The Sankaty Head Lighthouse got a new light Thursday courtesy of the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation team out of Woods Hole. It is only the second rotating LED lighthouse light installed by the Coast Guard in the entire country.
The four-person team led by Chief Rob Lester brought it over to the island on the Hy-Line Cruises ferry Thursday morning. The crew installed the new light today under the watchful eyes of lighthouse keeper Rob Benchley, along with master chief Lance Wiser and executive petty officer Jeff Wecal of Station Brant Point.
The new light will be slightly different from what the lighthouse had before. This one will not be on during the day, Lester said, which means it will require less maintenance than previous iterations.
“This particular beacon has been in the works for two or three years,” Lester said. “Basically, it’s maintenance-free. This one senses when it’s nighttime, and it’s LED technology so it’s off during the day.”
Now owned by the Sconset Trust, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse has been an active aid to navigation for more than 170 years. The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1933 and fully automated in 1965.
“Sankaty Head Lighthouse was erected in 1849. Federal funding budgeted $12,000; the actual cost of construction came in at $10,330. Upon completion, the lighthouse stood 158 feet above sea level. The light was originally illuminated by a French Fresnel lens (now at the Nantucket Historical Association) and a single-wick whale oil lamp. The keeper and his assistant alternated four-hour watches around the clock to tend to the light. The lighthouse was home to the keeper and his family from 1850 until 1944, when the U. S. Coast Guard took over management of the lighthouse, which it continues to this day,” according to the Trust.
In 2007, the lighthouse was moved 267 feet back from the eroding ‘Sconset Bluff.