Restored Nantucket Lightship LV-112 Open for Tours
Nantucket Lightship LV-112, a National Historic Landmark, is the largest U.S. lightship ever built and recognized as serving on the most famous lightship station in the world. Nantucket LV-112 is unique — one of a kind— and its homeport has always been Boston. It operated from 1936 to 1975 from the U.S. Lighthouse Service and U.S. Coast Guard — Boston. In 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation selected LV-112 as a National Treasure.
LV-112 was considered state-of-the-art when built, exclusively designed to be virtually unsinkable and withstand the treacherous conditions of Nantucket Shoals Lightship Station, where it served for 39 years. The United States Lightship Museum (USLM) was specifically established to rescue and restore LV-112. The USLM brought the ship back to Boston in 2010 from Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY, to be restored. The USLM is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization composed of all volunteers. So far, the USLM has restored approximately 70 percent of the ship.
A lightship is a floating lighthouse that was administered and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Prior to 1939, the U.S. Lighthouse Service (USLHS) administered all U.S. lightships. The USLHS merged with the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. In addition, lightships were stationed off U.S. coastal waters, including the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico where it was impractical or not feasible to build a permanent lighthouse structure.
LV-112 was built after its predecessor, Nantucket LV-117, was rammed and sunk in heavy fog by the RMS Olympic, a sister ship to the RMS Titanic. Seven of the eleven LV-117 crew members died as a result of the collision. The British Government and White Star Line paid reparations to the families of the LV-117’s crew members and to the U.S. for the construction of LV-112, which cost $300,956 in 1935 when construction began.
Nantucket Shoals Lightship Station was the most remote offshore lightship station — 100 miles from the U.S. mainland — and the most treacherous lightship station in the world. Nantucket Lightship was the first beacon and U.S. landmark seen by ships and immigrants on board entering the United States from Europe and was nicknamed “The Statue of Liberty of the Sea.” Transatlantic shipping set their course to Nantucket Shoals Lightship Station first, before branching off to their U.S. East Coast ports of call.
LV-112’s primary light beacon on the mainmast (restored and operational) is 400,000-candlepower and was reportedly seen as far as 50 miles at sea (designed to be seen 23 miles). The foremast is equipped with a duplex 500 MM lens lantern. It also has a two-tone diaphone fog signal (restored and operational) with a range of 14 miles, and a radio beacon signal antenna. In addition, LV-112 has a 1,200 lb. auxiliary deck-mounted, hand-operated fog bell.
Lightship duty was extremely dangerous. Lightships and their crews were required to remain anchored on station, regardless of weather conditions, including dangerous sub-freezing winter storms. In 1954, Hurricane Edna and Carroll (back-to-back hurricanes, 11 days apart) hit LV-112, which survived destructive 110-mile-per-hour winds and horrific 70-foot seas caused by both hurricanes. Nantucket LV-112 also is a veteran of WWII (1942—1945), re-assigned to the entrance of Portland, Maine Harbor, serving as an armed examination vessel, USS Nantucket.
Lightships were used as navigational aids in the U.S. from 1820 to 1983. A total of 179 were built, including 11 that served on Nantucket Shoals. Presently, only 14 U.S. lightships remain. Nine have been designated National Historic Landmarks and now are museums, including LV-112— the only lightship museum berthed in New England (continued on next page).
After six years of neglect while berthed at Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY, in 2008 LV-112 was in danger of being scrapped. A group of preservation-minded individuals formed a nonprofit organization — the United States Lightship Museum — to rescue and restore LV-112. They purchased LV-112 for one dollar in October 2009. The ship was transported back to its original homeport of Boston in May 2010 and reopened to the general public as a floating museum and learning center. When the USLM acquired LV-112, the historic ship had been neglected for many years, in poor condition and nothing was operational (considered a “dead ship”). LV-112’s multi-phase rehabilitation began and was placed in dry-dock in 2011—2012.
In August of 2020, LV-112 went back into dry-dock for its next phase of restoration through March, 2021.
LV-112 is protected by a covenant, stating it can only be utilized as a museum and learning center open to the general public and owned by a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The ship is currently undergoing a multiphase restoration and is open to the general public on Saturdays, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. (May – October). As LV-112’s restoration nears completion, regular visiting days and hours open to the general public will be increased. In addition, tours for individuals/groups can be arranged on all other days by appointment throughout year.
U.S. Lightship Museum — 8.13.2021