Legacy of Light: Tallest Georgia lighthouse marks Tybee Island

Tybee Island Light, the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia, guides mariners into the Savannah River and welcomes visitors to this resort destination. The barrier island beacon is not only a popular tourist attraction but also an active Aid to Navigation that lights the way for mariners into the Port of Savannah.

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Two Coast Guard Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin helicopters fly in formation in front of the Tybee Island Lighthouse. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson.
Two Coast Guard Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin helicopters fly in formation in front of the Tybee Island Lighthouse March. 15, 2019, as the Cutter Eagle transits down the Savannah River towards Savannah, Georgia. Air Station Savannah welcomed the Eagle crew as they arrived in Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson)

Written by Walter T. Ham IV

Tybee Island Light, the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia, guides mariners into the Savannah River and welcomes visitors to this resort destination. The barrier island beacon is not only a popular tourist attraction but also an active Aid to Navigation that lights the way for mariners into the Port of Savannah. 

Savannah is the largest single-terminal container facility of its kind in North America and the fourth-busiest port in the United States, according to the Savannah Economic Development Authority. 

U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Tybee Island keeps the legendary light shining. 

Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Jeff A. Daily, the ANT executive petty officer, said the U.S. Coast Guard team members hike the 178 steps to the top of the lighthouse to maintain the 1,000-watt light and the massive 1st Order Fresnel lens.

“The lighthouse is the first range light marking the channel for the Savannah River,” said Daily, an 8-year veteran from Roscoe, Illinois.  “It’s a heavily congested area with commercial traffic.”

The storied black and white lighthouse stands 145 feet high and shines a fixed white light that can be seen at a distance of 16 nautical miles.  One of the oldest structures in Georgia, the original Tybee Island Light was built in 1736.  

Following wars, earthquakes and centuries of seaside service, the lighthouse tower was rebuilt in 1742, 1773, and 1867.   

Today, the Tybee Island Historical Societymaintains the tower and its Colonial era support buildings as a museum.  It is open for visitors every day but Tuesday.

Just 30 minutes from the palm and Spanish Moss-lined streets of the Savannah Historic District, Tybee Island hosts more than a million visitors every year and the lighthouse is one of its most popular destinations on the island.  The lighthouse is so popular that is featured on the City of Tybee Island logo.   

The crew of Aids to Navigation Tybee Island poses in front of the Tybee Island Lighthouse. From the left, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Og Mullan, Fireman Daniel Gassel, Seaman John Done Solano, Fireman Christian Rizzello-Wood, Fireman Daniel Pollock, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jamie Nunnally, Seaman Kahla Alexander, Petty Officer 3rd Class J.B. Aimar, Seaman Cameron Johnson and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Daily. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
The crew of Aids to Navigation Tybee Island poses in front of the Tybee Island Lighthouse. From the left, Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Og Mullan, Fireman Daniel Gassel, Seaman John Done Solano, Fireman Christian Rizzello-Wood, Fireman Daniel Pollock, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jamie Nunnally, Seaman Kahla Alexander, Petty Officer 3rd Class J.B. Aimar, Seaman Cameron Johnson and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff Daily. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The 11-member Tybee Island ANT maintains 650 buoys and beacons from St. Catherine Island, Georgia, to Port Royal, South Carolina.  The team’s area includes Savannah, Hilton Head Island, S.C., and many other seaside getaways.

“The highlight of this assignment is being able to serve the community as we watch the Port of Savannah continue to grow,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Vance B. Pedrick, officer-in-charge of ANT Tybee Island.  “It is our mission to keep the waterways open and safe to navigate.”

A Carrabelle, Florida, native who has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 17 years, Pedrick previously served as executive petty officer for the Atlantic Beach, Florida-based USCGC Hammer (WLIC-75302) and ANT Kodiak, Alaska.

“My favorite thing about serving on Tybee Island is the people – both my crew, watching them take pride in our mission and grow personally and professionally, and the community that surrounds us and supports the Coast Guard,” said Pedrick. 

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