Cape Canaveral Lighthouse receives Fresnel Lens for Display on loan from U.S. Coast Guard
CAPE CANAVERAL (May 3, 2023) – The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation received a fourth-order Fresnel lens to display in the museum for a minimum of ten years on loan from the U.S. Coast Guard. This type of lens is significant to the lighthouse as it was used twice in its history. During the Civil War, all lighthouses in the South were told to remove their lights and a fourth-order Fresnel lens was what was reinstalled from 1865-1868. Later in 1893-1894 when the lighthouse was dismantled and moved a mile inland due to beach erosion concerns, a skeleton lighthouse was built and this was the type of lens used. The fourth-order lens now in the museum is made by American company Macbeth-Evans Glass Company, is just under 3-feet tall and likely weighs over 500 lbs.
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation worked with a retired NASA engineer (Scott Vangen) and current Blue Origin Engineer (Andrew Bohlin) to create a base that would dampen out the vibrations of nearby rocket launches to lessen the risk of damage to the lens. The lighthouse housed a first-order Fresnel lens that was removed in 1993 as vibrations of launches were loosening the prisms. That lens is on display at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse Museum. In order to handle the lens, two lampists (Joe Cocking and Nick Johnston) were brought on to oversee the installation, both of whom assisted in the removal of the first-order lens from the lighthouse in 1993.
“It was a very special day for us to welcome back a fourth-order Fresnel lens to Cape Canaveral,” says Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Museum Director Becky Zingarelli. “Instead of guiding mariners around the dangerous offshore shoals, this historic circa 1905 lens will show visitors how this 200-year old technology is both functional and beautiful, while still in use today.”
Fresnel lenses were invented in the 1820s by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, a pioneer in optics who advanced the wave theory of light. The lenses consist of a central bull’s-eye lens with a series of concentric rings and prism sections above and below that collect more light. These lenses collect light emitted from the lamp and concentrate it into a narrow beam and can produce several revolving beams, an improvement over mirrored lamps that produce a single beam
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is owned by the Space Force and the light inside, currently a LED SeaLite 300 Long Range Marine Lantern which can be seen 19 miles away, is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard as an active aid to navigation. The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation was formed in 2002 to help the Space Force preserve and interpret the lighthouse. Tours are available through their website at canaverallight.org. The museum is housed in a replica of the head lighthouse keeper’s cottage. The lighthouse is 151 feet tall and tours allow guests up half-way inside the tower.
Meagan Happel, PR Manager