Photographer: Roy B. Westin

White Shoal

Northern Lake Michigan, MI

Built :  1891, 1910

Type : Conical, steel & brick

Status : Active

Location : Northern Lake Michigan. Northwest of Waugoshance Island. 20 miles West of Old Mackinac Point.

Height : 125 feet

Access : Boat

Markings/Pattern: Originally white, now white with red spiral bands

History of the Light : White Shoal, in Northern Lake Michigan, has been a major hazard to vessels navigating the Straits of Mackinac since the late 1800's.

On October 24, 1891, Ligthship LV-56 was the first to be placed on station at White Shoal. This was the first time the vessel had been put to service. In mid-November she left station and headed for Cheboygan, Michigan without orders. The crew was discharged for dereliction of duty. the light station tender DAHLIA replaced her position on the shoal, remaining until the end of the navigational season. Lightship LV-56 resumed station with a new crew on April 14, 1892 and continued to serve this shoal until December of 1909.

Congress appropriated $250,000 on March 4, 1907 for the construction of a permanent light station on White Shoal. Major William V. Judson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervised the design and construction which began in 1908. This project would be difficult due to the fact that the nearest protective harbor is approximately 25 miles away.

The foundation for the light was constructed by the Edward Gillen Dredge & Dock Company of Racine, Wisconsin. The shoal was first leveled by placing a 100 feet square layer of stone riprap on the gravel lakebed. A timber crib, measuring 72 feet square and 18 feet 6 inches tall, was constructed in St. Ignace, Michigan. Once completed, it was towed 28 miles West to White Shoal. The crib was filled with stone brought up from Chicago and sunk. A 70 feet square by 22 feet tall concrete pier was then constructed on top of the crib. The lower 4 feet of this pier is constructed of prefabricated concrete blocks that actually sit 2 feet below the waters surface. The rest of the pier is made of ready-mix concrete.

The conical tower is a steel skeletal frame lined with brick. The entire tower is then faced with dark enamel terra cotta blocks. It measures 42 feet in diameter at the base, 20 feet in diameter at the top and stands a total of 121 feet tall. 

The lighthouse was originally fitted with a Second Order Fresnel lens with a lens focal plane of 125 feet above lake level. Manufactured with the encryption: "Phares & Fanaux, Barbier, Benard & Turenne, 82 Rue Curial, Paris", the lens consists of 2 panels, each with a 7 inch bulls-eye surrounded by 6 concentric prisms and covered by 15 prism panels. A mercury float trough was used as a lens bearing allowing the lens to freely rotate once every 16 seconds. The light was rated at 360,000 candlepower with a nominal visible range of 28 miles. The lens was removed in 1983 and is currently on display at the Whitefish Point Museum (photo). 

Today the structure is still operational with a new coat of paint. The only different features from it's early years are a layer of Gunite on it's exterior along with the "barber pole" paint job.

In December of 1983, Keeper George Keller passed away at the age of 85. He served at this lighthouse from 1921 through 1946.

Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard

This photograph shows the lighthouse with her original & simplified white paint job.

Photo courtesy of: U.S. Coast Guard

Here is the lighthouse with her more distinctive red & white "Barber Pole" paint job.


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