August 7, 2012 - National Lighthouse Day

 A lighthouse provides a strong beam of light slicing out over the water, a beacon for ships at sea, a warning of foundering rocks, an expected landmark at the edge of an almost featureless ocean.

And then there's the foghorn, booming out its warning when sailors can't see through low-lying clouds.

Lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and piers are important to a seafaring nation, and on this date in 1789, the U.S. Congress passed a law for the establishment and support of all these important structures. On the 200th anniversary of the law, Congress passed a resolution that makes August 7th Lighthouse Day.

If you can, visit a lighthouse. See if there is a Fresnel Lens, which is a type of thinner, lighter lens that allows lighthouses to be visible over much greater distances.

If you can't go to a lighthouse, bring lighthouses to you through the power of YouTube videos!

  • How powerful are these lenses? Take a look at what a Fresnel lens does to a stack of pennies. 
  • Here's what a foghorn sounds like. 
  • Here is a tour of a cool striped lighthouse made of bricks, plus the lighthouse keeper's nearby house. 
  • Some lighthouses are built on rocks out in the ocean—I guess as a warning to sailors of those rocks? But look what happens to those lighthouses during a storm! 
Nowadays, people don't have to do much to maintain those isolated lighthouses, because they are automated, but there have been some lighthouse keepers endangered by big storms. The guy in the photo above lived—he closed the doors just in time!

What happens to a lighthouse in a winter storm? Take a look at the photo on the right!

Also on this date:

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