Cape Spencer Light, Cross Sound

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Cape Spencer is a point of land at the mouth of Dicks Arms, on the north shore of Cross Sound, about 45 miles (73 km) northwest of Hoonah, Alaska. The cape was named in 1794 by Captain George Vancouver, of the Royal Navy, for Earl George John Spencer, who was a member of the English House of Commons and First Lord of the British Admiralty.

Cape Spencer is a prominent headland in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve marking the entrance to Cross Sound and Icy Strait. A lighthouse station was built on an island here in 1924 that consisted of a boathouse, blacksmith shop, tram, and a single-story reinforced concrete building to house both the fog signal equipment and the lightkeepers. From the center of the structure’s roof, a light tower rose another 25 feet (7.6 m).

The island has sheer cliffs rising on all sides and no boat landing, so a landing platform, derrick, and hoisting machinery were built to facilitate the transfer of supplies and personnel. To get off the island the crane was hooked up to a boat 16 feet (5 m) long with an outboard engine, the men would climb into the boat and be swung by the crane over the edge of the island and dropped 60 feet (18 m) to the water. On one occasion, the boat was released from the cable but the outboard could not be started and the boat was swept out to sea in the strong currents. Returning to the island was no less hazardous, the boat had to be maneuvered under the hook at the base of the cliff, attached and lifted back up. Resupply was accomplished the same way, hoisting cargo nets of supplies up onto the boathouse deck. The small lighthouse, perched atop the rock 70 feet (21 m) tall, is now accessed by helicopter and is still considered an important navigational aid and receives regular Coast Guard visits. Read more about the lighthouse here and here. Click here to download the CoastView app and explore more of Cross Sound, Alaska.


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