Exploring Nantucket: Sankaty Head Lighthouse

This is the first in a series of posts to help you get to know the history and features of Nantucket island. Our first stop: Sankaty Head lighthouse.


One of the most dramatic views on Nantucket can be found at Sconset Bluffs, a sheer sandy cliff that’s been slowly tumbling into the ocean for years, and taking some beautiful homes with it on occasion. Presiding over the bluffs, but set back at a safe distance, is Sankaty Head light.

It was originally built in 1850 to warn sailors approaching the treacherous shoals of Nantucket. Its light was equipped with a Fresnel lens, making it the second brightest light on the eastern seaboard of the US at the time. It took a chief lighthouse keeper and two assistants to keep the manual works of the light running.

Over the years, the lighthouse got several upgrades. Telephone and telegraph lines were installed in 1886. In 1933, the original kerosene vapor lamp was replaced with an electric light, increasing the candlepower of the light over seven-fold. The old clockwork mechanism was also replaced with an automated electric system. The Fresnel lens was removed in 1950 and replaced with a pair of aerobeacons.

kack_web_15As the bluff the light sits on eroded, the tower found itself growing precariously close to the edge. In the early 1990’s, the buildings surrounding it were removed – some to elsewhere on the island, and some destroyed. After a storm in 1991 tore away a huge chunk of the bluff near the lighthouse, a “Save our Sankaty” committee was formed to rescue the structure from doom. In 2007, workers drilled holes in the foundation through which steel beams were threaded. Using a set of rollers, the entire lighthouse was moved 390 feet to the northwest and 250 feet from the bluff’s edge to a safer perch, where it can be visited today.

This lighthouse, along with two others and numerous Nantucket landmarks can be explored in Nantucket Island, our scenery for FSX and P3D3.

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  • seejay

    January 23, 2017, 8:30 am

    Interesting stuff Bill.. it seems to me that I saw a TV Doc concerning the moving of that Lighthouse, a while back.