The National Aids to Navigation Museum

aids to navigation museum

2nd Order Fresnel Lens, over 7 ft tall, displayed a flashing light and in 1934 the light was reportedly seen a record 53.6 miles away. (image from the video)

The National Aids to Navigation Museum is located in Yorktown, Virginia at the USCG Training Center, in the atrium of Canfield Hall.  The Museum is open to everyone that has access to the base, this sadly limits the access by the public (they do say that limited access tours may be available to groups with prior notice), I found this short video tour of the Museum online for those that can’t travel back to the east coast or don’t have access to get onto a U.S. Coast Guard base.

The use of lighted manned Aids to Navigation go back almost 300 years in the U.S with the first lighthouse keepers beginning in 1716.  Lighted ATON’s (Aids to Navigation) have come a long way since the first fires were lit on raised platforms.

The Museum has the most complete collection of Fresnel lenses on display in the U.S.

The video is short (6:44) and  has no narration but does have titles and a musical background.  Downloading the Museum Brochure  and looking at it before viewing the video works the best (I did it in reverse).

For a look inside Seattle’s own Alki Point Lighthouse in West Seattle and information on FREE tours during the summer, please see: Alki Point Lighthouse History & Tours

A display of Aids to Navigation can also be found in Seattle at the Coast Guard Museum at Pier 36 in Seattle: The U.S. Coast Guard Museum, Seattle, Washington

National Aids to Navigation Museum home page.  There is also a copy of the 1956 NATON Manual in case you wonder what it took to maintain an Aid to Navigation in 1956.

A brochure that covers many of the exhibits in the Museum (PDF 430kb)

Lighthouses, Lightships, Tenders & Other Aids to Navigation Subjects (USCG History Site)

More history on ATON’s, Light Ships, Light Houses and more can be found at the U.S. Lighthouse Society Useful Links page.


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