Cape San Blas Lighthouse lens removed

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 02:43 PM.

While the additional box was being crafted down below, up in the lighthouse tower Kathleen McCormick, the director of collections in St. Augustine, was hard at work dismantling the clockwork mechanism which regulates the weights which ascend and descend, rotating the tower’s lenses, and controlling the rate at which it flashes.

McCormick has a museum conservation background and has been visiting lighthouses with Cocking for more than eight years, helping with adjustments, repairs, dismantling or even just appreciating the technology.

“I have a fascination with 19th Century machinery,” said McCormick. “Railroad technology, music machines, clockwork gears and lighthouses…it’s all very similar.”

McCormick pointed out that a unique feature of the lighthouse is that it’s constructed of steel. Most lighthouses constructed around the same time were made of brick, stone, wood or iron.

When lighthouses were built at the turn of the 21st Century, they were constructed with whatever materials were most readily available and designed to fit the local geographic and climatic conditions.

Cocking said that the hardest part of the job wasn’t lowering the lens, but rather clearing out the wasps that had made the lighthouse their home. During their first visit several weeks ago, Cocking and McCormick had to ascend through more than 100 stairs of stinging terror.

Bids have been received for the relocation of the lighthouse though they have not been presented to the public. Bids for moving the keepers’ quarters and oil house were due this week.

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