Refuelling a Lighthouse

Refuelling a Lighthouse

photo credit Ron Amundsen

British Columbia (BC) lighthouses mostly have diesel generators unless they are close enough to a large town or city to allow a power cable to run to them.

So how does one refuel a lighthouse as most of them are sitting fairly high above the water line and very distant from a local gas station?

Well, thanks to the lighthouse keepers at Scarlett Point lighthouse and Ivory Island lighthouse for giving me permission to use their photos, I can now show you. 

Scarlett Point lighthouse – Google Maps

Ivan Dubinsky at Scarlett Point lighthouse, north of Port Hardy, BC has been photographing anything that moves and does not move at his lighthouse with his new camera and posting them on Facebook. He now has quite a few followers admiring his photos.

OK, back to the refuelling. There are many ways that I have seen it done. From most to least expensive we have helicopter slinging in fuel drums or bladders, hovercraft carrying fuel in it’s tanks, and Coast Guard ships pumping it into a fuel barge and moving it to shore.

           CG253_Ivan_DubinskyRefuelling Entrance_Ivan_DubinskyCCGS Bartlett_Ivan_Dubinsky

Scarlett Point lightstation

Ok, one photo above shows the CCGS Bartlett coming to the lightstation. The fuel barge with deck crew is lowered over the side of the ship, and tied alongside. A workboat from the Bartlett is readied to tow it to shore.

Before that happens the workboat runs a few men ashore to man the lines, valves and help the lightkeepers with the fuelling.

From the reserve diesel oil tanks on the Bartlett diesel fuel is pumped into the tanks on the fuel barge. When full, the barge is untied and pushed, towed, or moved slowly towards shore. I am not sure of the correct nautical terminology for dragging something beside a motorized boat! Maybe the term is barged!




Dubinsky_Scarlett_Refuelling_2014_09Shoreside the capped fuel lines are taken from the barge and pulled ashore and hooked into the stainless oil pipeline running to the station fuel tanks. Valves are checked, valves are opened on the bulk tanks, and radio calls acknowledge that all is ready for pumping. The large diesel pump on the barge starts slowly and as fuel reaches the bulk tank and no leaks or breaks are detected, then the engine opens up and the fuel roars into the near empty bulk tanks.


IvoryIvory - Lise DesmancheOK, let’s skip to Ivory Island lighthouse further north near Bella Bella, BC. Lise Desmanche, wife and assistant keeper, has kindly given me permission to use her refuelling photos. She posts on Facebook under the title Ivory Island Lightstation.

Same procedure but different photos.

   Ivory Island Refuelling_2014_03 Ivory Island Refuelling_2014_05 Ivory Island Refuelling_2014_01Ivory Island Refuelling_2014_02Ivory Island Refuelling_2014_04




Thanks to everybody for the – great photos! I know we always enjoyed having the crews visit – retlkpr

PS We also used to refuel the fridge with beer from the ship’s canteen at the same time!


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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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