Ship John Shoal Light

Oct. 15, 2019

Ship John Shoal Light, north side of the ship channel in Delaware Bay, near Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey

The cast iron structure was exhibitd t the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and installed at its current site in 1877.


Location: In 8' water on Ship John Shoal, NJ E'ly side of main channel in upper part of Delaware Bay
Station Established: 1877
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1877
Operational? YES
Automated? 1973
Deactivated: N/A
Foundation Materials: Cast iron caisson, which rests on piles protected by riprap (penetration of piles not known)
Construction Materials: Iron - wood lined inside
Tower Shape: no tower - watchroom is polygonal
Height: Height of focal plane above mean high tide is 50’
Markings/Pattern: brown with black lantern
Relationship to Other Structure: Integral
Original Lens: 4th order lens
Characteristic: Fixed white 10 sec, eclipse 5 sec, to W'd of 324 degrees 30' true (NNW 9/16 W mag) & 138 degrees 00' true (SE 1/8 S mag) fixed red 10 sec, eclipse 5 sec, throughout remaining sectors. Red sector to E'd of 324 degrees 30' true (NNW 9/16 W mag) & 138 degrees 00' true (SE 1/8 S mag)
Fog Signal: Yes - Bell struck by machinery, triple blow every 45 seconds. Machinery made by Geo. M. Stevens - Boston Mass. Fog bell is supported on roof of lighthouse just outside of watchroom

Historical Information:

  • The shoals that the light marks was named after a ship that wrecked there in 1797. The light itself takes it name from that same ship. 
  • Original plans were made to build a screwpile lighthouse on this location but the destruction of the foundation of a screwpile lighthouse being built at Cross Ledge in Delaware Bay caused these plans to be scrapped. 
  • In 1872 approval was given to construct a caisson lighthouse to mark the dangerous shoals. Construction was delayed because there was difficulty getting title to the land. There is still debate as to whether this lighthouse is in New Jersey or Delaware. Finally work began in 1874 and in late 1875 a temporary light was placed on top of the incomplete structure. The light was finally completed in 1877. 
  • In 1907 about 900 additional tons of riprap was deposited about the lighthouse.
  • In 1988 the Fresnel lens was replaced. The lights 4th order lens is on display at the Coast Guard Group Air Station in Ponoma New Jersey.

Researched and written by Anne Puppa, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.