Historic beacon offers a memorable hike, destination

| March 11, 2016 | 3 Comments
The hike to Makapu'u Lighthouse offers a glimpse of the world’s largest lighthouse lens that was first unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. (Photo by Joseph Bonfiglio, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District The hike to Makapu'u)

The hike to Makapu’u Lighthouse offers a glimpse of the world’s largest lighthouse lens that was first unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. (Photo by Joseph Bonfiglio, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District)

Walter T. Ham IV
Office of Navigation Systems (CG-NAV-3)                                U.S. Coast Guard HeadquartersWalter T. Ham IV
WAIMANALO — From the Makapu’u Light on Oahu’s southeastern most point, the world’s largest lighthouse lens reflects a beam that can be seen from 19 nautical miles away.
The 12-foot-tall and 8-foot-wide hyper-radiant Fresnel lens takes up more than a quarter of the space inside the 46-foot-tall lighthouse.

With more than a thousand prisms, the lens is almost 5-feet-taller than the First Order Fresnel lens in America’s tallest lighthouse, the 207-foot-tall Cape Hatteras Light in the North Carolina Outer Banks. It is wide enough for several people to stand inside.

“It is, by far, the largest lens that I have ever seen,” said Chief Petty Officer Ernest W. Rucker, who leads the Honolulu-based U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) that maintains the lens.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard  Displaying its impressive height, a man stands next to the Makapu’u fresnel light in this undated photo.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard
Displaying its impressive height, a man stands next to the Makapu’u fresnel light in this undated photo.

The hyper-radiant lens was unveiled at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. Once it reached Hawaii, pieces of the giant lens were hoisted from a moving ship up the steep lava slope and reassembled in the lighthouse.

Lit in 1909, the Makapu’u Lighthouse shines across the Kaiwi Channel between the islands of Oahu and Molokai.

Hiking trail
The state of Hawaii maintains a trail that climbs more than 500 feet to a whale watching site above the lighthouse. From the summit, the islands of Lanai and Molokai are visible on a clear day.
Martha Yent from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks, said the state renovated the trail last year. The accessible trail is pet friendly and bikes are allowed.

“It is popular with residents for exercise and the opportunity to view the historic lighthouse from the scenic lookouts,” said Yent.

Navigation aid
The Makapu’u Light is among the more than 48,000 Aids to Navigation (ATON) maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, including buoys, beacons, ranges, sound systems and electronic aids that guide mariners through U.S. coastal, intracoastal and inland waterways.

Located in the 14th Coast Guard District, the Makapu’u Lighthouse is one of nine lighthouses that have elevators named after them in the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Honolulu-based 14th District covers more than 12.2 million square miles from the 50th state to the Far East, with units in Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii, American Samoa, Saipan, Guam, Singapore and Japan.

Trail users walk down the paved road of Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail, Jan. 18. The Molokai Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline is easily visible from the trail. (Photo by Christine Carbalo, Oahu Publications)

Trail users walk down the paved road of Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail, Jan. 18. The Molokai Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline is easily visible from the trail. (Photo by Christine Carbalo, Oahu Publications)

In addition to the Makapu’u Light, the Honolulu Aids to Navigation Team maintains 96 fixed navigational aids around the Hawaiian Islands.

Rucker said the aids mark multiple near shore reefs.
The chief said the navigational aids shepherd mariners through the well-traveled waters around the Aloha State. Freighters sail to Honolulu from the U.S. west coast, and barges transport goods between the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii is also home to many fishing vessels, dive boats and cruise ships.

With land-based aids located from the south point on the Big Island of Hawaii to the small atoll known as Lihue Rock on the southwest coast of Kauai, the Honolulu ANT covers vast distances by helicopter and visits some very remote corners of the Hawaiian Islands.

160118-D-RT812-456“The ANT gets to go to some places that seldom get seen by humans,” said Rucker.

The Makapu’u Lighthouse is an exception. The lighthouse is one of the best known navigational aids in Hawaii.

An estimated 350,000 visitors hiked the Makapu’u trail in 2015, and the lighthouse has served as a location for many of the television shows filmed in Hawaii, including “Baywatch,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Magnum P.I.”

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Comments (3)

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  1. Nice story. It would have been great to acknowledge that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District actually built the lighthouse.

    The Corps’ history in Hawaii and the Pacific began in 1905 when Lt. Slattery became the District’s first commander. His original mission was to construct lighthouses for navigation, like Makapu’u.
    Makapu’u Lighthouse was built by the Corps in 1909 on a 600-foot sea cliff overlooking Makapu’u Beach in southeast Oahu. Makapu’u Point is an important location passed by all ships moving between Honolulu and the U.S. Mainland.
    The critical need for this light was demonstrated in August 1906 when the 27,000-ton S.S. Manchuria ran up on a reef off the point. Congress had already appropriated $60,000 for the light on October 1, 1909.
    The lens for this light was one of the wonders of the Pacific. Press clips of the time noted that the lens, which had been exhibited at the Jamestown Exposition, was one of the most expensive in the world.
    The lighthouse is 46-feet-tall (14 meters) and was fully automated in 1974. It is still an active U.S. Coast Guard navigation aid in use today.
    As “America’s Engineers in the Pacific,” the District’s civil works, military construction and environmental missions evolved over time — in periods of peace and war — for over 100 years.
    Today, the Honolulu District is a full-service District, providing a wide range of timely, effective, innovative solutions to meet our customers’ engineering, construction and environmental needs.
    The Honolulu District has seven primary missions: Military Construction, Civil Works, Interagency and International Services, Real Estate, Regulatory, Environmental Services, and Emergency Management.
    Honolulu District offers project management, design, construction management, contracting, cost engineering, and more.
    The Honolulu District’s area of operations is enormous – crossing five time zones, the international dateline and approximately 12 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean – and includes the territories of Guam, American Samoa and CNMI as well as the Freely Associated States including the Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

    Thanks! VR/

    Joseph Bonfiglio
    Chief of Public Affairs
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Honolulu District
    Ft. Shafter, Hawaii 96858
    Office (808) 835-4002 / 4004
    CEPOH-PA@USACE.ARMY.MIL
    http://www.poh.usace.army.mil
    http://www.facebook.com/HonoluluDistrict
    http://www.twitter.com/CorpsHonolulu
    http://www.youtube.com/HonoluluDistrict

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