A team from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Alder, hitched a ride on a Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City to face an icy repair.
A harsh winter storm blew out a window in the very remote Stannard Rock Lighthouse in Lake Superior. Being worried that the missing window could threaten the electronics inside, a team quickly rushed out. The historic lighthouse is located off the eastern shore of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.
Stannard Rock is considered the lighthouse farthest from shore in the contiguous United States. It is built 24 miles from the Upper Peninsula shoreline and, therefore, is known as "The Loneliest Place in the World."
The Coast Guard shared photos with viewers from the helicopter and repair trip. With help from the Traverse City-based chopper crew, members of the Aids to Navigation Team aboard the Duluth-based cutter, Alder, Petty Officers Craig Campomizzi and John Ziemba made the trip out to Stannard Rock.
Petty Officer Campomizzi said; "The weather wasn't the most conducive, at single-digit temperatures and frequent snow squalls. But, thanks to the keen skill and professionalism of the air crew, they were able to make five hoists using a rescue basket to get Petty Officer Ziemba, myself, and our gear safely onto the icy structure.
"While Petty Officer Ziemba ensured the light was operating within specified parameters and the structure was sound, I got to work boarding up the missing window until the Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy can get out there in the spring to affect a permanent window replacement."
The Stannard Rock station was built in 1883 is also well-known among Great Lakes lighthouse lore lovers. According to the National Park Service, its exposed crib base structure is considered one of the Top 10 engineering feats in the U.S.
Stannard Rock was considered one of the "stag stations". This was where male keepers and assistants could work.
The station was built to mark a massive underwater reef, which was considered one of the most dangerous obstacles to shipping in Lake Superior. The reef is magnificent due to its beautiful structure. The top of a large underwater mountain was found to sit just 4 feet from the surface of the water in some spots, posing a threat to water vessels.
A post by U.S. Coast Guard Station Marquette read; "The old keepers told terrible tales of life on the Rock. Violent northwest storms sent 30-foot waves smashing into the tower and spray cascading over the lantern room 110 feet above the Lake. Louis Wilks from Marquette holds the record for consecutive time spent on the Rock – 99 days. No other keeper even approached this remarkable feat. The men were rotated off the Rock, three weeks on and one off. In 1939, the U.S. Coast Guard took over the lighthouse and overwhelming loneliness remained a problem."
A year after a fatal fire and explosion that left survivors stranded at Stannard Rock for days, the lighthouse was automated in 1962. Back in 1971, the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Campomizzi continued; "There is a lot of interesting history that accompanies this lighthouse. It's very rewarding to be able to get out to 'the loneliest place on the continent' to help out another agency on behalf of the U. S. Coast Guard."
Air Station Traverse City gave a big thanks to its helicopter team for making the trip possible. They added; "Our crew from Air Station Traverse City hoisted the ATON team, along with their gear, down to the lighthouse. Allowing them to ensure the light was in good working order and to board up the broken window. Great job on a successful mission!"