• Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Salem Maritime

    National Historic Site Massachusetts

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  • Central Wharf Restrooms Closed

    The Central Wharf public restrooms will be closed on Thursday and Friday, September 18th and 19th for exterior door replacement. They are scheduled to reopen on Saturday at 9am.

  • Fishing Prohibition on Hold

    On 8/20/14 the park issued a rule change prohibiting fishing throughout the park due to concerns over water quality and visitor safety. The fishing prohibition is now on hold, pending further review - click for more information. More »

Derby Wharf Light Station

Derby Wharf Light station
Derby Wharf Light Station has stood on the end of Derby Wharf since 1871.
NPS photo
 

Derby Wharf Light Station has aided navigation in Salem Harbor since it was first lit in 1871. The Derby Wharf Light, along with the Hospital Point Light in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Fort Pickering Light Station on Winter Island in Salem, were designed to “mark the main channel leading into this anchorage, with the view to its becoming a harbor of refuge which may be safely entered at any time,” in the words of the 1870 report of the lighthouse board to the U.S. Treasury. The lighthouse is located on the end of Derby Wharf. Derby Wharf Light is about twelve feet square and about 20 feet high to the top of the cupola.

Originally, the light was powered by an oil lamp shining through a Fresnel lens. Fresnel lenses are designed to focus and intensify light, and are rated by orders, from first order lenses that are used in the largest seacoast lights, and are almost nine feet tall, to sixth order lights, that are about 17 inches tall. For many years, Derby Wharf Light had one of only 17 sixth-order Fresnel lenses in the United States. Today, the light is solar powered, and the light is a red flash every six seconds.

 

For more information:

“Derby Wharf Light Station,” Volume VIII, Number 7 of Salem Maritime’s occasional newsletter Pickled Fish and Salted Provisions (2.5M pdf file)

On Derby Wharf:
Salem’s Historic Wharves

On Lighthouses in the United States:
The National Park Service’s Lighthouse Heritage Page

Did You Know?

The octant is a navigational tool based on the curve of one eighth of a circle. It measures angles for solar and celestial navigation.

In 1799, Salem native Nathaniel Bowditch revised John H. Moore's New Practical Navigator, the standard navigation manual of the 18th century. Bowditch discovered and corrected over 8,000 errors in Moore's manual! In 1802, Bowditch published the New American Practical Navigator.