MARY MEAUX — Radio operators shine light on Sabine Pass Lighthouse

Published 12:20 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

Several local and area amateur radio operators used this past weekend to shine light, so to speak, on the historical Sabine Pass Lighthouse.

The HAM operators — Bob Rose of China, Glen Rose of Nederland and Verne King of Port Arthur — used their skills and equipment Aug. 5 and 6 for National Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, where they made 199 contacts across 28 states and Canada, which is pretty impressive considering radio bands were impacted by recent solar activity.

The very first contact made Saturday was with a lighthouse on Tucker’s Island in New Jersey. They also spoke with a number of former Coast Guard members that worked their whole careers around lighthouses who, Rose said, were fascinated that the men were at Sabine Pass Lighthouse.

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We all know the weather has been hot, with highs at the 100-degree mark, give or take, and heat indices in the danger zone. The HAM operators still made their way to the site, which is approximately one mile from the Gulf of Mexico and 500 to 600 feet from the ship channel.

Propagation, or how the radio waves travel, changed during the day and was affected by the solar activity. Rose said their first contacts were toward the Carolinas and Virginia, then shifted toward the middle of the U.S., then by late afternoon shifted to Colorado and California.

As this was National Lighthouse Weekend, Rose said part of their mission was to provide information on Sabine Pass Lighthouse and the restoration it is undergoing. Rose called it the “plight of the lighthouse in that it still needs repairs and the Preservation Alliance is trying to obtain funds to do that.”

The men worked with Andrew Tingler, president of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse- Cameron Preservation Alliance.

Tingler was pleased to have the Ham operators at the lighthouse and transmitting information about it.

The restoration of the historic 1856 Sabine Pass Lighthouse is moving along slowly. Built to aid mariners, then abandoned in 1952, the lighthouse has weathered a Civil War battle and hurricanes, as well as vandals that cut and took the copper roof and other items.

Ownership of the structure changed hands a number of times and now belongs to the Preservation Alliance. Piece by piece, the building is coming back to life.

In December 2019 after decades of darkness the lighthouse was relit during a special ceremony.

Since then steps for the inside have been ordered, courtesy of sponsors, and work is being done on the adjacent oil house.

The lighthouse endured the hurricane of 1886, which destroyed the keepers quarters and wharf. According to information from Stephen F. Austin State University, the storm killed 86 residents and destroyed or heavily damaged 75 or the town’s 77 structures.

The 20-feet storm surge hit the lighthouse, and water is said to have splashed through a window more than 50 feet high. Four people were inside the structure and climbed to where the light is located; “the wind was so strong that several times it lifted up the 100-pound door” and the keeper used his body to hold the door down along with five gallons of oil.

I tell this part of the story to explain the floor. After the hurricane, the floor was raised three feet, rubble placed at the bottom and concrete laid on top. Then in 2008 Hurricane Ike took down the stairwell and punched a hole in the bottom. That’s when the group learned the bottom was hollow.

Currently, welders and laborers are lined up to work on the stairs and there is scaffolding inside for the new pole.

For more information on the lighthouse, visit the Sabine Pass Lighthouse-Cameron Preservation Alliance on Facebook.

Mary Meaux is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at