Kristen Douglas

Lightkeepers prove their worth

Once again the federal government’s decision to keep lighthouses staffed has proved invaluable

Once again the federal government’s decision to keep lighthouses staffed has proved invaluable.

On Sunday, a lightkeeper stationed at Entrance Island, which is located near Nanaimo, helped save the lives of two kayakers in distress.

The lightkeeper swam from Entrance Island to a small island nearby where the two kayakers had managed to get to shore, cold and exhausted, and were waiting to be rescued.

The lightkeeper then managed to transport the male and female kayaker to Entrance Island where the pair were given dry clothes and warmth.

Why did the lightkeeper have to swim to the kayakers, you may ask?

According to the lightkeeper, the lightstation’s boat was in Victoria for repairs, with obviously no replacement vessel to be had.

Which shows just how much value the Coast Guard places on lightkeepers and their ability to save lives.

It’s unfortunate.

What if that lightkeeper decided not to make the swim?

The easy way out would have been to call for the Coast Guard or Search and Rescue, which it turned out was not able to get in close enough to make the rescue.

What if the lightkeeper hadn’t been there at all?

It was, after all, only five years ago that the federal government considered de-staffing all lightstations on cost-saving recommendations from the Canadian Coast Guard.

However, that attempt was quashed (as was an attempt in 1995) by the Canadian government in March of 2011 after a report from a Senate Standing Committee determined that lightkeepers are the eyes and ears of the coast, particularly in remote areas.

Indeed, lightkeepers have proven their worth over the years.

It was nearly one year ago today that a lightkeeper, again at Entrance Island, saved nine lives after their boat overturned in rough seas. The lightkeeper, who witnessed the entire incidet, raced to the scene in his boat and managed to pluck all nine from the water.

An impressive feat for someone that the Coast Guard didn’t even see value in having around.

Personally, I find it comforting to know there is someone out there keeping an eye on our mariners.

With the unpredictable weather patterns in our partsof the world and the ability for conditions to change on a dime, it’s important to have lightkeepers at the helm.

And there’s a reason that lightstations are where they are; they’re typically located off the shores of some of the most treacherous waters in the world and help navigate mariners around pieces of land that may not be visible to the naked eye.

It’s only natural that boaters may run into trouble in those very areas where lightkeepers are stationed.

With today’s innovative technology and computer systems, the argument can be made for automated lightstations but it’s a weak one.

I still believe computers cannot take the place of humans and, in particular, those humans who provide a valuable, life-saving service.

Until we have robots that can detect mariners who are in trouble and send out signals to deploy rescue boats, we need to support our lightkeepers.