National Geographic : 1913 Jan
VOL. XXIV, No. 1 WASHINGTON JANUARY, 1913 MAGA ZIJINh BEACONS OF THE SEA Lighting the Coasts of the United States BY GEORGE R. PUTNAM, COMMISSIONER OF LIGHTHOUSES THE sea-coast line under the ju risdiction of the United States is 48,881 statute miles, measured in three-mile steps. The general govern ment provides lighthouses and other aids to navigation along all this coast, with the exception of the Philippine Islands, 11,511 miles, and Panama, where the marking of the coasts is maintained by the local governments. In addition, the United States provides lights along the American shores of the Great Lakes, 4,020 miles, and on interior and coastal rivers, 5,478 miles. The United States Lighthouse Service thus maintains lights and other aids to navigation along 46,828 miles of coast line and river channels, a length equal to nearly twice the circumference of the earth. In this distance it has 12,824 aids to navigation of all classes, sufficient to place one every two miles around the equator. In respect to territory covered and aids maintained, it is much the most ex tensive service of its kind under a single management. There are 1,462 lights above the order of river-post lights, and there are 762 lights having resident keepers, 51 light-vessel stations, and 438 lighted buoys. The total lighted aids of all kinds is 4,516. There are in all 933 fog signals, of which 510 are fog-signal stations, 43 submarine bells, 124 whist- ling buoys, and 256 bell buoys. There are 6,281 unlighted buoys, and 1,474 daymarks, or unlighted beacons. There are also 516 private aids to navigation, maintained at private expense, but under government supervision. This service is carried on through an organization of 19 districts, under a cen tral office in Washington. Each district is in charge of a lighthouse inspector and has a local office and one or more supply depots and lighthouse tenders. In all, there are 46 of these small vessels which carry the supplies to the stations and place and maintain the buoys and light vessels. About 5,500 men are required for the lighthouse work, of whom 211 are in the executive, engineering, and clerical force, 1,733 are keepers of lights and de pots, 1,570 care for post lights, 1,516 are on vessels, and 489 are in the construc tion and repair force. The entire personnel is under the civil service rules, and appointments and pro motions are on a strictly merit system. This is of great importance for the main tenance of good organization and rigid discipline in a purely technical service, on the efficient conduct of which is di rectly dependent the safety of all the lives and all the property carried on the seas and the navigable waters of this country.