small 1000-watt lamp in the center of the scintillating cylinder is the "light" itself.
The illuminant of the Lighthouse Service has been changed whenever a
better one has been found. The "fier-balls of pitch and ocum" used in 1673 at
Boston harbor, were followed by the tallow candles of 1716, these in turn giving
way to fish oil burned in the spider-lamps of Sandy Hook. Sperm oil and
vegetable oil next had their day, only to be succeeded by lard oil. This last named
fuel was the first illuminant of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The racks for the oil
drums and the tiny lamp, used in 1872, may be seen today.
As early as 1855 the Lighthouse Board had made cautious experiments
with the now "earth oil" or petroleum, but condemned it for its explosive properties
and for "its great volume of smoke." However, one lighthouse keeper on Lake
Michigan determined to be a trail-blazer and used petroleum on his own initiative.
Soon after commending its use he attempted to extinguish the lamp by blowing
down its chimney. He seems to have made good time down the tower for the
report reads "He had scarcely reached the foot of the staircase, with his clothes
afire, when another explosion took place, which blew the whole lantern from the
tower and effectually destroyed the lenticular apparatus."
With this catastrophe in mind it was many years before the Lighthouse
Service adopted the petroleum lamp, but finally St. Augustine Light was equipped
with a mantel-lamp, which burned kerosene. The modern electrical equipment is a