Roger Bansemer

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Information and illustrations about St. Johns River lighthouse by artist & author Roger Bansemer.

St John Light Station
Mayport, Florida
1954

St. Johns River lighthouse print - Mayport
St. Johns River Lighthouse by artist/author Roger Bansemer used in the book "Bansemer's book of Florida Lighthouses"
St Johns River Light Station, Mayport
 

St. Johns River Light Station

Only a mile from the old Mayport Light (St. Johns River Lighthouse) and directly overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is this nontraditional-looking lighthouse. The beacon doesn’t fit our conventional idea of what a lighthouse should look like. The lantern room is so small it can hardly be called a room at all. There’s barely enough space to walk around inside. In order for the lenses to be fully inspected or repaired, they have to be lowered with a set of pulleys and chains to the room below.

Today there are many beacons that are taking the role of traditional lighthouses—unrecognizable to us as we drive by them—that actually sit on top of condominiums and high rise buildings but fill the same role. Even with the satellite guidance systems that almost every boat owner uses to pinpoint his location within a few feet, the sailors I know still feel a sense of security when they see that reassuring flashing light.

The St. Johns River lighthouse was equipped with a radio beacon that mariners used to get a bearing on their location in bad weather. Radio beacons were widely used, especially by pleasure boats, into the 1980s because they were much cheaper than radar or loran. Radio beacons worked by sending out a Morse code signal that could be read by a passing ship equipped with a direction finder to determine its exact location. Today the GPS (Global Positioning System) is small, inexpensive, and more accurate than anything that has come before, so radio beacons are for the most part a thing of the past.

Situated on the Mayport Naval Station just north of Jacksonville Beach, the St. Johns River lighthouse is not open to the public, but if  you get onto the base, you are free to park and walk on the beach and dunes close to the light. The base may or not be open to the public depending on military situations. It was open the day I visited, and the guard at the entrance just waved me through without question. That may not be so easy in today's world.

The St. Johns Light Station replaced both the Mayport Lighthouse and the St. Johns Lightship, which was in service some seven miles out in the Atlantic. In 1920, there were forty-nine such lightships around the country, but by 1985 there were none left operating. When the lightship was taken out of service at St. Johns River, this new lighthouse served as a replacement.

Built in 1954, this is the newest lighthouse in Florida. It has that typical military look and was once used to monitor the weather and maintain the radio beacon. Now it has been fenced off, and the lower part is used mainly for storage. Everything that needs to function inside—like the beacon—is automated. Even though the lighthouse is on the Mayport Naval Station, the Coast Guard is in charge of this and all other marine navigation lights in the United States.

İRoger Bansemer

St Johns Light Station Map, Mayport Florida
İRoger Bansemer