Scenic USA - Maine

Owls Head Lighthouse

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Owls Head Lighthouse - Rockland, Maine

Photos by Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan Photography

Fourth Order Fresnel Lens    The lighthouse idea, more than two thousand years old, is initially found among the final chapters of ancient Egyptian history. On the offshore island of Pharos, a massive lighthouse signaled the port of Alexandria in 280 BCE. Some of Americaís first lighthouses were built in the early 1700s, helping to establish a fledgling maritime economy in the New World. Marking harbors and inlets, and warning mariners of dangerous shoals and reefs, lighthouse towers became commonplace during the 17th Century.
   One of the greatest improvements to lighthouses worldwide was the Fresnel lens. Called a genius by his French play pals, Augustin Jean Fresnel (fray-NELL) spent his adult life understanding the theories of light and conducting studies in optical phenomena. Although reflector systems were a vast improvement in broadcasting light, it was Fresnelís lens that would capture more than 80 percent of the light source. It was a modern (early 19th century) miracle.
   Here at Owls Head Lighthouse in Rockland Harbor visitors are able to get a good look at a 4th order Fresnel lens. Installed in 1856, the small fourth order lens measures two and a half feet tall, which was primarily used for lakes and harbors. Owl Point Lighthouse - Rockland Harbor Maine This unique perspective of Owls Head Lighthouse gives a clue as to why the tower design called for a short, 30 foot structure. Sitting high upon a headland hill or promontory, the light towers a 100 feet above the harbor. Owls Head Point juts out into Penobscot Bay, and besides scenic views of the bay, the lighthouse is a big attraction at Owls Head State Park. Opened by a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, the keepers' quarters at the Owls Head Light Station include a gift shop and educational interpretive center. This site is one of many picturesque light stations which have helped earned Maine a nickname of the lighthouse state.
   The Federal government issued bids for the lighthouse during term of President John Quincy Adams in 1825. And still today, ships move in and out of Rockland Harbor and look to Owls Head for their navigational guide.

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