BHL-Nuclear Light

January 05, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Baltimore Harbor Light_MarylandBaltimore Harbor Light_Maryland

America's Only Nuclear Powered Lighthouse-

Originally funded in 1894, construction was not completed until 1907 and finally lit in 1908. It is located on Chesapeake Bay, as the last lighthouse built on the Bay it marks the entrance to the Craighill Channel near the mouth of the Magothy River leading to Baltimore Harbor. Construction difficulties included flooding and subsequent sinking of the caisson, re-erecting the caisson and fierce winter storms delayed the completion for almost 18 years. As it turns out, the BHL (Baltimore Harbor Light), as it was known, became one of the most difficult lighthouse construction projects ever built in the United States. Above the waterline it stood 53 feet and some 88 feet below the mean water line, resting on 91 pilings driven into the muddy bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.

It was a partially filled with concrete, steel caisson foundation with a 30 foot diameter building platform, painted white brick octagonal two story super structure measuring 24 feet in width, mansard shaped slate tile roof and with a black lantern enclosure to top it off.  The original caisson engineering criteria was that it needed to resist 100mph winds, 30,000 pounds of ice pressure per square foot and almost constant 3 mph underwater currents.

In 1964, the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender White Pine installed a 60-watt nuclear isotopic power generator about the size of a 55 gallon drum weighing 4600 pounds, as an experiment to see if such a power source could be used in remote areas for sustainable long term power. The BHL was America's only, and the world's first, nuclear powered lighthouse. After two years, the nuclear powered generator was removed having proved itself worthy. As a side note, while the generator was being installed, the lighthouse was passed by the world's first nuclear powered cargo-passenger ship, the historic NS Savannah, now currently moored at the Port of Baltimore, Maryland.

The lighthouse lantern is currently solar powered and still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard; the lighthouse is fully restored and privately owned.

Photo taken in September 2023 from the shoreline along Shipsview Road near Cape St. Claire, Maryland using a Nikon D850 DSLR, Nikkor 500mm lens (hand-held), manual exposure setting f/14, shutter speed 1/250, ISO 125.

 

 

 

 


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