Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wolf Trap Light

It's the 1600's and piracy and smuggling are rampant on the Chesapeake.  So the British decided to deploy a 350 ton vessel, the HMS Wolf, to help control the piracy and smuggling and to enforce the Navigation Act (to learn about the Navigation Act go here because I don't want to get too deep into a colonial history lesson).  In 1691, the Wolf ran aground on some shoals located in the Chesapeake Bay and her captain immediately called for help.  Virginia colonists came to the Wolf's aid removing ammunition and heavy guns and pumping out the seawater that had breached the hull.  The vessel was then towed to safety.  The Captain refused to compensate the colonists for their help.  His debt was eventually paid by the ship's owners.  However, the colonists of Virginia were so angered by the whole affair that the shoals became forever known as Wolf Trap.

In 1821, it was decided that a lightship needed to be placed at Wolf Trap in order to warn ships of the dangerous shoals.
This is an example of a Light ship
In 1861, the light ship was destroyed by Confederate raiders after the start of the Civil War.  Eventually, it was replaced by a screwpile lighthouse that was more economical but not sturdy.  In 1891, heavy ice floes severed the lighthouse from its foundation and it was found floating with only its light and roof above water.  It was replaced by what is now the current lighthouse. 

In 1919, the lighthouse keeper and his assistant aided in a water rescue of a family of 6.  Their schooner sank in a storm four miles from the light and managed to get in a dinghy and travel to the lighthouse.  The keeper was nearly swept away twice while trying to get the family on board.  He managed to hang on and all were saved.  The youngest child, who was 2, was hoisted onto the light in a bag.

Eventually, the Wolf Trap Light was offered at auction under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.  It was purchased by a man from Seattle, WA who intended to convert it into a Bed & Breakfast.  Unable to obtain financing for a B&B, he offered it for sale on Ebay.  The Ebay auction ended without a sale.  It was later purchased by a man from South Carolina who is the current owner.  Though privately owned, it is still a Coast Guard maintained aid to navigation.

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