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The Middle Island Lighthouse

7 miles east of Middle Bass, Middle Island is the southernmost tip of Canada. Privately owned for most of the 20th century, the island was sold to a Canadian nature conservancy in 1999 and is now a wildlife refuge. The bird population is diversified, but cormorants are by far the most prevalent species.

Some History: In 1847 the Schooner Westchester, carrying a full cargo of wheat, ran ashore. In 1851 the Schooner Palmyra went aground on a reef south of Middle Island. In the following year the Brigantine F. C. Clark was driven ashore on Middle Island by a heavy gale. In 1854 the Brigantine Carolina, carrying a cargo or rail road iron, filled with water after striking Chick-en-o-lee Reef. The Schooner Sacramento proved a total loss when, in October of 1867, it struck Gull Island Reef, south of Middle Island.

The continuing occurrence of shipwrecks in the vicinity of Middle Island prompted the Department of Marine and Fisheries to authorize the construction of a lighthouse on the Island in 1871. The lighthouse was 49 feet from base to vane, built as a square wooden tower, with a stone foundation and an octagonal top. The red light was arranged on the catoptric principle, having 3 circular burner lamps with 20 inch reflectors, and 3 mammoth flat-wick lamps with 16 inch reflectors. In clear weather the light was visible for over 12 miles.

The cost of the new lighthouse was $5,748. It was exhibited for the first time on September 17, 1872. Lemuel S. Brown was appointed first (temporary) keeper of the light. He was the lessee of the Island at that time. The Middle Island lighthouse went out of service in 1918, but not before rendering aid to the numerous mariners who sailed through the Middle Passage. In one notable instance, in September of 1889, it was the sense of duty of sailors that saved the lighthouse. The crew of the Schooner Gulnare observed a grass fire near the lighthouse as they passed Middle Island. The crew dropped anchor, went ashore, and fought the fire until it was extinguished, and the lighthouse was saved.

   

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