The Nantucket South Shoals Lightship, numbered LV-117, was anchored 43 miles southeast of the island, beyond the outermost edge of the treacherous Nantucket Shoals and served as a major navigational beacon marking the western end of the trans-Atlantic shipping channel. Though prone to stormy seas and heavy fog, this position allowed incoming and outgoing vessels to heed the dangerous shoals by homing in on the lightship's radio signal.
She was a steel-hulled ship, 135 feet long, weighing in at 630 tons, with steel deckhouses fore and aft, a funnel amidship for exhaust, and two masts with electric lanterns on top of them. There was an electric foghorn on the mainmast. Like all lightships she was painted red with Nantucket spelled out in white to signal the location. The ship was held in place by a pair of 7,000 pound anchors attached to 2 inch diameter steel chain cables mooring her in approximately 180 feet of water.
The vessel was described at the time as "the newest thing in lightships, a great advance over the sailing vessels that stood watch ... for over seventy years prior." The Inquirer and Mirror remarked that the ship was the “pride of the Lighthouse Department, and the finest and most up-to-date of any light vessel yet built”
LV-117 would not see a long service, however, as she met her fate only three years later in one of the most famous and dramatic ship-to-ship collisions of the 20th century.
Chirnside, Mark (2004). The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic, Britannic: Tempus Publishing. p. 123-126.
Chirnside, Mark (2005). RMS Olympic – Titanic's Sister: Tempus Publishing.
Inquirer & Mirror, "White Star Liner Olympic Sinks Nantucket Lightship."
(May 19, 1934)
Soverino, Michelle (2019) "The 85th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Nantucket Lightship LV-117" Egan Maritime Institute,
Music and Narration: Performed, Produced and Edited by Evan Schwanfelder.
Special Thanks to Katie Schwanfelder for all your help and for joining the discussion