Imagine being able to take a helicopter out to one of the most desolate places on earth to change a window.
A team from the Coast Guard got to do that a couple weeks ago and Corey Adkins tells you the story in this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus.
“The loneliest place in America and the loneliest lighthouse in the world is what I read. I was like ‘oh man’ this is gonna be a cool spot and yeah I got pretty excited,” said Nick Becker Petty Officer Second Class.
Nick Becker is an Aviation Maintenance Tech.
On, January 26, 2021 Coast Guard crews from air station Traverse City, an officer from the Coast Guard Cutter Alder, and an officer from Aids to Navigation Team met in Marquette.
They then headed 24 miles out into Lake Superior.
“I was pretty excited because it’s not too often that that you get to take a helo to a lighthouse,” said John Ziemba, Petty Officer Second Class.
Ziemba works in Aids to Navigation.
They are talking about the Stannard Rock Lighthouse.
“We flew out and then you could see it coming up and it was just a light out in the middle of nowhere. There’s just nothing there. It’s just crazy to see how much nothing there is out there,” said Becker.
But there is something below the surface. The light marks a huge shoal that’s dangerous to mariners. A window had blown out right by equipment that keeps the light working.
“And to give you a perspective of the weather that is frequent out there. It’s about a 3 inch to a half inch pane window 32 x 32. It was just gone and kind of left the light exposed to the elements,” said Petty Officer First Class Craig Campoizzi.
Craig works on the United States Coast Guard Cutter Alder.
It being January, taking a boat out there wasn’t going to happen.
The Aids to Navigation Crew got hoisted down to the light from the helicopter.
“I got in the basket, I went down first. Got out and then he came out after I did. Then they sent all the gear down and then I just got in got into work,” said Campomizzi.
The lighthouse was encased in ice which made for tricky footing, but beautiful, photography.
“We have these boots and they have these interchangeable soles on them for ice and stuff so it was a good thing we threw those on before we got there. Walking around the ice wasn’t too bad. There was one point we were thinking maybe was going to break off and we were gonna end up in the water. It was just amazing to see all the ice buildup, so immediately we just started taking pictures and kind of forgetting what was I here to do,” said Ziemba.
For safety, the helicopter stayed on sight, circling the light. The job took about 35 minutes.
“That’s correct, they stayed there due to how remote it is. If there was any need for us to get out there early, or if weather were to kick up, they were able to stay on scene which is comforting and it made for a quick extraction to get back out of there too,” said Campomizzi.
Now the Stannard Rock Light will be ready for the next boating season doing what it’s supposed to do. Guide mariners. All because of the brave people of the Coast Guard.