Zapped Transformer Transforms View of Barnegat Lighthouse

Through a Glass, Darkly
May 24, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy

And then there was none. Beacon fans walking the beach at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Friday night blinked when the scene suddenly changed.

SandPaper journalist and lighthouse book author David Biggy was taking photos of Old Barney at about 9 p.m. when one second the light faithfully shone, but the next, it was lights out at the top of the tower.

The beacon remained extinguished the rest of the weekend. By Monday at dusk, though, the lens at the top was expected to shine again.

Long Beach Township police had called Angelo Rinaldi, past president of the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, who knows the ins and outs (and offs and ons, when they rarely occur) of the electrical system at the top.

Rinaldi by phone coached the new park maintenance supervisor, Ron Right, who is filling the post temporarily, and an electrical malfunction was fixed, they believe.

According to Rinaldi, the culprit was probably the rogue storm that swept through the north end Friday afternoon.

“The police called me, and we reset it this morning,” Rinaldi said Monday. “It was probably the lightning storm we had on Friday night that knocked out the transformer that controls the electric.

“We’ve got 120 (volt) electric in the lighthouse, but that unit works on 12-volt direct current. The transformer converts it, and the electric storm knocked the transformer out.”

Rinaldi said that in the future, if someone sees the light out, they can contact the state park office. It was just that during certain off-hours of the weekend, the appropriate personnel from the park were not there to do the repair.

A few observers had wondered whether the light was an official aid to navigation. According to a state park assistant administrator, the lighthouse is a “working lighthouse” and can be used as an aid to navigation, but nowadays boats have automated navigation as well.

In 2008, the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, a nonprofit organization, raised funds to reactivate the lighthouse. A sum of $35,000 was raised, with $15,000 contributed by the Long Beach Township Fraternal Order of Police Local Lodge No. 5.

This supported the acquisition of a new $15,000 VRB-25 light system, as well as the replacement of aging windows.

In October 2008, the VRB-25 system was installed. While physically smaller than the original light, the system has become a standard for U.S. lighthouses, with more than 100 installed, summarized a published history on Wikipedia.

On Jan. 1, 2009, 8,000 onlookers braved frigid weather as the Barnegat Lighthouse beacon was activated for the first time since before World War II. It was the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse’s opening.

Biggy and his wife are frequently on the beach in view of the beacon, as he is the author/photographer of Lighthouses Maine to Florida and Barnegat Light Perspectives.

— Maria Scandale

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