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Month: December 2023

Trials of Lighthouse Keeping

In 1792 Patos Island was named Isla de Patos (Island of Ducks), by Spanish Explorers Galiano and Bazan maybe with the many ducks which inhabited the area. Interestingly, the region was a hiding position for smugglers because of its nearness on the Canadian border as well as its many trees and caves.

The island’s first light was on Boundary Pass just opposite Canada’s Saturna Island. Patos Island reaches the northern entrance to your Canal de Haro. This would have been a very dangerous passage due to strong currents and foggy weather. In March of 1891 Congress appropriated $12,000 to erect an aid to navigation which contained a double dwelling, fog signal building, water tanks along with a post light on the western end of this tropical isle. The actual building was completed late in 1893.

Thus there was obviously a white light within the Canadian side on the channel and also a red light over a ten foot tall white stake on Patos Island.

By 1915 several improvements were made using the result of a new fog signal and also a lighthouse having a fresnel lens. Harry Mahler was paid $700 a year as head keeper and Edward Durgan received $500 per annum as assistant keeper.

After becoming lighthouse keeper at several different locations around the West Coast Durgan returned in 1905 to Patos Island because head light keeper. He arrive at at Patos with wife Estelle and thirteen children where he became very well-known. Even though it a mild climate, Patos Island was very isolated. The Durgan family would travel twenty-six water miles every month to Bellingham, Washington for supplies. Their nearest neighbor was Saturna Island in Canada which had been just over three miles away by water.

Seven from the children reduced with smallpox and keeper Durgan, so as to signal for help flew the lighthouse flag the other way up. Eventually help did come but one account says that three from the children died. While another account was that particular child succumbed. A third accounting states how the child who died likely died of appendicitis, not smallpox

Helene Durgan Glidden, one on the surviving children later wrote a memoir titled “The Light within the Island”. In this writing she told of her talks with God, how she messed around with her pet cow and wandered the shores of the city which she called “the petticoats” of Patos Island.

George Loholt replaced Durgan as headkeeper with Mary Durgan’s husband, Noah Clark, staying on as assistant keeper.

Trips within the rough waters for visiting or shopping were dangerous. In 1911 Noah Clark motored to Blaine,Washington to grab his wife, Mary in addition to their young son who had previously been visiting the Durgans. On their return trip the boat’s motor failed since it was nearing Patos Island. The boat started filling with water and Clark jumped overboard for help save his family and that he was never seen again. His family, after drifting within the water all night, eventually crawled on top with the cabin in the event the boat filled up with water. Fortunately these people were rescued after grounding onto a shoal.

In August 1912, a distress signal was from Patos Island. Captain Newcombe from the Canadian fishery protection tug noticed the signal and stopped at the area to investigate. The assistant lighthouse keeper, William Stark, told the captain that Keeper Loholt was exhibiting signs and symptoms of insanity. That Loholt had left the station in the boat a couple of days earlier without explanation leaving Stark to do all the duties alone. Captain Newcombe notified the lighthouse inspector in Portland, who proceeded to Patos Island.

Inspector Beck reached Patos and discovered that this two men ended up fighting and that you had threatened to eliminate the other and drove him from the region. Ultimately the assistant was suspended and Keeper Loholt continued on as head lighthouse keeper for an additional ten years if not more. During which time he rendered assist with several vessels in distress.

Those accounts were mentioned inside Annual Report with the Commissioner of Lighthouses.

Telephone service came to the area in 1919 and took proper care of much from the communication issue.

The lighthouse is part of Patos Island State Park and possesses been restored which is being maintained by a number of selfless volunteers.

The lighthouse is usually visited by boat from either Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. In recent years you will discover docents to spread out the lighthouse to visitors through the summer months.

The lighthouse is of the Bureau of Land Management., lighthouse closed

The lighthouse is advisable visited by boat. Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor on San Juan Island are two on the closest harbors to Patos Island Lighthouse. Keepers on the Patos Light experienced docents on the city in recent years to start the lighthouse to visitors over the summer months.

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters has offered Lighthouse Tours inside past that go by Patos Island. Outer Island Excursions offers trips to Patos Island that are included with a hike to your lighthouse.