Monday, July 22, 2024

Occupation: Lighthouse Keeper |

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
"Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic."

Ralph Eldridge believes that the job of a lighthouse keeper is probably one of the least understood. However, it is among the simplest, according to him, which he has been practicing for 50 years.

The job is romantic. Old pirates with wooden legs above the lighthouse in the middle of the storm This is from HollywoodHe said with a smile on his face. It is now very rare for humans to visit the lighthouse, and even more so, the upper part of it as in the days when the lantern was powered by an oil lamp.

Ralph Eldridge is flown by helicopter to Machias Island where he works for 28 days. Then his schedule states 28 days off.

Photo: Radio Canada/Maud Montembault

His duties are carried out from the lighthouse man’s house, a small dwelling next to the lighthouse, and consist principally of making sure that the fire, fog and radio equipment is working.

What occupies most of his time: bureaucracy. He remembers spending more time filling out papers in a week than he did in one year at some point.

Occupation: Lighthouse Keeper

Guardian of an exceptional immigration shelter

The advent of new technologies on board ships in particular shows that the number of staff has been reduced over the years. In the Bay of Fundy alone, Ralph Eldridge had about 70 keepers for about 30 lighthouses when he began his career in 1971. There are now only four rangers, all located on Machias Island.

The island is located where the Bay of Fundy becomes the Gulf of Maine. It is an exceptional haven for migratory birds, especially ladies. Among them, small penguins and puffins. A true organic gem, summarizes Gary Donaldson, biologist and director of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Puffin resting on a rock in the center of the image.

When our team visited at the end of June 2021, puffins outnumbered raspberries on Machias Island.

Photo: Maud Montembault

The environment is rich in plankton and fish, making it the best place in the area for birds to come and raise their young there every year. It is also a place of research for many scientists.

The Gulf of Maine is among the warmest waters on the planet due to climate changeGary Donaldson says: It is difficult for scientists to fully understand what is going on underwater. By watching birds, they better understand what is going on in the bay.

A man is walking on a road near a body of water with a camera in his hand.  Behind him is a hideout for bird watching.

Gary Donaldson, on Grand Manan Island. As a manager, he rarely gets a chance to go out into the field. So he takes advantage of his rare outings to photograph the bird species he encounters.

Photo: Maud Montembault

Gary Donaldson says puffins aren’t just fun to look at with their funny looks. They are after divers. When they go to eat their food, they don’t dive and swing their feet like you might think. In fact, it is as if they are flying underwater because they are also spreading their wings. Thus, the depth of puffins can reach 40 meters while the height of puffins reaches 200 meters.

Because they can reach farther underwater, scientists have found that young penguins are more resistant to higher water temperatures.

Birds come and go all year round, so it is very important to have lighthouse keepers to keep track of what happens to the birds when University of New Brunswick students are not around.

Quote from:Gary Donaldson, biologist and Director of Wildlife and Protected Areas Assessment for the Canadian Wildlife Service, Atlantic Region

In the summer, during the nesting period, a limited number of tourists can visit them on the island. Observation should be carried out from the lair to avoid disturbing the birds.

Louise Dugway has booked her visit to Machias Island for several months. It was really touching seeing them so close, inside, oh my goodness, two feet and three feet. It was really special.

On the back seat of the boat, Claude Lepage is embracing his wife.  Behind them is a rowboat.

Claude Lepage and Louise Duguay, on vacation on the island of Greater Manan, decide to go to the island of Machias to observe the Alkyds.

Photo: Maud Montembault

Since the pandemic, an Edmundston woman has photographed a different bird every week. Puffins and his baby penguins will be ranked 156th and 157th.

Guardian of Canadian Territory

What makes Machias Island special, according to biologist Gary Donaldson, is that it is probably one of the only protected areas in the world covered by the laws of two different states.

The sovereignty of the island is a source of dispute between Canada and the United States. Canada settled in the small area. The United States considers it to be at the same height as their country. But the lobster-rich waters are the subject of tensions among fishermen in particular.

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Despite this feud between the neighboring countries, Louise Dugway enjoys it. It’s very unique, frankly, to be able to experience that. Maybe once in our lives we will come.

An American flag boat sails with tourists on board.  In the foreground, little penguins stand on the rocks.

Only one Canadian boat and one American boat are allowed to approach Machias Island each day.

Photo: Maud Montembault

Every summer day, a Canadian boat and an American boat dock there, with no more than 15 passengers on board. It is important to respect the visitor limit. So lighthouse keepers ensure there is no abuse.

Ralph Eldridge says it’s no secret that having employees on the island is a political issue. But apart from that, witnesses have shown that few people can see every day. It appears that he intends to attend for a long time to come. Even after 50 years of his career, he wants you to continue for several more years.

Thus, the lighthouse keeper will be able to continue to fill his wonderful gallery with pictures, which he can pick up upon completion of his administrative duties.

Ralph Eldridge with his camera.

After his stay on the island, Ralph Eldridge brings home souvenirs.

Photo: Maud Montembault

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