New 1000-watt Lamp is Compact Brilliance

By Bob Trapani, Jr.

Lighthouses continue to send out their guiding light to sea, such as Owls Head in Maine with its fourth order Fresnel lens and 1000-watt lamp light source
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Lighthouses continue to send out their
guiding light to sea, such as Owls Head
in Maine with its fourth order Fresnel
lens and 1000-watt lamp light source

Lighthouses are alluring edifices that strike an emotional chord in many people, for the beauty, strength and purpose of these towers is both majestic and romantic in nature.

Yet for all their beauty and engineering marvels, lighthouses will always be about the guiding light they send out to sea – a light that has traditionally carried with it the aspirations, hopes and dreams of the seafarer on each beam in the night.

Many of today’s lighthouses send out this light by means of solar powered optics that use incandescent lamps of varying degrees of intensity, depending on the aid’s navigational importance; while a small but growing number of lighthouses are even equipped with light emitting diode (LED) beacons.

All lamps or LEDs “light up” faithfully each night in lighthouses, but when it comes to modern era lamps, the 1000-watt incandescent electric lamp has been the champion of all light sources when the brilliance of a beacon is the considering factor.

With its impressive dimensions and tubular design, the 1000-watt lamp exudes an aura of being “all business” in comparison to other lesser incandescent lamps and LEDs.

1000-watt lamps...last of the "big light" traditions. Shown is a Coast Guard CG-2P lampchanger with its 1000-watt lamps and a 2nd order clam shell Fresnel lens at Liston Range Rear Light in Delaware
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

1000-watt lamps...last of the "big light"
traditions. Shown is a Coast Guard CG-2P
lampchanger with its 1000-watt lamps
and a 2nd order clam shell Fresnel lens
at Liston Range Rear Light in Delaware

Though there is no questioning the fact that solar powered incandescent lamps are more economical and use less energy, and that LED lights, the new rage of 21st century aids to navigation technology, are the most efficient optics in lighthouse history, the 1000-watt lamp’s legacy seems destined to go beyond mere functionality.

One might say this powerful lamp has held within its outer glass envelope the last of the “big light” traditions that harkens back to a bygone era when safe coastal navigation hinged on, in large part, the brilliance and effectiveness of a good light shining forth from a lighthouse.

In recent decades, the 1000-watt lamp has graced the CG-2P lampchangers of only the most vital seacoast lights. If a lighthouse contained a classical lens or a stout rotating beacon like the DCB-36 or DCB-24/224 – all energized by commercial power, the Fresnel lens or aero beacon invariably has been outfitted with 1000-watt lamps as its illuminating source.

One of the beacons for the DCB-224 at Portland Head Light in Maine with a 1000-watt lamp shining bright inside
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

One of the beacons for the DCB-224
at Portland Head Light in Maine with a
1000-watt lamp shining bright inside

According to the 1975 Coast Guard Lighthouse Systems Theory Handbook, “Systems with 1000-watt main optics typically use reflector-type rotating optics. Many 1000-watt systems include flashed or rotating classical optics ranging in size from 4th to 1st order.”

In regards to its tubular outer glass envelope, the handbook goes on to note, the “1000-watt lamps have outer protective T-20 bulbs to safeguard against explosion of the quartz inner bulb upon contact with impurities.”

The conventional 1000-watt lamp, which was manufactured by General Electric, was first tested by the United States Coast Guard in 1965. After a trial period in which it proved worthy as a lamp for major aids to navigation (ATON) like lighthouses and range lights, the unit’s reign of intensity from the 1970s through today has been unsurpassed in American lighthouses.

EM1 Steve Horner of USCG Aids to Navigation Team Southwest Harbor, Maine, inspects the lampchanger and 1000-watt lamps at Owls Head Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

EM1 Steve Horner of USCG Aids to
Navigation Team Southwest Harbor,
Maine, inspects the lampchanger and
1000-watt lamps at Owls Head Light

Handbooks and laboratory testing aside, another unique aspect of the conventional 1000-watt lamp is the fact that it conjures up the notion of robust service and a feeling of warmth as it sits nestled in the center of a Fresnel lens or inside an aero beacon.

For many lighthouse enthusiasts, this lamp, which contains no daylight control unit and thus is illuminated 24-hours a day in lighthouses and range lights, seems to signify the unwavering vigilance.

However, every lighthouse era in history has had a beginning and end regardless of its effectiveness, and for the conventional 1000-watt lamp, the winds of change are now blowing hard across the ATON seascape.

Since mid-2009, a new generation of 1000-watt lamps has slowly been introduced in the field by the U.S. Coast Guard, and with this action, the era of the conventional 1000-watt lamp is drawing to a close. The change is occurring in part because the conventional lamp, which was made in Yugoslavia, is being phased out by General Electric.

A view of the new 1000-watt quartz halogen lamp inside the Fresnel lens at Owls Head Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of the new 1000-watt
quartz halogen lamp inside the
Fresnel lens at Owls Head Light

In the fall 2009 Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Bulletin, Mr. Jon Grasson, Signal & Power Team Leader, Ocean Engineering Division, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC, described the differences between the conventional and new 1000-watt lamps.

According to Mr. Grasson, “The 120 VAC, 1000-watt lamp manufactured by General Electric has been redesigned. The new lamp has a ceramic base and no outer glass envelope. Installation, focusing and performance in the DCB-24/224 (beacon), RL 14 (range lantern) and classical lanterns remains the same.”

This new unit, a T20 BP 120-volt, 1000-watt lamp (mogul bi-pin) is commercially advertised as an Airway Beacon Bulb. Product information notes, “This is an airport lighting, quartz halogen light bulb.”

“Fit, form, function, lumen output and life are identical to the old lamps,” said Senior Chief Sean Walsh, officer-in-charge of Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) South Portland, Maine. “They just do not have the outer glass envelope. Most, if not all tungsten-halogen lamps today, don’t contain an outer envelope. These new lamps have the same use-life of 3,000 hours.”

Tradition and cutting edge technology meet at the crossroads of change...shown is a conventional 1000-watt lamp and a new 1000-watt lamp (foreground) at Owls Head Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Tradition and cutting edge
technology meet at the
crossroads of change...shown
is a conventional 1000-watt
lamp and a new
1000-watt lamp (foreground)
at Owls Head Light

For lighthouses located in Sector Northern New England’s area of responsibility, Portsmouth Harbor (NH) and Owls Head (ME) are the first to receive the new 1000-watt lamp.

ANT South Portland installed the new units in Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse on May 5, 2010, while ANT Southwest Harbor installed the new lamp in Owls Head Lighthouse on July 15, 2010.

“The new 1000-watt lamps are quite a compact unit in comparison to the traditional lamps of this wattage,” said BMC Timothy Chase, officer-in-charge of Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Southwest Harbor, Maine. “We installed the first of these new units in Owls Head Light, and as with all new products, the lamps will be put to the test in the field. Time will tell how the new 1000-watt lamps match up against the traditional lamps performance-wise.”

Though advancements in technology have dramatically reduced the size and appearance of the conventional 1000-watt lamp by eliminating its outer glass envelope and adding a ceramic base to its mogul bi-pin base, the lamp retains its roots as an incandescent tungsten halogen lamp.

By retaining a viewable appearance as a light source inside Fresnel lenses or rotating optics, unlike LEDs which are concealed within a beacon, the new 1000-watt units offer a compromise between the irresistible allure of technology and the desire of the lighthouse enthusiasts who wish to hold on tightly to the last remaining vestiges of traditional lighting.

Chris Mills was a Canadian Coast Guard lightkeeper from 1989 to 1997 and served at eleven light station in British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
Photo courtesy of Chris Mills

Chris Mills was a Canadian
Coast Guard lightkeeper from
1989 to 1997 and served
at eleven light station
in British Columbia, New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia

Chris Mills, a former Canadian Coast Guard lightkeeper (1989-97) and current Canadian Coastguardsman in Nova Scotia, has observed the ongoing changes with lighthouse technology, including the new 1000-watt lamp being introduced in American lights.

Though the Canadian Coast Guard did not use the 1000-watt tungsten halogen lamp in their lighthouses, rather a 1000-watt mercury vapor lamp, Mills is happy to learn that technological advancements have not removed elements of tradition in this particular instance.

“I guess I am a traditionalist,” says Mills. “In these days of growing LED technology, I find it comforting to see the glowing filament of an incandescent light, whether fixed, flashing, or set within a rotating lens. To a former keeper, and an incurable ATON romantic, there is a certain warmth in these lights, which is missing in the new, cold, efficient and precise LED systems.”

The new 1000-watt lamp is compact brilliance and is set to illuminate some of America’s most important seacoast lights well into the foreseeable future, but as much as things change, some things thankfully remain the same.

There is something about an illuminated 1000-watt lamp inside a Fresnel lens, such as this scene at Pemaquid Point Light in Maine, that exudes of feeling of warmth and comfort
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

There is something about
an illuminated 1000-watt lamp
inside a Fresnel lens, such
as this scene at Pemaquid
Point Light in Maine, that
exudes of feeling of warmth
and comfort

The new lamp retains the tradition of the conventional 1000-watt lamp in that when mariners and lighthouse enthusiasts alike view the light beams from lighthouses like Portsmouth Harbor and Owls Head here forward, they will observe the same “big light” emitting from these beacons in the same reliable fashion.

For former lightkeepers like Chris Mills, this has to bring a smile to their faces – knowing that the warm glow from a beacon burning bright lives on in the evolving world of aids to navigation.

Symbolically, may this bright light and its warm glow remain in our hearts and minds, forever connecting our lighthouse heritage with a future that must shine on in a tossed-about sea of change.

Did you know?

Source: 1975 Aids to Navigation Information Handbook

“An incandescent filament lamp is basically a coiled wire (filament) of a material having a high melting point (tungsten) heated to incandescence by the passage of an electric current through it. To prevent oxidation but still permit radiation of light, the filament is enclosed in a glass envelope (bulb), which is evacuated and then either left evacuated or filled with an inert gas.”

Looking down on a conventional 1000-watt lamp (left) and the new 1000-watt lamp with its ceramic base at Owls Head Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Looking down on a conventional 1000-watt
lamp (left) and the new 1000-watt lamp
with its ceramic base at Owls Head Light

“A tungsten halogen lamp consists of a tungsten electric incandescent filament in a small quartz tube containing various gases and a small amount of iodine or other halogen. For ease of handling, for protection of the quartz tube, and to permit use in standard lighthouse lighting equipment, the quartz tube is mounted in a conventional T-20 lamp envelope equipped with an appropriate base. When in operation, the tungsten halogen lamp produces illumination in the same manner as any other electric filament lamp. However, within the quartz tube, a series of chemical reactions takes place, which prevents lamp blackening and prolongs filament life. When heated, the iodine vaporizes into molecular iodine. It reacts with tungsten, which is evaporated from the lamp filament, and forms a tungsten iodine compound, which is volatile at the operating temperature of the inner lamp envelope. (The requirement for high surface temperatures on the inner lamp surface explains why the inner envelope is so close to the incandescent filament and why a high temperature resistant material like quartz is used). Instead of coating the lamp envelope, as in a conventional lamp, the tungsten is kept in the form of a vaporized compound until it eventually comes into contact with the filament. The filament temperature is such that a reverse reaction takes place on its surface, causing the compound to break up into tungsten, which is re-deposited on the filament, and molecular iodine, which is released in vapor form and continues to the reaction cycle.”
 

A view of a Coast Guard CG-2P lampchanger and 1000-watt lamps at Liston Range Rear Light in Delaware 
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of a Coast Guard CG-2P
lampchanger and 1000-watt lamps at
Liston Range Rear Light in Delaware

A view of the classical lens in Miah Maull Shoal Lighthouse in New Jersey (Delaware Bay) with its light source being a 1000-watt lamp 
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of the classical lens in Miah
Maull Shoal Lighthouse in New Jersey
(Delaware Bay) with its light source
being a 1000-watt lamp
 

A view of a conventional 1000-watt lamp and a new 1000-watt lamp unit as seen looking through the fourth order Fresnel lens at Owls Head Light
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of a conventional
1000-watt lamp and a new
1000-watt lamp unit as seen
looking through the fourth
order Fresnel lens at
Owls Head Light
 

range lantern (RL-24) at Marcus Hook Range Rear Light in Delaware shines bright on the Delaware River
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

The range lantern (RL-24) at
Marcus Hook Range Rear Light
in Delaware shines bright on
the Delaware River thanks to
its 1000-watt lamp light source

A view inside the RL-24 with its Coast Guard CG-2P lampchanger and 1000-watt lamps at Marcus Hook Range Rear Light in Delaware
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view inside the RL-24 with
its Coast Guard CG-2P
lampchanger and 1000-watt
lamps at Marcus Hook Range
Rear Light in Delaware

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Hampshire contains a fourth order Fresnel lens and 1000-watt lamps as a light source
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New
Hampshire contains a fourth order
Fresnel lens and 1000-watt lamps
as a light source
 

Owls Head Lighthouse in Maine contains a fourth order Fresnel lens and 1000-watt lamps as a light source
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Owls Head Lighthouse in Maine
contains a fourth order Fresnel lens
and 1000-watt lamps as a light source

Fourth order Fresnel lens at Owls Head Light in Maine with a 1000-watt lamp serving as the light source
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Fourth order Fresnel lens at
Owls Head Light in Maine
with a 1000-watt lamp serving
as the light source

A view looking through the fourth order Fresnel lens in Portsmouth Harbor Light (NH) at two new 1000-watt lamp units
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view looking through the
fourth order Fresnel
lens in Portsmouth Harbor
Light (NH) at two new
1000-watt lamp units
 

Fourth order Fresnel lens at Pemaquid Point Light in Maine with a 1000-watt lamp serving as the light source
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Fourth order Fresnel lens at
Pemaquid Point Light in Maine
with a 1000-watt lamp serving
as the light source

Posted: 08/07/2010