An enduring symbol of Yarmouth's historic and economic ties to the sea, a lighthouse has towered over the rocky headlands of Cape Forchu since 1839, guiding mariners to the safety of Yarmouth Harbour. The current lighthouse was automated in 1993. In 2001, it was the first working lightstation in Canada to be transferred to a municipality by the Federal Government.
The Apple Core Light
This unique lighthouse is called the "apple core light" because its tapering shape is thought to resemble an apple core. Built in 1962, the concrete lighthouse replaced a 1839 timber building, which had been severely damaged by Cape Forchu's fierce winds and waves.
Why did they build it like that?
Unlike the original lighthouse, which was wide at the base and narrowed at the top, the new lighthouse was built tall and slender for wind-resistance - meaning that the winds travel around the building rather than against it. Near the top, the building tapers outwards to form a wide base that supports the lantern house, which throws a flashing white beam of light approximately 16 kilometres (10 miles) out to sea.
At 23 metres (75 feet), the apple core lighthouse is 3 metres (11 feet taller) than the 1839 lighthouse at 20 metres (64 feet).
Keeping the Light
A hard job
nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, the lightkeeper played many roles. He maintained the light, fog alarm and other lightstation buildings, recorded the weather and came to the aid of those shipwrecked or stranded.
Being a lightkeeper was hard work. The extreme weather conditions meant continuous upkeep and repairs round-the-clock. The lightkeeper and his assistant worked in shifts. Every night, each made three trips up to the lantern house to turn the clockwork mechanism that kept the light going and to make sure the kerosene-powered light stayed lit. When electricity came to the Cape in 1940, the lightkeeper's job was much easier - no more hauling heavy cans of kerosene up the stairs!
Life at the Lightstation
Lightkeepers and their families lived like most rural families at the time. The Cunninghams, who lived at the station from 1922-1952, kept a small farm with pigs, chickens and a cow which provided them with most of their food, and many chores for the children. The lightkeeper often supplemented his income by fishing for herring and lobster.
Guardians of the Lightstation
Before automation, sixteen consecutive principal lightkeepers maintained this site which included both the old lighthouse and the apple core lighthouse.
Lieut. James C. Fox 1839-1840
Cornelius J.T. Fox 1840-1873
Robert Braddon Fox 1873-1874
Captain John H. Doane 1874-1904
Thomas S. Doane 1904-1922
Herbert Cunningham 1922-1952
Albert Smith 1952-1963
Ray Baker 1963-1964
J.E. Chetwynd 1964-1972
D. Earl Flemming 1972-1977
Wayne O'Connell 1977-1977
Lawrence Wentzell 1977-1988
Walter Goodwin 1986-1991
Vincent Murphy 1991-1992
Marjorie Fairservice 1992-1993
Vincent Murphy 1993-automation
Thirty Years of Service: Herbert Cunningham
Cape Forchu Lightstation was home to many lightkeepers, their assistants, and their families. Herbert Cunningham maintained the original lighthouse for thirty years - from 1922, to his retirement in 1952. Herbert, his wife and their six children lived in one half of the lightkeeper's duplex dwelling, while assistant lightkeeper Robert Nickerson and his family of six occupied the other half of the dwelling. This building now houses the museum.
Did you know
Herbert Cunningham estimated that during his time at Cape Forchu, he traveled up and down the stairs of the original lighthouse 47,000 times. This would be like climbing up and down Mount Everest approximately 100 times!
Did you know
The apple core lighthouse is only 1.5 metres (5 feet) in diameter! Just enough for an average-size adult to stand inside. Because the lighthouse is so narrow, visitors are not permitted inside.
[Photo captions, from left to right, read]
· 1839 lighthouse and original lightkeeper's dwelling
· 1. Retired lightkeeper, Herb Cunningham (left) in front of the original lighthouse, with new lightkeeper, Albert Smith (right) in front of the apple core lighthouse, under construction, c. 1962.
· 2. Blueprints for the apple core lighthouse, 1961
· 3. Construction of apple core lighthouse, c. 1961
· Herbert Cunningham operating the foghorn compressor c. 1935
· Image: Mount Everest, Wikipedia
· Detail from lighthouse blueprint, 1961