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Great Isaac Lighthouse

 


 

Maritime lore says that wherever different bodies of water meet, strange things are bound to occur. The Lighthouse at Great Isaac, about 18 nautical miles NNE of Bimini, resides in exactly such a place – at the intersection of the Northwest Providence Channel, the Great Bahama bank and the straits of Florida. And true to the old wisdom, it has a history replete with ghosts, wrecks and unexplained disappearances.

 

Great Isaac Island is not much more than an oversized rock smack dab in the middle of an otherwise empty patch of sea, save for a couple of even smaller rock outcroppings nearby. The nearest inhabited island is Bimini to the southwest. The 152 foot tall lighthouse was automated in the mid 1970’s so it’s no longer manned, though the question of whether it is “inhabited” is the subject of heated debate.

 

 

"The lighthouse is no longer manned, though the question of whether it is inhabited is subject to debate."

 

 

The iron structure was originally built as an exhibit for the Great London Exposition of 1852. A few years later it was shipped in pieces to its current home in the Bahamas. Originally known as Victoria Light in honor of the reigning Queen of England, the lighthouse was established to help guide tall ships safely past the nearby rocks and shoals as they transited the Northwest Providence channel.

 

 

Trouble plagued the lighthouse almost from the start. Rumors say she was originally bound for Sri Lanka but the trip ended in failure, though no one seems sure exactly what went wrong. Then during construction at her current location, a British supply-ship wrecked while delivering parts. All crew survived with one gruesome exception, the ship’s boy who was eaten by sharks. According to Bimini historian Ashley Saunders, years later a small infant was the sole survivor of a shipwreck on Great Isaac. The child’s distraught mother, known as the Grey Lady, is said to haunt the island to this very day, wailing in sorrow during the full moon.

 

But strange happenings are not limited to long ago history. In 1969 two unlucky lighthouse keepers joined the rock’s mysterious lore. It was August 4th when locals discovered that keepers Ivan Major and B. Mollings had suddenly disappeared - no distress calls, no sightings, no reports of anything amiss. Subsequent investigation of the island shed no light on the matter. It was as if Major and Mollings had simply walked into the surf and vanished forever. To this day no plausible explanation has emerged and the two remain missing

 

Haunted? Maybe. Fishable? Definitely.

Its remote location reduces fishing pressure and the rocky ocean floor makes for excellent bottom fishing; grouper, snapper, barracuda and many other species inhabit the locale. But be patient, while the area in general is good, the prime spots can be hard to find so expect to do some hunting around when you get there. You can also try nearby fishing spots such as Hen & Chickens, East Isaac and the Gingerbread grounds. These areas are normally un-crowded and you’ll seldom have more than one or two other boats for company. Often you’ll have the place all to yourself.

 

For the explorer types who simply want to get away from it all, Great Isaac is ideal. The lighthouse has recently been repainted and is quite picturesque. There are no docks but you can dinghy ashore and explore the island, assuming you’re not intimidated by its notorious history. The old buildings are pretty much intact and locals say the ancient cistern still holds water.

 

In the end, no one can say for certain whether the remote little island is truly haunted. But those who have visited invariably speak of an eerie, almost sinister sense of foreboding that lies just below the surface.

 

Great Isaac Facts

Though unmanned, the lighthouse is a functioning aid to navigation on government property so act accordingly.

• Built in 1852

• Erected late 1850’s

• 152 feet high

• Painted white

• Flashing white light, every 15 secs

• Visible 23 nautical miles

• Government operated

• Automated and unmanned

• Charted as Great Isaac Fl 15s 46m 23M

 

Getting There

The route to Great Isaac is fairly straightforward. You simply run a course northeast along the edge of the bank in deep water until you see the lighthouse – making sure you don’t run into the Hen and Chickens along the way! From Bimini the run is about 18 nautical miles. Once you see the lighthouse, proceed in cautiously. The water is fairly deep almost up to the island but the bottom is a combination of sand, rock and coral.

 

Note that the diagram is for illustrative purposes only, NOT navigation. Depths and other important navigational information are not shown.

 

Position (approximately 1 nm west of)

N° 26 01.500

W° 79 06.700

   
             
 

 

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