GROTON & NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — The only way to get to New London Ledge Lighthouse is by boat so if there is a problem it can become quite a project. Especially if the problem lay at the bottom of the Thames River. The historic lighthouse is powered by a mile long underwater cable which comes from Avery Point.
“We think there was a lightning strike back at the end of April that sent a charge down the cable,” said Todd Gipstein with the Ledge Light Foundation which maintains the building and provides public access.
The lightning strike is believed to have fried wires in the junction box on the outside of the lighthouse and appears to have damaged the cable thirty to forty feet off shore.
“In a way that’s good news because it’s not out here a half mile away in the middle of the water,” said Gipstein.
But there are lots of big rocks along the Groton shoreline and it may be hard to repair the damage.
“This is the underwater cable,” said Gipstein. “This is the terminus of it here at the lighthouse.”
The power outage hasn’t darkened lighthouse tours or the supposed ghost of Ernie the lighthouse keeper.
“One day he climbed up and jumped off the building as legend has it,” explains Gipstein.
A portable generator powers up the 15 minute documentary about Ledge Light and the air conditioner but it’s not enough to keep space heaters on in the damp basement or to power equipment needed to replace 11 leaking windows.
“They need table saws, they need big drills, they need bending equipment for casements,” said Gipstein. “That all has to be powered.”
The all volunteer Ledge Light Foundation counts on Project Oceanology to keep workers and visitors coming and is hoping for help to get to the bottom of the underwater power problem.
“If it’s easier to just write a check to pay for all that expertise we’ll take that as well,” Gipstein said playfully.
If the cable can’t be fixed they may go solar. The US Coast Guard already uses the sun to power the navigational light and fog horn which aren’t affected by this power problem.