Book Tells of the Most Expensive, Dangerous and Remote Lighthouse Ever Built

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Dennis Powers' new historical nonfiction book "Sentinel of the Seas" captures the tumultuous history of and the lives influenced by the St. George Reef Lighthouse.

Though tales of gallant sailors have captivated readers for centuries, true courage in the face of dangerous and mighty seas isn't always found onboard a ship. Facing unforgiving waves from an isolated rocky reef 12 miles from the closest port can be just as treacherous, as Dennis Powers demonstrates with his new historical non-fiction book "Sentinel of the Seas: Life and Death at the Most Dangerous Lighthouse Ever Built" (ISBN 0806528427, Citadel, 2007).

"Sentinel of the Seas" is a riveting historical excursion into the history of the St. George Reef Lighthouse, located off the coast of Northern California. The lighthouse was built in response to the tragedy of the S.S. Brother Jonathan, a steamship that sunk in 1865 after hitting the reef on which the lighthouse is now perched. Because of the lighthouse's remote location, everything from its construction to operation and maintenance was a dangerous undertaking, requiring incredible bravery from those involved. The St. George Reef Lighthouse took 10 years to construct and was the most expensive American lighthouse ever built, costing as much as 20 conventional lighthouses.

"Sentinel of the Seas" shares the stories of those who risked--and lost--their lives for the St. George Reef Lighthouse, beginning with engineer Alexander Ballantyne, whose job included the near-impossible task of transporting six one-ton granite blocks from a quarry 75 miles away to the lighthouse site. Powers spent five years researching the lighthouse by poring through national archives and original journals, and conducting personal interviews with Coast Guardsmen who served as lighthouse keepers in the 1950s. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1975 and is now only accessible via helicopter.

Powers' research suggests that because of the lighthouse's massive, medieval-looking façade and isolated setting, it was much like a prison for its keepers, who were often trapped there for months at a time during harsh Nor'wester storms. During his research, Powers found several accounts of keepers being rescued from the Coast Guard after suffering mental breakdowns and other accounts that maintained one or two lookouts simply disappeared after the seas crashed over the reef. Tending to the lighthouse simply was not for the weak of heart and "Sentinel of the Seas" offers amazing insight into the lives of those who risked all to be a part of this courageous chapter of American history.

About the Author
Dennis M. Powers resides in Ashland, Oregon. He holds a bachelor of the arts degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a law degree from the University of Denver Law School and a business degree from Harvard Business School. He is an avid historian of nautical life and author of several other books, including "Treasure Ship," a historical non-fiction book about the S.S. Brother Jonathan, which sank in 1865 near the present-day St. George Reef Lighthouse.

"Sentinel of the Seas: Life and Death at the Most Dangerous Lighthouse Ever Built" (ISBN 0806528427, Citadel, 2007) can be purchased through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit Publicity contact: Review copies available upon request.

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