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NSLPS Guide to The List of Lights


One of the most authoritative sources of lighthouse information is the List of Lights, published by the Canadian government as an important navigation tool for mariners almost every year since Confederation. Lives depended on its accuracy, so the List has very high (although not infallible) degree of accuracy, providing an precise description of every lighthouse and buoy, with position, type, light character, a brief description of the structure as well as the year it was founded and last changed. It was updated between editions with Notices to Mariners. Errors, especially for tower heights, occasionally appear, but usually only for one year. Researchers should also note that Latitudes and Longitudes sometime changed slightly from year to year as surveys became more accurate.

Comparing back issues of the list of lights can reveal how an invidual light changed over the years. They also show what functions lights served and how they related to other lighthouses in the area.

In more recent years, the list has been less detailed, leaving out the year of establishment and reducing structural details. Thanks to Coast Guard cutbacks, the List was not published from 1995 to 1997, and from 1999 to 2000 making the 1998 edition the most recent. If you use the internet, an electronic version regularly updated, can be downloaded from:

Where you can find back issues of List of Lights:

  1. A good collection of Lists of Lights from 1872 up to the 1998 (with an unfortunate gap in the 1950s & 60s) can be found at the library of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax which is open by appointment Monday to Friday. (Call 424-7890 for appointment or information).

  2. Acadia University Library in Wolfville (585-1170) has a good selection of List of Lights for the 1950s and 60s.

  3. The Department of Transport Library in Ottawa has almost a complete collection of the List of Lights and Notices to Mariners 613-998-5128.

  4. NSLPS has created a historic lighthouse database, drawn largely from the List of Lights, which is maintained by Tim Hall.