Lighthouses of the Northern Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are a chain of islands stretching
north to south in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. Guam is the largest
and southernmost of the islands; Saipan, Tinian, and Rota are the other
principal inhabited islands. The Marianas were colonized by Spain beginning
in 1668, and they continued under Spanish control until the Spanish-American
War of 1898. The U.S. captured and annexed Guam during that war, but
Spain transferred all the other islands to Germany. Japan then seized
the Northern Marianas from Germany in 1915, during World War I, and
moved quickly to establish a naval base on Tinian. The U.S. captured
the islands of Saipan and Tinian in very hard fighting in 1944, during
World War II.
After the war, the U.S. administered the Northern Marianas along with
Palau and the Caroline and Marshall Islands as the Trust Territory of
the Pacific Islands. In the 1970s, when the U.S. moved to grant independence
to these territories, the people of the Northern Marianas decided instead
to continue their association with the U.S. as a self-governing commonweath.
An agreement in 1975 paved the way for the establishment of the Commonwealth
of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 1978. The capital of the CNMI
is at Garapan on Saipan.
There are no active lighthouses in the islands, but there is a historic
Japanese lighthouse at Garapan and formerly there was a second one
ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS
World List of Lights.
Garapan Light, Saipan, 2006
photo copyright Paul Sturm; used by permission
- Saipan Lighthouse
- *** Garapan
- 1934. Inactive since 1941(?). Approx. 15 m (50 ft) concrete tower
rising from a 1-story concrete keeper's quarters. Paul Sturm has posted a portfolio of
photos, including the one above. The lighthouse, now
abandoned and open to the elements, is one of several built by Japan
to guide its ships to its bases in the central Pacific prior to World
War II. A photo and a second photo show the heavy damage the lighthouse suffered during the three-week Battle of Saipan in late June and early July 1944. However the U.S. Navy's 117th Naval Construction Battalion quickly restored the lighthouse so that it could be used as a signal station; Michel Forand has posted a photo of the restored building. The building was renovated and expanded in the early 1990s
as a restaurant, but it has been abandoned since 1995 and is in increasingly
poor condition. Sturm and other island residents have formed the Saipan
Lighthouse Historical Society to work for its restoration. Volunteers meet regularly to clean
up the lighthouse and fix what they can. However, Eric Johnson's
photo and Kerry Hill's August 2011 photo show
no major change in the building. In 2010, Congress appropriated $192,000 for an engineering study of the lighthouse as the proposed visitor center of the newly-created Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. However, it appears that the building is too small for this purpose. The lighthouse was placed on the U.S.
National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Located on the highest
point of Navy Hill behind the town of Garapan, the capital of the Northern
Mariana Islands, on the western side of Saipan. Site and tower open.
Information available on lost lighthouses:
- Tinian (1930s). This was an 11 m (36 ft) square concrete tower. A photo and a smaller version of the same photo are available, but clouds block Google's satellite view of the location, about 2 km (1.2 mi) south of the Sunharon waterfront. As far as I know, nothing survives of this lighthouse: but we need a report from a visitor!
Notable faux lighthouses:
Adjoining pages: North: Nanpō Islands | South: Guam
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Posted August 28, 2005. Checked and revised September 13, 2012.
Lighthouses: 1. Site copyright 2012 Russ Rowlett and the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill.