By DAN NATALE
On the night of June 11, 1764, stonemason Isaac Conro watched his newest creation come to life. Several pounds of whale oil were poured into a copper lamp atop the Sandy Hook lighthouse and lit aflame, offering ships at sea a guide into New York Harbor.
On Wednesday, the 250th anniversary of that milestone, the switch was thrown on the latest additions to the 103-foot-tall lighthouse: a pair of livestream cams.
The structure – the oldest continually operated lighthouse in the United States – “is an example of how you can preserve something if you take care of it,” said John Harlan Warren, a spokesman for the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, of which Sandy Hook is part. Visitors navigating the 95 narrow, turning steps to the top must also climb a nine-rung ladder; children must be at least 48 inches tall to make the trip. (Photo by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)
“We’ve got a lot of other buildings out here, like Fort Hancock,” Warren said. “We want to preserve those for adaptive reuse. This is a custom. We’re proud of it, but it also points to what we need to do in the future.”
The latest additions to the lighthouse are known as the “Sandy Cams.” Two of the four cameras are in operation, offering views of the the yellow brick officers’ buildings at Fort Hancock and the Atlantic Ocean. They can be accessed here. Coming soon: views of New York City, and one of the lighthouse itself.
Also in the works, said park officials, is an an app to allows visitors to use the lighthouse cam to take their own selfies from the tower and post them on Gateway’s Instagram page, @gatewaynps.
The Sandy Cam will also be used for virtual tours, enabling park rangers in remote locations to speak to visitors It becomes the 64th national park to include live streaming cameras.
Meantime, on Saturday, the park will host a celebration of the lighthouse’s anniversary from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The free event will be opened by the Fifes and Drums Band of the Old Barracks, while students from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology will present a color guard.
The agenda includes tours of the lighthouse, musket and cannon demonstrations by Revolutionary War historians, musket drills and colonial era children’s games. Demonstrations of 18th-century bateau – flat bottom– boats, and talks about the life of a lighthouse keeper are also planned. Food will be available for purchase from concessionaires.
Intern Dan Natale of Red Bank is a student at Rutgers. This is his second summer interning at redbankgreen.