|Slate Islands, ON|
Description: Situated a dozen kilometres offshore from Terrace Bay along the northern shore of Lake Superior, the Slate Islands archipelago is composed of two main islands, Patterson Island and Mortimer Island, five minor islands, and numerous islets. The islands are believed to have been formed by a large meteorite strike, and since 1907 they have been home to a herd of woodland caribou. In 1985, Slate Islands Provincial Park was formed to protect the archipelago.
In 1903, the Department of Marine had twin lighthouses built along Lake Superior’s northern shore at Otter Island and the Slate Islands. The following description of the tower on the Slate Islands was published in the department’s annual report for that year:
A lighthouse has been erected on the south extremity of the south Slate island [Patterson Island], in the north part of Lake Superior.Besides the lighthouses on Otter Island and the Slate Islands, William Fryer also built Île Parisienne Lighthouse and the Wilson Channel Range Lights.
As Peter King’s sons, we lived up to his name:
In 1908, the Lake Carriers’ Association recommended that a fog signal be established on Slate Islands in connection with the light there, but it wasn’t until 1914 that J. O’Boyle and Company of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario erected a frame building on the shore south of the lighthouse to shelter a diaphone fog alarm supplied by the Canadian Fog Signal Company of Toronto. Once placed in operation, the foghorn sounded a three-and-a-half-second blast each minute.
While the fog alarm was being installed, the characteristic of the light was changed to group flashing white, showing a group of two flashes every fifteen seconds in this manner: flash, three-and-a-half-second eclipse, flash, eleven-and-a-half-second eclipse. During the first half of the period, or seven-and-a-half seconds, the light was totally eclipsed, while for the other half a fixed light of 700-candlepower was shown, intensified by the flashes of 25,000 candlepower.
An automatic radiobeacon was established at the station in late October 1926. In clear weather, the radiobeacon’s characteristic was transmitted for three minutes each hour, but during foggy weather, it operated continuously, transmitting in a sequence with the radiobeacons on Michipicoten Island and Cove Island.
Slate Islands Lighthouse and its sister lighthouse on Otter Island share a somewhat unique feature: a beaver-shaped weathervane. Other lighthouses similarly adorned include Île Parisienne Lighthouse and Port Dalhousie Rear Range Lighthouse.
Slate Islands Lighthouse remains active today, still exhibiting a pair of white flashes every fifteen seconds. The light’s focal plane of 224 above Lake Superior makes it the highest light on the Great Lakes. Two modern keeper’s dwellings, the fog alarm building, a generator building, and a survival building are found on the southern shore of Patterson Island, while the original keeper’s dwelling remains standing on Sunday Harbour.
John Bryson served as keeper of Slate Islands Lighthouse for thirty years, and during the latter portion of his career, he and his family started to fix up the original keeper’s dwelling, which had fallen into disrepair. When he retired in 1978, the Canadian Coast Guard allowed Bryson to use the old dwelling as a summer home, and the Bryson family continues to lease and care for the structure to this day.
Keepers: Peter King (1903 – 1908), Alexander B. Sutherland (1908 – 1918), Charlie D. Lockwood (1918 – 1928), Ed A. Bousquet (1928 – 1944), Gerard Smith (1944 – 1947), David Mercer (1947 – 1948), John Bryson (1948 – 1978), Orten Rumley (1979 – 1989).
Located on the southern extremity of Patterson Island, one of the Slate Islands, 19 km (11.9 miles) offshore from Terrace Bay. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Megan Gamble, Paul Gamble, used by permission.