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Press Release | Nov. 7, 2023

Coast Guard returns Fresnel lens to Montauk Point Lighthouse

NEW YORK – The Coast Guard re-lit a clam shell Fresnel lens Monday at Montauk Point Lighthouse, New York, as part of a data collection pilot program with the support and partnership of the Montauk Historical Society.


This two-year program aims to assess Fresnel lens operation and condition in an environmentally controlled lantern room.


Montauk Point Lighthouse is the fourth oldest lighthouse in the country. It was commissioned in 1792 by President George Washington and remains as one of only 12 National Historic Landmark lighthouses in America.


"I am very excited about moving into the next chapter of the long history of Lighthouses and their importance to the United States' Marine Transportation System from the early days of our fledgling country to their rebirth through partnership with local historical societies,” said Capt. Steven Ramassini, the chief of the Office of Navigation Systems (CG-NAV). “This pilot program will not only return a historic landmark to its original state of prominence for the next two years, it will provide meaningful data to ensure the preservation of important artifacts of our country's rich maritime history well into the future."


The 3 ½ Order Fresnel lens was made in Paris, France by Barbier, Bernard and Turenne and served in the lighthouse from 1903 until 1987. Since then, it has been on display in the Montauk Lighthouse museum, but was fully restored and converted from a mercury-bath rotation system to a new motorized gear rotation system by the MHS in 2022. These important operational artifacts and national heritage assets represent a unique aspect of lighthouse, Coast Guard and American history. Due to their historical significance, fragility and high value, Fresnel lenses require their own set of maintenance and preservation conditions not provided by modern Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Teams. Active use of Fresnel lenses is not conducive to long term preservation of these artifacts.


This Pilot Program aims to quantify and document standards of care required to maintain operating Fresnel lenses and to establish appropriate plans of action for the remaining Fresnels operating across the Coast Guard. For the next two years, the Coast Guard will partner with MHS to ensure proper care of the Fresnel lens and lantern room environmental data monitoring.