Posted by: mlapgrants | July 5, 2018

Gull Rock Light Station Automation

The Gull Rock Light Station was one of the earliest to be automated on Lake Superior.  The light station, located off the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, was built in 1867 and automated in 1913.  The brand new technology that led to its automation was primarily an acetylene illumination system with a sun valve, which allowed the lamp to be automatically turned on at dusk and extinguished after dawn.  The sun valve helped to earn its Swedish inventor, Gustaf Dalen, the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physics. It consisted of four metal rods: three outer polished rods and one central darkened rod.  Daylight caused the central darkened rod to expand at a greater rate, thereby controlling the acetylene flow and turning off the lamp.  Because of this early automation, the station was never equipped with electricity, indoor plumbing, or phone service.

This information on the sun valve was taken from the Historic Structure Report, currently being completed by OX Studio and Smay Trombley Architecture through grants from the National Park Service National Maritime Heritage Program and the State Historic Preservation Office Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program.  Learn more about all of Michigan’s historic lighthouses at

DSCN3480Gustav Dalen 1895dalen-sun-valve-chancebrothers-com


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