Stannard Rock Light

Marquette County, Michigan

Stannard Rock Light fairly well reeks with the lore and danger of Lake Superior. Its namesake, Charles Stannard, Captain of the schooner John Jacob Astor, discovered this underwater mountain in 1835. The mile-long reef lies just beneath the surface of the water, in a major shipping lane 50 miles offshore from Marquette, Michigan.

In 1868 a cut-stone crib was bolted to Stannard Rock as a test to see if it could withstand the storms and ice of this locale. Years of planning and a difficult and costly $300,000 construction effort finally resulted in the completion of Stannard Rock Light in 1882, about 2000 ft. northwest of the original test crib.

The original lens was a second-order Fresnel with twelve bull's eyes, which produced twelve beacons of light making a complete rotation every 3 minutes. During the years of manned service, Stannard Rock Light was closed during the ice-locked winter months. In late spring the keepers would make the 7 hour trip on the supply tender, often cutting through solid ice to get in the tower. One year the entire tower was encased in a mammoth block of ice, and the station couldn't open until July. Duty at Stannard Rock was both physically and psychologically difficult. One keeper was removed after he threatened to jump in the water and swim for shore, and another Coast Guard seaman was removed in a straitjacket. However, two keepers--Elmer Sormunsen and Louis Wilks--each spent 20 years from 1934-54 on this desolate rock.

In 1961 the Coast Guard was preparing the station for automation when an explosion ripped through the machine room attached to the light tower. One of the three seamen on duty was killed, and the fire destroyed everything but the structure. Today, a 300mm plastic lens shines from Stannard's lantern.