the last light : Elbow Reef Lighthouse

  120 feet above sea level sits the Elbow Reef Lighthouse, providing mariners a beacon of light since 1864 to warn against the treacherous shoals and reefs lining the shoreline of Elbow Cay. Since the colonization of Abaco's outer islands by British loyalists after the revolutionary war, the unpredictable waters proved difficult for shipping interests. Many ships, cargoes and lives were lost during transits to and from the Bahamas. In 1836, the British Imperial Lighthouse Service started to erect lighthouses in strategic locations along the Bahamian coastline.

  Of the 11 light-stations in the Bahamas, only the Elbow Reef Light is in its original working condition: non-electrified and manually powered. The lighthouse continues to warn mariners against the Elbow Reef (in the Atlantic on the east side of elbow cay) and is the most popular tourist attraction in the Abaco cays. The efforts of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society have allowed the lighthouse to be preserved in its 'working condition'. 

looking west at sunset towards Marsh Harbour

looking west at sunset towards Marsh Harbour

The iconic 'candy cane' paint job on the exterior of the light was designed to help mariners distinguish Elbow Reef light from other lighthouses in the Bahamas 

The iconic 'candy cane' paint job on the exterior of the light was designed to help mariners distinguish Elbow Reef light from other lighthouses in the Bahamas 

Two lighthouse keepers are currently sharing the duties of keeping the light lit and the lens spinning. They climb 101 steps to reach the lens room every two hours while the light is illuminated.  

Two lighthouse keepers are currently sharing the duties of keeping the light lit and the lens spinning. They climb 101 steps to reach the lens room every two hours while the light is illuminated.  

Elvis Parker, a Bahamian native, is the primary keeper of the light. He is seen here leaving his home on the right to climb to the lens room and illuminate the light for the evening. 

Elvis Parker, a Bahamian native, is the primary keeper of the light. He is seen here leaving his home on the right to climb to the lens room and illuminate the light for the evening. 

Primary Keeper, Elvis Parker 

Primary Keeper, Elvis Parker 

Elvis Parker adjusting the lantern just after illumination. 

Elvis Parker adjusting the lantern just after illumination. 

Looking at the lantern through the lens just after illumination. The lantern power is equivalent to 325,000 candles, which is magnified by the glass lens, making the light visible to mariners up to 15 nautical miles away. 

Looking at the lantern through the lens just after illumination. The lantern power is equivalent to 325,000 candles, which is magnified by the glass lens, making the light visible to mariners up to 15 nautical miles away. 

The lens floats in a circular tub with 1,200 pounds of "quicksilver" -- Liquid mercury. The mercury reduces friction and allows the lens to spin 360 degrees so that mariners in all directions can see it. Every two hours, Elvis Parker cranks the gears that give the lens its spinning momentum. 

The lens floats in a circular tub with 1,200 pounds of "quicksilver" -- Liquid mercury. The mercury reduces friction and allows the lens to spin 360 degrees so that mariners in all directions can see it. Every two hours, Elvis Parker cranks the gears that give the lens its spinning momentum. 

Kerosene is used to power the lantern. These green tanks are manually pressurized with a hand pump and send the fuel up to the lantern room where it is vaporized and sprayed into the mantle.  

Kerosene is used to power the lantern. These green tanks are manually pressurized with a hand pump and send the fuel up to the lantern room where it is vaporized and sprayed into the mantle.  

Looking through the lens at the Hope Town Harbour 

Looking through the lens at the Hope Town Harbour 

In the morning, after the lantern is out, curtains are hung cover the windows on the light and the lantern room is locked to prevent tourists from entering. 

In the morning, after the lantern is out, curtains are hung cover the windows on the light and the lantern room is locked to prevent tourists from entering.