At vandal-free tip of breakwater, Saint John harbour light will shine brighter

For more than 90 years, a lighthouse on the edge of Courtenay Bay has helped navigators find a safe route into Saint John Harbour. Now, the Canadian Coast is ensuring the light will continue shine, only brighter, for years to come.

Coast Guard installing siding, lantern house, and soon, brighter lights

When work is complete, James McCavour of the Canadian Coast Guard said the lighthouse will look much more like a traditional lighthouse. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

For more than 90 years, a lighthouse on the edge of Courtenay Bay has helped navigators find a safe route into Saint John Harbour. 

The Courtenay Bay breakwater stretches about 1.5 kilometres from the east side of the harbour, cutting the wind and waves for ships. 

And at its tip, among Second World War bunkers, is the lighthouse. It dates back to at least the 1950s in its concrete form and to the 1920s, when it was made of wood.

Now, changes are being made again to the lighthouse to ensure its light will continue to shine, only brighter, for years to come.

McCavour said when the project is complete, the lighthouse will not only be more visible but will require less maintenance. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

For two weeks now, the Canadian Coast Guard Coast Guard workers have been traversing staging to install aluminum panels on the lighthouse. While it will protect the structure, when finished, James McCavour said, it will also improve its function.

"It will be much more visible than before," said McCavour, a foreman with the Canadian Coast Guard. "It just blended in with the rest of the concrete at the end of this breakwater."

Even with modern navigation systems, GPS, he said the lighthouse was identified by captains, harbour pilots, and shipping companies as an important feature of the harbour.

This cupola from a decommissioned lighthouse will be added to the Courtenay Bay light next week. (Submitted by: James McCavour)

The siding isn't the only improvement. A cupola lantern house from another decommissioned lighthouse will be added as the project winds down over the next week.

McCavour said plans are also in place to upgrade the light and the solar power that keeps it going. When that is complete, he said, it will increase the light output by about 30 to 40 percent.

The original wooden lighthouse, which once stood on the breakwater was built in 1927. McCavour doesn't know exactly when the current lighthouse was built, but there are photos of it from the 1950s. It's unusual because the doorway is flush with the bunker directly in front of it.

A Second World War bunker has been untouched by vandals because the breakwater is fenced off to the public. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Also unusual for the area, is the absence of graffiti and vandalism, which have been inflicted on similar sites in the harbour. The only access to the breakwater by land is fenced off.

"This is one of the few locations where they're pretty well intact," said McCavour.

The main bunker, which once housed a gun emplacement and likely a searchlight during the Second Worldl War, also contains some rare marvels.

McCavour described the vacant behemoth as being like a cave, with stalactites and stalagmites hanging and rising throughout.

McCavour said walking into the bunker next to the lighthouse is like walking into a cave because of the stalactites. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

He's worked on Coast Guard infrastructure throughout the Maritimes but said he's never seen mineral formations like those inside the Courtenay Bay bunker.

About the Author

Matthew Bingley


Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.