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A century-old sentinel falls

Amid the damage Hurricane Sandy caused was a loss that the human suffering and billions of dollars in shoreside destruction overshadowed.

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On Oct. 29, as Sandy plowed ashore near Atlantic City, N.J., the storm’s wind and surge swept into New York. About 3 miles southeast of Staten Island stood Old Orchard Shoal Light. The following morning, the 35-foot, cast-iron “spark plug” tower that had been atop the shoal since 1893 was gone.

A Google search turned up no reference to the loss, other than a mention on the light’s entry on Wikipedia. Coast Guard Station New York confirmed that it was destroyed, but Soundings has been unable to obtain comment on replacement plans — temporary or permanent.

The lighthouse was automated in 1955. It was commissioned after winter ice closed Staten Island Sound, forcing ships to transit the narrow channel that ran along the eastern shore of Staten Island. At that time Old Orchard Shoal was marked only by a bell buoy and a lighted buoy, which mariners considered inadequate.