OWNER & ACCESS
Trinity Shoal was discovered in the early 1870s, on the track of vessels bound between Galveston and the Mississippi River. The shoal was made up of 15 miles of hard sand bottom 20 miles offshore. About half of its length was covered by less than 12 feet of water, with the highest part of the shoal barely breaking the surface.
A large iron skeleton tower was produced in northern foundries in 1872 at the cost of $60,000, but the erection of the tower was delayed another year due to a need for another $45,000 to pay workmen. Eventually, the appropriation was expanded, and work on the tower resumed. Turbulent weather was a constant enemy. Construction started at the beginning of the hurricane season in June of 1873. By October only a 100-square-foot platform to house the workers had been completed. Storms threatened the platform several times, and in one instance the waves nearly pulled away the pile driver. The support ships often put out to sea to avoid being dashed against the shoal.
The worst weather, however, came in mid-November. The tender carrying the lighthouse parts pounded hard against Trinity Shoal and put to sea with her hull badly damaged. The holds flooded quickly, and no pumping could empty them in time. The schooner drifted back over the shallows and was beaten to splinters against the sand. Amazingly, the crew of another nearby tender was able to rescue all hands. Unfortunately, the Trinity Shoal Lighthouse now lay on the bottom of the Gulf.
For three days the storm continued. Waves peaked around 15 feet, coming up over the work platform. Eventually, the platform gave way, dumping all atop it into the sea. Once again, all hands were rescued, but only after clinging to floating timbers for nearly three hours.
After this catastrophic failure, on which the Lighthouse Board had spent nearly $100,000, it was decided that a lightship would better serve mariners at Trinity Shoal. A hired barge salvaged some of the materials for the lighthouse, and these were later used to help build South Pass Light Station in the Mississippi River Delta.