Joseph Cocking’s Path Into Conservation

Joe and I met in Juneau several years ago, when I got to see a USCG lens they were working on spread all over their hotel room, even in the bathtub!  Joe and Nick Johnston had incredible knowledge of lighthouse lenses, right down to the machining of the pitch of the threads on the screws.  And a laptop crammed with about a bajillion images of the work they had been doing.  We suggested he look into AIC, and when I recently saw his name in the directory with a mark for “Professional Associate” I asked if he would write a blog posting…











I am a retired Coast Guardsman whose work experience included lighthouses and lighthouse lenses during the major part of my career. I was involved with the transition from staffed light stations to unmanned automation; during this time the Fresnel lenses were thought of as equipment

I was in charge of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, which has a First Order Revolving (fixed with flash) lens. The lens had been vandalized during the 1980s, severely damaging both the annular and linear glass elements. Along with the destabilization of glass elements, the rotary apparatus was in disrepair. Because of the condition of the lens, the Coast Guard determined to remove it and install a modern optic. The community did not agree with this decision and asked if it could be repaired; Nick Johnston and I looked at each other and said, “We think we can do this!” By1993 the lighthouse was relighted; during this time we met Greg Byrnes, Martin Burke, and the staff at Harpers Ferry.

Shortly after the completion of St. Augustine I was contacted by Gretchen Voeks, whom I assisted with the resetting of the annular glass elements, as well as reassembly of the Anacapa Island Third Order lens.  I also worked with Gretchen on the Fire Island project at the Franklin Institute and the Heceta Head lens project.

While in Alaska performing work working on a 375 MM lens, I met Ellen and Scott Carrlee, who were welcoming and friendly, also and interested in what we were doing.

After U.S.C.G. retirement, I founded Lighthouse Lamp Shop; my goal was to research the fabrics I was working with and become part of a professional organization that would provide education, values, and people who would listen and critique. AIC provided the criteria I sought; I became an Associate Member, now with a goal of becoming a Professional Associate.

I contacted Scott for guidance with earning my way to becoming a Professional Associate. Scott always had time for me and provided valuable counsel on my path to reach this goal. As I traveled the PA process, I was fortunate in finding sponsors, all of whom I still consider mentors and friends: Meg Craft, Stephen Koob, John Maseman, Marcie Renner and Amy Green.

A particular value of attending the AIC Conference was that it allowed opportunity to meet other like-minded members with serious and enthusiastic attitudes toward conservation and to become more familiar with the organization whose values I hold.

Joseph Cocking

About the Images:

I’ve attached two images of a before and after of the Ship Island lens. This lens was on exhibit in the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi when Katrina hit. The museum was a reinforced concrete building that was completely destroyed, amazingly, the Executive Director found the lens under a brick wall that had fallen on it. The glass elements were found within the same area, naturally all had some sort of damage.

Anyway, myself, Nick and Randall Cox worked diligently to bring it back to a stable object; the metals have been straightened and repaired, there are no pieces that had to be fabricated to stabilize. The glass elements were a real challenge, on many of the elements the edges were gone, large areas of fabric missing and fractures.

But in the end the lens is whole and stable; it is currently on display at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum.


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