Lighthouse Keepers: Background information when reading The Light Between Oceans

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The Light Between Oceans

A Novel

by Margot L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2012, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2013, 384 pages

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Beyond the Book:
Lighthouse Keepers

In Margot L. Stedman's The Light Between Oceans, Tom Sherbourne takes a job as a lighthouse keeper in Janus Rock, Australia, a place where "the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best..." But what exactly do lighthouse keepers do? What purpose do they serve?

Lake Erie Lighthouse near Cleveland, circa 1833 Generally speaking, a lighthouse keeper is someone who maintains a lighthouse facility. This job was of course more relevant years ago during the 19th century when oil-fueled lanterns and clockwork-like gears were fundamental components of lighthouses, before computers and electric lights could be used for the job. (In 1912, Nils Gustaf Dalén won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of "automatic valves designed to be used in combination with gas accumulators in lighthouses," which made humans much less necessary in the process.) Tasks included cutting wicks, refilling lamps, winding clockwork components, shining reflective lenses, and cleaning windows.

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