Bird’s-Eye View: U.S. Coast Guard Maintains Great Lakes Lighthouses

This time of year continues to be busy for Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.

Friday, members of the Aids to Navigation team were out working on the North Manitou Lighthouse in the Manitou Passage.

9&10’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist John Harrington give us a bird’s-eye view of how they prepare the lighthouses for winter.

From the air, the U.S. Coast Guard is making sure lighthouses along the Great Lakes will keep shining.

“Absolutely crucial, that before winter hits, that we know that everything out there has got the juice and the means to operate all year round,” says LCDR.. Charlie Wilson, USCG Air Station Traverse City.

Air Station Traverse City has been flying Coast Guard Aids to Navigation team members out to the lighthouses.

“You coming to a hover? I’ll try to keep it. How would you like to be the guy in the basket?”

Friday, they visited the North Manitou Light in Lake Michigan.

“Manitou Passage is one of the more iconic passages. Really gets kind of narrow in there, about a mile. The lighthouse itself sits on 26 feet of water, so chills up very quickly in there,” says Wilson.

Even with a GPS and advanced technology, a lighthouse is still an important symbol for direction and safety.

“Lake Michigan is notorious for shipwrecks,” Lee Biladeau, Aviation Maintenance Technician 2nd class at USCG Air Station Traverse City.

“Shipwreck that was wrecked here in the Manitou Pass. If you look there’s another shipwreck that this one’s wrecked on top of.”

“There are several in all the Great Lakes and if these aren’t in working order, disaster could occur if these vessels can’t see issues coming their way,” Biladeau says.

“They still are relied upon as a secondary means of navigation. So the Coast Guard still operates all these lighthouses. Very critical to getting ships and good and products throughout the Great Lakes safely, day, night, any season,” Wilson says.

Crews also worked on the Gray’s Reef Light and White Shoal Light this week.