On Saturday March 27 at the Oaklawn Cemetery in Baltimore Maryland, the Chapter honored Alexander Andersen for his many decades of service on lightships. This was the Chapter’s first ever Lighthouse Service grave marker installation for an employee who served exclusively on lightships. In addition to lighthouses, the U.S. Lighthouse Service also operated lighthouse tenders and lightships. These often forgotten “floating lighthouses” were utilized in the United States from 1820 to 1983. At the Chapter’s request, the manufacturer of the Lighthouse Service grave markers, the Lifesaving Service Markers Company, designed a new insignia for “Lightship Crew” just for this lightship sailor. This insignia is now available to honor all lightship sailors like Captain Andersen.
Captain Andersen was an experienced mariner, spending 10-plus years working for the Maryland Transportation Line on tugboats sailing between Baltimore and North Carolina ports. About 1912 he joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service, where his first assignment was as a mate on Light Vessel 52 on the Fenwick Light Station. He then transferred to be the mate on Light Vessel 49 on the Cape Charles Station. In 1915 he was promoted to master and assumed command of Light Vessel 80 on the Cape Lookout Station off the coast of North Carolina. Light Vessel 80 was then moved to the Cape Charles Station. In 1929 he was assigned as the perspective master of the LS116, a new state of the art lightship building at the Charleston Dry Dock company. Upon its completion in 1930, the LS116 was assigned to the Fenwick Station until 1933. It was then shifted to the Chesapeake Station, which was established when the Cape Charles Station was moved further offshore and more south. He served as the master of the Lightship 116 during many storms and hurricanes, eventually retiring from both the LS116 and the Lighthouse Service in 1937. In an interesting side note, Alexander’s brother, Anelius Andersen, had been a lightship sailor starting about 1901 and probably convinced Alexander to join the U.S. Lighthouse Service and to work on lightships.
The ceremony was held jointly with the Historic Ships in Baltimore (HSIB) Museum, which is the custodian of the Lightship 116, currently marked “Chesapeake”. The ship is one of the primary artifacts under the care of the HSIB museum, moored at Pier 3 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This ceremony commemorated the belated 90th anniversary of the lightship entering service in July 1930. It was fitting to honor both Lightship Captain Andersen and the lightship he commanded from 1930 to 1937, at one ceremony. The attendance was small as all of Alexander Andersen’s family now reside in many locations across the United States from Florida to Kentucky to Colorado and were unable to travel. For more information on the Lightship CHESAPEAKE, see our web page on Lightships and this web site www.lightship116-538.org
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