Lighthouses of Canada: Sable Island

One of Canada's most remote outposts, Sable Island is a long, slender, sandy island located in the open Atlantic about 150 km (95 mi) southeast of mainland Nova Scotia and about 240 km (150 mi) east of Halifax. The island is crescent shaped and nearly 42 km (26 mi) long but nowhere more than 2 km (1.25 mi) wide. Low and sandy, the island is migrating rapidly eastward, about 60 m (200 ft) per year. Since the lighthouses were automated in 1960 there have been no long-term residents on the island, but Environment Canada and Parks Canada maintain a staff at all times at the Sable Island Station. The island is protected as the Sable Island National Park Reserve. It is attached administratively to Halifax County, Nova Scotia.

Visitors are allowed on the island from June through October, but they must register -- in advance -- with Parks Canada. The Sable Island Station provides restrooms and drinking water, but visitors are on their own otherwise.

The island has two historic light stations, but since 2012 neither is active. Rip Irwin's book, Lighthouses and Lights of Nova Scotia (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2003) is an essential reference for understanding these lighthouses.

Lighthouses in Canada are maintained by the Canadian Coast Guard, a unit of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 110.

General Sources
Nova Scotia Lighthouses
Fine photos by Paul Illsley.
Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society
This outstanding web site has a wealth of photos, information, and news.
List of Lights, Buoys, and Fog Signals
Official light lists from the Canadian Coast Guard.

Sable Island East Light
Sable Island East End Light, September 2005
Panoramio photo copyright Roger Savage; used by permission

Sable Island West End (8)
1980s (station established 1872). Inactive since 2004, except for flashing red aircraft warning lights. 26 m (85 ft) skeletal tower; the lower 2/3 is pyramidal and the upper 1/3 is cylindrical and carries large rectangular red and white daymarks. No lantern. A Coast Guard photo is at right, Illsley has a photo, and Google has a satellite view of the station. The west end of the island retreats rapidly eastward, causing the light station to be relocated in 1883, 1888, 1916, 1940, 1951, 1971, and 1980; the station is now about 10 km (6 mi) east of its original location. Michel Forand has a postcard view of the 1888 lighthouse, an octagonal tower with four robust buttresses. There's also a photo (right photo on the page) of the 1916 tower, a pyramidal skeletal tower with central cylinder; this design is common in the U.S. but rather rare in Canada. The present tower is almost identical to the 1940-1971 tower. The light was deactivated in July 2004; given the rapid erosion in the area it must be considered endangered. Located near the western tip of the island. Accessible only by boat or airplane. Site open, tower closed. Site manager: Canadian Coast Guard. ARLHS SAB-002; ex-CCG 665; ex-Admiralty H3586; ex-NGA 9568.
Sable Island (East End) (3)
1975 (station established 1873). Inactive since 2012. 18 m (59 ft) square cylindrical steel-wood tower with aluminum siding, lantern and gallery. Tower painted white with a red vertical stripe on each face; lantern painted red. The keeper's house, abandoned in 1960, has collapsed and largely disappeared under shifting sand dunes. Roger Savage's photo is at the top of this page, an excellent 2010 photo is available, Illsley has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. From 1935 to 1975 this station also had a pyramidal skeletal tower with central cylinder; Lighthouse Digest has a photo. Long considered a major navigational aid, the former light had a range of 33 km (21 mi). Due to the rapid migration of the island the light station is now more than a third of the way westward from the east end. Accessible only by boat or airplane. Site open, tower closed. Site manager: Canadian Coast Guard. ARLHS SAB-001; ex-CCG 666; ex-Admiralty H3584; ex-NGA 9572.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Sable Island West Light
Sable Island West End Light
Canadian Coast Guard photo

Adjoining page: West: Eastern Nova Scotia

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Posted June 2003 as part of the Nova Scotia page. Checked and revised February 22, 2019. Lighthouses: 2. Site copyright 2019 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.