on and off, which is how the sailors identified one lighthouse from another.


The third graders were especially interested to see an authentic fourth-order Fresnel lens on display – similar to the Fresnel lens used at Sea Girt beginning in 1896 – and to discover how it worked. The beehive-shaped lens, with bullseye prisms in sections A and B and brass doors on the opposing sections, revolved on pedestal. A weight dropping down a shaft drove gears that caused the lens to revolve.

The Fresnel lens captured the light from the flame of an oil-burning lamp inside the lens and multiplied the light’s intensity so it could be seen 15 miles at sea. The mariners saw the illusion of a light blinking on and off as the lens revolved. The light from the flame was projected through prism A and then prism B, followed by darkness as the brass doors blocked the projection of light. Many times a day the keeper climbed into the tower to replenish the oil to keep the lamp burning and cranked the weight up to keep the Fresnel lens revolving.

In groups of five, escorted by their teacher or a parent, the children completed their tour by climbing the winding staircase and then the ladder into the lantern room at the top of the tower, where several students agreed the view was “cool.”

Upon completing the tour, the students met Jerry Hayward, president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee who thanked them for visiting. He encouraged them to return to the lighthouse with their families and friends, thereby spreading the story of the lighthouse and helping to preserve its rich history. Each student was presented with a Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee Junior Member card.


In the days following the tour of the lighthouse, Ms. Masto instructed her class to write down what they learned about the lighthouse and what they liked best. Their observations were thoughtful and informative.

“The Fresnel light is awesome. The person who made it is Augustin Fresnel. People had to fill it with special oil,” wrote Haley.SG3_STUDY_FRESNEL_LENS

“I think it was neat that people actually lived there and that we got to see their living room and other rooms,” noted Erin. She also thought it was “neat” that the keeper climbed up the tower several times a day to tend to the light. “I would get tired,” Erin admitted.

“I saw people’s writings and how they write back in the days,” reported Alexis O.

“The lighthouse is really interesting because there are so many facts,” wrote Connor. “It was the best trip in my life.”

Being at the very top of the tower was tops in the opinion of Alexis N., Alexis O., Andrew, Casey, Eddie, Erin, Keira, Miles and Nick. The unobstructed view taking in miles of beach and ocean was the best part for Alexis S., Connor, Lily and Stephanie. The chance to see a fourth order Fresnel lens was the most interesting to Haley.

“We are so lucky we have a lighthouse in our town,” wrote Casey. “I wish one day I could go back. It was a lot of fun. I think our whole class had fun!!”

Each student was assigned by Ms. Masto to create a scrapbook on Sea Girt history illustrated with the photographs taken during the tour and expanding on the notes they wrote on what they learned at the lighthouse and the next day when they toured the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey at Camp Sea Girt.

SG3_MEETS_CONRADArranging Group Tours

Group tours, like the one the third-grade class took, are conducted year-round for groups of all ages. Such tours are popular not only with schools, but scout groups, community groups and clubs looking for an educational outing.

To arrange a group tour, send us an email from the Contact Us page, or phone 732-974-0514, or write Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750.

There is no charge for group tours, although donations are appreciated.

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