The Five Flags Amateur Radio Association has had the privilege of putting the Pensacola Lighthouse on the air from inside the actual Lighthouse on Jan 1, 2002. We have held this event yearly whenever it has been possible.
With 9/11 and several Hurricanes, we have had to cancel the event a few years but we are dedicated to continuing with this Special Event any year we are allowed to do so.
Getting the Lighthouse on the air in 2002 was no easy feat. Logistics were almost insurmountable. The Lighthouse resides on the Pensacola Naval Air Station overlooking the Gulf on the South and Sherman Field, home of the Blue Angels to the North.
Any Amateur activity could only be accomplished on New Years Day as it is the only day NAS Pensacola has no Air Ops. (Hence, no chance of interference to communications on the base)
In 2002, a member of FFARA, who was a personal friend of both the Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola and the USCG Aviation Liaison Officer whose office was in the Lighthouse building, approached both individuals about the event. The Coast Guard was very enthusiastic but even though the Lighthouse is USCG property, it resides on US Navy land and on a very busy Naval Air Station.
It took a lot of red tape cutting to secure permission from all parties and put on the 1st Special Event from the Pensacola Lighthouse but the FFARA put on a very successful 1st event, so much so, the Coast Guard wrote an article in their regional newsletter about it and gave us a standing invitation to continue yearly.
Current events has caused us to miss a couple of years but we are dedicated to continuing the tradition and giving Amateurs all around the world the opportunity to work this very rare contact; The NAS Pensacola Lighthouse. (USA592)
Below you will find our first historical document sent to all QSL recipients along with a few photos taken over the years that we have operated from the Lighthouse.
January 1st, 2002, commemorates the first Amateur Radio Transmission for the Pensacola Lighthouse. W4UC, the club callsign of the Five Flags Amateur Radio Association, has had the unique occasion to set up operation inside the Lighthouse itself. The antenna being mounted at the top of the Lighthouse. It also marks the anniversary of the first lighting of the Lighthouse on January 1st, 1859.
The first Pensacola Lighthouse was built and lighted in 1824 to guide ships into Pensacola Bay. At only 30 feet high and with antiquated lamps, it was replace with the current Lighthouse, approximately one-half mile away.
Located on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida, the Lighthouse stands 171 feet above the ground to the focal plane and 191 feet above sea level to the focal plane. Built on a foundation of granite 40 feet deep, the Lighthouse is constructed of concrete and brick. The walls are 10 foot thick at the base and 3 foot thick at the top. It was designed by Captain Jon Newton of the Army Corps of Engineers at a cost of $55,000 which included the keepers quarters.
The first-order Fresnel lens was cut and polished by Henri LePaite of France and consists of 344 glass prisms originally being lit by a single whale oil lamp. The lens focused the light into 8 beams visible up to 22 miles. A weighted clock mechanism rotated the lens giving the appearance of a flashing light. The Lighthouse was electrified in 1939 and produced 300,000 candlepower extending its reach to 27 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Indoor plumbing was also added. In the same year, the U S Coast Guard took over the Lighthouse Service.
Prior to electrification, the keeper would have to climb 177 steps every two hours to refuel the oil lamp and rewind the clock mechanism. Jeremiah Ingraham was the first keeper and after his death in 1840, his wife continued on until her death, 15 years later. The longest serving Lighthouse keeper was George T. Clifford who manned the Pensacola Lighthouse from 1886 to 1917.
The Pensacola Lighthouse was controlled by Confederate Troops during the Civil War. Gunners across the Bay at the Union controlled Ft. Pickens hit the Lighthouse many time with canon balls with little damage being done. Confederate forces evacuated the Pensacola Bay area and dismantled and hid the lens. Union troops operated the Lighthouse with a lesser quality lens from December 20, 1862 until the first-order lens was brought out of hiding and restored in 1869.
The Lighthouse overlooks beautiful Pensacola Bay and Ft Pickens to the South and Sherman Field, home of the U S Navy's Blue Angels to the North.
FFARA wishes to thank NAS Pensacola, The Coast Guard Liaison Officer and The Aids to Navigation Team at Coast Guard Station Pensacola for their efforts in bringing about this Amateur Radio Special Event.