This short post is a small part of a much longer story about the time I kinda sorta just a little bit crashed a car while off-roading in the jungle in Puerto Rico by myself following an ugly breakup that happened while on vacation on my 30th birthday. Sounds like a good story, no? And now that I have your attention, I’m going to lose it by posting just a few photos and a brief outline of a lighthouse I visited while on that vacation. I’ll tell you the whole story another day when I write about the Vieques military bunkers and sugar mill ruins, but for now this will have to suffice.
The Puerto Ferro Lighthouse lies on the south side of the Island of Vieques in Puerto Rico. From 1899 to 1926, it guided ships through the Vieques Passage. Its construction began in 1896 (frequently and incorrectly cited as the date it was first lit) by the Spanish, but was interrupted by the Spanish-American war, in which the United States took control of Puerto Rico. The U.S. stepped in and finished the lighthouse, finally turning it on in December of 1899.
If you’re someone who likes spotting errors on Wikipedia, this tedious, petty fact is for you: The Wikipedia page for the lighthouse claims “the light was first lit in 1896,” and immediately links that fact to the book America’s Lighthouses, which, upon examination, clearly states that “the Spanish began a third-order light in 1986 to mark the entrance to Port Ferro. The United States completed it in 1899.” Other sources who have done a more extensive, researched history of the lighthouse also state the operational date as 1899. Yoink!
The structure functioned not only as a lighthouse but also as the keeper’s permanent dwelling. The living area consisted of a kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and an office. The idea of living in a lighthouse on a sea cliff out in the middle of nowhere may sound spooky to some people, but it satisfies about half of my childhood fantasies that revolve around being an orphan and almost all of my adult horror-fantasies about living a sad, reclusive life that ends with me drinking myself to death via bathtub gin and leaving behind an unpublished manuscript that could only be described as “near genius, beautifully flawed only by unwavering humanity.” Haha kidding, I’d probably leave behind an unfinished comic book fulla mediocre fart jokes.
The spiral staircase, located in the middle of the living area, led to the lantern room where, according to Lighthousefriends.com, the “Fresnel lens…was revolved by a clockwork mechanism attached to a 200-pound weight that was suspended in the stairway’s central column.”
The lighthouse, situated atop an unstable sea cliff, eventually began to crack. In 1920, a plea was made for reconstruction either on or near the site, but it never happened. Six years later, an earthquake struck, widening the preexisting cracks and creating new ones on the lighthouse roof. The building was abandoned shortly after.
In the following decades, two thirds of Vieques was taken over by the U.S Navy and used for testing explosives. Basically, we bombed the shit out of the island for over 50 years, but that’s a history I’ll discuss later in a longer post about Puerto Rico and my vacation from hell. In the mean time, more photos:
Kitchen area of lighthouse keeper’s quarters.
View from the roof towards the east end of the island.
For more photos, go to the Puerto Ferro Lighthouse flickr set.
Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me.