Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Moon, The Stars and the Sanibel Lighthouse

After a leisurely breakfast and long walk through the Sanctuary, we decided to just hang out at Toucan House before we went over to friends Lynne and George's home for dinner.

I took a book to the second floor loft bedroom porch and enjoyed the view of near by tree tops and distant roof tops, feeling luxuriously free and easy as the breezes blew through the palms.

But it gets dark early on the Island these days and dusk started settling in at 5, leaving me in complete darkness by 6. Even before I had time to put my book down and get ready to leave for dinner, the moon was out above the palms with hundreds of stars to keep her company.

And I marveled at how incredible those sea journeys years ago must have been with the moon and the stars guiding the way across the beautiful but often dangerous seas.

No doubt the sight of lights and land must have been a welcome vision for the sailors who took those risks.

I can imagine the sea navigators who arrived at Sanibel joyfully sighting the Island lighthouse and their relief to be near land.

Though there is discussion currently on-going as to how the lighthouse should be maintained, I am hopeful that this guiding light will stay bright and continue to be an important element in the history of the Island.

Built to withstand the strongest of hurricanes, this navigational lighthouse has stood on the island for well over a century.

The story of how there came to be a lighthouse on Sanibel Island begins, as is often the case, with a shipwreck. In this case the very ship carrying the raw iron to build the lighthouse sank a few miles offshore after becoming grounded on a shallow-water sandbar.

Vessels from Key West steamed up the coast and were able to salvage some of the cargo. The lighthouse was completed during the summer of 1884.

The tower is unusual in construction. It rests, windmill fashion, within an interlocking iron framework that, in turn, is attached to concrete supports seated deep in the ground. A winding staircase leads over 120 steps to the lantern house, where a modern flashing light alerts passing ships.

Seen from a distance across the lush Sanibel landscape, it appears out of place. Its rigid structure seemingly at odds with the softness of the land on which it sits.

But for those sailors seeking a port in a storm, no doubt the enchanting blinking of the lighthouse eye was as welcomed and welcoming as any fair lady who may have been waiting at the port.

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