|Puerto Ferro, PR|
Description: The Spanish commenced construction of Puerto Ferro Lighthouse in 1896 using essentially the same plans as the earlier Punta Mulas Lighthouse located on the opposite shore of Vieques Island, but the outbreak of the Spanish-American War interrupted the work. Just a few months after control of Puerto Rico passed to the United States, work resumed on Puerto Ferro Lighthouse with the U.S. government setting aside $4,000 for the purchase and installation of a light at Puerto Ferro. The lighthouse was activated for the first time in December 1899.
Puerto Ferro Lighthouse consists of an octagonal tower centered on the roof of a one-story dwelling, which measures 53’ x 35’ with the main entrance centered on the south side of the structure. The main door enters into a vestibule, which connects to the tower to the north, the keeper’s two bedrooms and a living room to the east, and an inspector’s room, office, storage/oil room, and latrine to the west. The kitchen was located opposite the vestibule on the north side of the dwelling.
Keeper Raimon Romero discovered a bottle with a message inside near Puerto Ferro Lighthouse on November 17, 1912. The message indicated that the bottle had been set adrift at a point in the Atlantic Ocean about 240 miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia on October 12, 1907. It was thus surmised that the bottle had made a circuit of the North Atlantic in just over five years.
In 1912, a request was made to purchase a half-acre parcel inland from Puerto Ferro Lighthouse for the establishment of a new watershed and cistern, as the water being collected from the roof of the lighthouse was being contaminated by sea spray due to the proximity of the lighthouse to the ocean.
In Reports of the Department of Commerce for 1913, it was recommended that $34,000 be spent to establish a lighthouse at Port Real. The following explanatory note accompanied the recommendation.
The lighthouse at Port Ferro, on the south coast of Vieques, or Crab Island, is one of the primary seacoast lights of the Porto Rican system. The light tower and keepers’ dwelling attached to it are built on top of a rocky promontory undermined for some time by the sea, and the whole structure, already dangerously cracked, is in danger of collapsing. It is urgent to rebuild a lighthouse at or near this point, as this is an important aid to the navigation from St. Thomas to Cuba and other West Indian Islands and the Caribbean Sea. A light in this vicinity is necessary for navigation, and it is proposed to dismantle the present Port Ferro Light Station and to erect a new light station at Port Real, about 3 miles westward where the aid will be more useful and on better ground than on its present location at Port Ferro, as Port Real is the most important and the best anchorage around Vieques Island.
This requests for funds was repeated for over a decade, but Puerto Ferro Lighthouse continued to operate until it was boarded up and abandoned in 1926. On May 2, 1922, two earthquake shocks were felt at the lighthouse. The second was somewhat stronger than the first and opened up cracks in two different places in the kitchen chimney. A more severe earthquake struck the station on March 19, 1925 at 4:50 a.m. This tremor caused some of the mercury used to float the lens to slosh out onto the lantern room floor, and the lens stopped revolving until the keepers were able to repair it the following morning. The quake enlarged existing cracks in the building and created new cracks in the roof of the dwelling.
After this accidental death, local residents started practicing civil disobedience by setting up camps inside the bombing range. The protesters gained the support of several political activists, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Al Sharpton both of whom were imprisoned for trespassing on the Navy’s property on Vieques. During his prison term, Kennedy’s wife Mary gave birth to the couple’s sixth child, whom they named Aidan Caohman Vieques Kennedy.
On June 13, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the Navy would suspend its bombing in 2003 and leave Vieques. The citizens of Vieques held a celebration on May 1, 2003, when the military ended its nearly sixty-year-long control of most of the island. The area around Puerto Ferro Lighthouse is now part of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. While a good portion of the refuge remains off-limits, the peninsula on which the lighthouse sits and a few spectacular beaches nearby are open to the public.
Today, Puerto Ferro Lighthouse is missing its lantern room and is in dire need of restoration. When the lighthouse was abandoned, an automated skeletal tower, shown in the black and white photograph above, was erected adjacent to the lighthouse. The tower supported a beacon that produced a white flash every four seconds, but eventually succumbed to corrosion and collapsed, leaving no navigational aid on the point.
Located on the central southern coast of Vieques Island. The lighthouse was formerly within the U.S. Navy's Camp Garcia, but is now part of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
I had originally planned to take the ferry to Vieques, but when I was unable to secure a reservation, I decided to book a flight rather than face the lengthy ferry lines that accompany a long holiday weekend. With a duration of just eleven minutes, the flight from Ceiba to Vieques was the shortest I have ever taken and provided some fairly decent views. When I had tried to book a rental car on Vieques, I was laughed at as no company would rent a car for just one day during Holy Week. One kind man finally asked me what I wanted to do on the island and recommended that I instead hire a driver he knew to take us between our destinations. This turned out to be a good thing, as it was less expensive than a rental car, and the driver, who had been on the island for almost twenty years, used to run a company that offered tours of the island’s famous biloluminescent Mosquito Bay and was very knowledgeable about the goings-on of the island.
See our List of Lighthouses in Puerto Rico
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.