Scotch Cap Light, Unimak Pass

Scotch Cap Light, Unimak Pass

by | May 31, 2021

The Scotch Cap Light is located on the southwest corner of Unimak Island, and the eastern shore of Unimak Pass, about 714 miles (1151 km) southwest of Anchorage and 81 miles (131 km) northeast of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The light provides a navigational aid at the eastern entrance to Unimak Pass for vessels following the Great Circle shipping route between Pacific Ocean ports in North America and Asia. A light station at Cape Sarichef marks the western entrance. The Scotch Cap Light is named after a prominent headland with an elevation of 422 feet (128 m) that resembles a Scotch Cap located 2.2 miles (3.5 km) to the west-northwest.

The original light station was built in 1903 on a wooden octagonal structure. This station was witness to several shipwrecks. In 1909, the cannery supply ship Columbia wrecked. The 194 crew members were guests of the keepers for two weeks before a rescue ship could remove them. In 1921, a radio beacon station with a telephone system was built in a separate building at a higher elevation by the Navy Department. This allowed navigation of ships and aircraft by radio direction finder. In 1930, the Japanese freighter Koshun Maru became lost in a snowstorm and beached near the light. In 1940, a new concrete reinforced lighthouse and fog-signal building were erected near the site of the original lighthouse at an elevation of 92 feet (28 m). In 1942, the Russian freighter Turksib wrecked near the station. The 60 survivors lived at the station for several weeks before a rescue ship arrived.

On April 1, 1946, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake triggered an underwater landslide on the North Pacific side of the Aleutian Islands that created a giant tsunami wave.  The tsunami traveled across the Pacific and killed 159 people in Hawaii, drowned a swimmer in Santa Cruz, damaged fishing boats in Chile, and wrecked a hut in Antarctica. A wave about 130 feet high (40 m) struck the lighthouse at 2:18 a.m, leaving nothing but the foundation and killing the entire crew, however, the radio beacon crew was spared. In 1950, a steel skeleton tower was built to replace the lighthouse and the light was automated in 1971. Read more here and here. Explore more of Scotch Cap here:

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