June 16th, 2013

Gay Head Lighthouse to Receive New DCB-224 Red/White Lens

VLB-44 beacon

VLB-44 beacon, which will not be used to replace the current Gay Head Lighthouse beacon

On June 4, 2013 the US Coast Guard informed he Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum that they have located a replacement DCB-224 lens and plan to obtain and install it in the Gay Head Lighthouse.  They also intend to replace the AVC panel, battery charger and wiring with no change to the existing structure. This postpones a Coast Guard modernization project to convert the light to a flashing VLB-44 LED beacon. This is good news to all who love the distinctive red-white sweep of the beam.

The Town of Aquinnah and the Gay Head Lighthouse Advisory Committee first became aware in March of 2013 that the Coast Guard was planning a “modernization” of the Gay Head Light by replacing the DCB-224 rotating beacon with a stationary flashing LED light. Stating that the beacon (installed in 1953 replacing the original first-order Fresnel Lens) is in need of constant repairs and maintenance, the Coast Guard planned to replace the beacon sometime during the summer of 2013.

The Gay Head Lighthouse Advisory Committee and many town residents feared that the replacement would significantly change the historic nature and feel of the lighthouse. It would no longer be a warm sweeping beam but would become an intermittent flash of harsh light. No longer would the continuously illuminated lantern shine as a red and white “jewel box”, but would actually be dark over 95% of the time between flashes.

The Aquinnah Board of Selectmen and the Wampanoag Tribe sent  letters to the US Coast Guard expressing their concerns and requesting a meeting to discuss this intended action. The Gay Head Lighthouse Advisory Committee also wrote to the Massachusetts Historic Commission to make them aware of the plan.  The State Historic Preservation Officer, Executive Director Ms. Brona Simon, responded by sending a letter to the US Coast Guard questioning this significant alteration to the historic light, which has been a rotating beacon for more than 150 years. On a recent visit to the light, Massachusetts Congressman Keating was also made aware of our concerns.

Apparently, the tide of public opinion, and State, and perhaps, federal opposition to the plan have prompted the Coast Guard officials to reverse their decision. In a letter sent to all concerned groups, Chief Mathew Stuck, the Manager of Aids to Navigation in The 1st Dist. Boston, announced that the Coast Guard has located a newly refurbished DCB -224 and would be installing it and not the LED replacement. This should keep the light sweeping over the Cliffs for the next 50 years.

We salute the Coast Guard for taking this first step in the preservation of our historic Light.  “Keep on Shining”.

DCB-224 beacon in the Gay Head Light

DCB-224 beacon in the Gay Head Light

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