Outer Island Light

This Month's Lake Superior Lighthouse

The Outer Island Light, photographed by Dennis O'Hara of Northern Images.
The Outer Island Light, photographed by Dennis O’Hara of Northern Images.
Location: Northernmost point of Outer Island, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Year Built: 1873-1874
Cost: $40,000 (about $780,000 today)
Original Lens: Flashing White Third Order Fresnel
First Exhibited: October 3, 1874
Second Lens: solar-powered 12-volt DC optic (1961)
Third Lens: Vega VRB-25 solar-powered optic (1992)
Original Fog Signal: 10-inch steam powered fog whistle (1875)
Second Fog Signal: Duplicate 10-inch steam whistle (1875)
Third Fog Signal: Type F air-powered diaphones (1929)
Radio Beacon System installed: 1927
Electrified: 1940
Automated: 1961
First Keeper: Orator K. Hall
Last Keeper: Theodore Schelvan
Disposition: The Outer Island Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is currently owned by the National Park Service and part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

The tenders of the Outer Island Light became heroes on September 1, 1905, when a gale with 90 mile an hour winds whipped the waters surrounding the Apostle islands into a fury, sinking four vessels and costing nearly forty lives. During the height of the storm, the steamer Venezuela was towing the 337-foot, 3-masted schooner-barge Pretoria off Outer Island when the tow-line snapped. The Pretoria drifted out of control until her anchor took hold a mile-and-a-half off the island. All ten crew members managed to board a life boat and began rowing toward the island’s shore. A huge wave flipped the life boat when it was still 500 feet from the island, and five crew members perished. Keeper John Irvine, First Assistant Thomas E. Irvine, and Second Assistant Otto Olson plunged into the waves and pulled the remaining five crew members, who clung to the sides of the boat, to safety. John Irvine, who was 60 years old at the time, is often credited as the sole savior of all five sailors. The Venezuela survived the storm and picked up the sailors the next day, dropping them off in Bayfield.

A more detailed description of this and other Lake Superior Lighthouses can be found at Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light website at www.terrypepper.com.

A postcard of the Outer Island Light and Keeper's House made some time between 1915 and 1925. (Image: Zenith City Press)
A postcard of the Outer Island Light and Keeper’s House made some time between 1915 and 1925. (Image: Zenith City Press)

This Month's Lake Superior Lighthouse

Leave a reply