Friday, October 20, 2017

#1992 "Life Saving Ready on Chantry Island"

This is the second demonstration piece for the Southampton Art School's Wind Waves and Weather 2017. We had a full and eager list of participants. It was time to end the morning painting session as the light had climbed overhead and was starting into the afternoon sky. I suggested that I do another demo while they ate their lunch.

During the mid 1800’s water traffic on the Great Lakes had substantially increased and the colonial government called for improved navigational tools for the mariners on the Lake Huron. John Brown of Thorold was contracted to build the lighthouse on Chantry Island, as well as 10 other lighthouses to help sailors navigate the Lake. Because of the expense and difficulty of building, only six were completed. The Chantry Island Lighthouse was one of these completed and it was lit on April 1, 1859.

This is the view into the Chantry Boat House and the back end of the life saving boat. This boat would only see service in the nastiest of conditions when life and limb were in peril. It was named the “Royale A” and I am not sure yet just why. In its day though, this boat would have to be ready to roll on a moment’s notice. In fact the rack supporting the boat was mounted on to railway wheels. Gravity would do the work with just a little shove. The light keepers of Chantry Island saved many lives.

A lighthouse keeper is the person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used. Lighthouse keepers were sometimes referred to as "wickies" because of their job trimming the wicks.

Chantry Island is located on Lake Huron, just over a mile southwest of the Saugeen River mouth in Southampton, Ontario. On the island is a majestic Imperial Lighthouse built in the mid 1800’s, as well as the Keeper’s quarters and a boat house. In 1822, during a hydrographic survey, Captain Henry Bayfield of the Royal Navy christened the island and named it after his friend and British sculptor Sir Francis Chantry.

Chantry Island is a glacial moraine and consists of stone above the water and beneath extending a mile north and a mile south of the island. These underwater shoals of massive granite boulders have made this area one of the most treacherous in the Great Lakes. There are over 50 known shipwrecks around the island and there are many accounts from the 1800’s and early – mid 1900’s of these disasters and lost lives.

The island varies in size depending on the level of Lake Huron. Today, with a low lake level Chantry Island is about 68 acres. In 1986 when the water level was at the highest of the century, the island was only about 10 acres, causing trees on the west, north and south sides to drown.
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