The most critical duty of a lighthouse keeper is to observe and report a marine weather forecast* every three hours. It is human eyes and ears, that experience standing beside this Pacific sea, and record it for the benefit of all who use this “whaleroad”. Some keepers also observe the skies and provide aviation reports much needed by pilots. Etched up and down the west coast of Canada from Victoria to Alaska, we are a scattered chain of observers, linked by Coast Guard radio.

As I listen to the other keepers report, I am always curious. No two of us ever give the same report; in fact, the weather is often vastly different. The nearest station to us may report visibility of 15 miles, while we are obscured by fog, or it may be raining there, while I am basking in starlight. This is why human observation at lightstations is critical.

The first report comes early: 3:30am. Awakened by my alarm--best to set two I’ve discovered--I slip into clothes, boots, toque, glove, jacket and don a miner’s headlamp. As I walk down the stairs I wonder: what will I discover when I open this door? I’ve not spent much time in this life wandering about at 3am anywhere, let alone on the edge of the sea. And, the experience is never the same.

Two weeks ago, during a cold spell, the skies were so clear, I was stargazing under the dark moon. Pointing my iphone to the myriad constellations that sparkled above, and using my new “Star Chart” app, I was able to pinpoint Jupiter in the constellation Twins. Directly west and low in the Pacific sky, it is one of the biggest brightest stars. 

A few nights last week, under the waxing moon, I could walk the cement trails of the station without need of the headlamp. And one night, while sauntering across the landbridge, I looked to my left and was surprised by my own “moonshadow”.  I’ve been listening to Cat Stevens sing that tune for years, but that was the moment, I actually understood his words.

Today, we are obscured by fog. I can see no more than 1/8 of a mile and light rain is falling. The wind is up to 15 knots, blowing from the southeast, and it’s necessary to not only use my headlamp, but to gather up my hood. (I really hope it clears because groceries our scheduled to arrive today by helicopter.) 

The full solstice moon lies hidden on the far side of a stratus bank; still, I know she’s there. We are creeping towards the longest darkest night of the year. 

Winter Solstice occurs in Vancouver, this Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 9:11am PST. It is the longest darkest night of the year, and therefore a fitting time to celebrate with light.

GoTofino: Supermoon

*The Marine Weather Forecast includes: sky state, visibility in miles, wind direction and speed in knots, and sea state (wave size and swell). 


Popular posts from this blog

Lighthouse Keeping (Part 1 -- Physical Rigors)

Return to Nootka

The White Church (Part 3)