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This is the Last Remaining Lightship in Michigan of Its Time

Lightships are floating lighthouses that are usually anchored in locations too difficult or expensive to build permanent lighthouses. They have been guiding sailors around the coasts of several nations, including the United States, since the early 1800s. But as modern technology has advanced, lightships have been superseded by buoys, satellites, and radar.

One of the last lightships to operate on the Great Lakes was the Huron, Lightship No. 103. It was built specifically for Great Lakes operations and launched in 1920. It is the only surviving lightship of the 96-foot class. Operating at several locations on Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the Huron was shut down in 1970. Later on, it was moved to the City of Port Huron, where it is currently a historical landmark and museum.

History of the Huron Lightship

The Huron cost $147,428 to build and was built in Morris Heights, New Jersey by the Consolidated Shipbuilding Corporation. Constructed in the years 1918 to 1920, the steel structure stood 96 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 9 feet deep, and served as a replacement for the deteriorating wooden lightships in the U.S. Lighthouse Service fleet. The Huron had a crew of eleven men and a diesel engine that produced 375 horsepower. It also included a fog horn, a 12-inch steam whistle, a 1,000-watt electric lamp, and other equipment.

After being launched on May 1, 1920, the Huron underwent testing, and on December 4, 1920, the U.S. Lighthouse Service approved it. It identified hazardous reefs and shoals and was assigned to several stations on the upper Great Lakes. North Manitou Shoal in Lake Michigan was the Huron’s first station (1921–1934), and Grays Reef in Lake Michigan (1934–1935) was its second. Corsica Shoal in Lake Huron was its final and longest station, where it operated from 1935 until 1970.

In order to alert passing vessels, the Huron anchored close to the shoal and sent out warning lights and sounds. It reported weather and ice conditions to the Coast Guard by radioing and semaphoring with other ships. A tender provided resupply and respite every two weeks, and the crew faced extreme weather, isolation, and boredom in addition to annual maintenance in a nearby port.

On August 20, 1970, the Huron’s service was terminated and was replaced by a lit buoy. It was the second-to-last lightship in the United States and the last one to operate on the Great Lakes. It was moved to the City of Port Huron on June 5, 1971, after being decommissioned at Detroit on August 25, 1970. It was moved to Pine Grove Park on August 29, 1972, and on October 4, 1974, it was dedicated as a historical display and monument.

Huron Lightship Museum

The Huron Lightship Museum is accessible to the public from April through December and is run by the Port Huron Museum. Explore the ship and discover more about its equipment, history, and crew life. Exhibits, relics, and souvenirs pertaining to the Huron and other lightships can be found at the museum. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989 and is acknowledged as a state and national historic monument.

One special and worthwhile destination that preserves maritime heritage that is sometimes forgotten is the Huron Lightship Museum. The Huron is a symbol of the vital role lightships played in maintaining the security and trade of the Great Lakes because it is the last lightship of its kind still operating in Michigan. It honors the bravery and commitment of the sailors who served on these ships. The Huron Lightship Museum is a must-see for anyone with an interest in lighthouses, ships, or history.


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