Women have a long history of keeping the lights burning, from tending ancient altar flames or bonfires to modern-day lighthouse keeping. Yet most of their stories are little-known. Guiding Lights includes true stories from around the world, chronicling the lives of the extraordinary women who mind the world’s storm-battered towers.
From Hannah Sutton and her partner Grant, the two caretakers living alone on Tasmania’s wild Maatsuyker Island, to Karen Zacharuk, the keeper in charge of Cape Beale on Canada’s Vancouver Island, where bears, cougars and wolves roam, the lives of lighthouse women are not for the faint of heart. Stunning photographs from throughout history accompany accounts of the dramatic torching of Puysegur Point, one of NZ’s most inhospitable lighthouses; ‘haunted’ lighthouses in across the US and their tragic tales; lighthouse accidents and emergencies around the world; and two of the world’s most legendary lighthouse women: Ida Lewis (US) and Grace Darling (UK), who risked their lives to save others.
The book also explores our dual perception of lighthouses: are they comforting and romantic beacons symbolising hope and trust, or storm-lashed and forbidding towers with echoes of lonely, mad keepers? Whatever our perception, stories of women’s courage and dedication in minding the lights — then and now — continue to capture our imagination and inspire.
Shona Riddell has a long-held fascination with lighthouses. A writer for 20 years (including her subantarctic history book Trial of Strength with Exisle Publishing), Shona lives with her husband and two daughters in Wellington, New Zealand. She enjoys cold, windy weather and stories about remote locations.