A lighthouse keeper is the person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used. Keepers were needed to trim the wicks, replenish fuel, wind clockworks and perform maintenance tasks such as cleaning lenses and windows. Electrification and other automated improvements such as remote monitoring and automatic bulb changing made paid keepers resident at the lights unnecessary. In the US, periodic maintenance of the lights is now performed by visiting Coast Guard Aids to Navigation teams.
The last manned lighthouse in Australia was Maatsuyker Island lighthouse where the last lighthouse keeper left in 1996.
According to the Canadian Lightkeepers Association, there are 37 staffed lighthouses in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, though the Canadian Coast Guard has plans to automate these installations. Machias Seal Island, in New Brunswick, has a lighthouse manned by the Canadian Coast Guard. It is kept manned for sovereignty purposes due to the disputed status of the island with the US.
The last manned lighthouse in Finland was deserted in 1987.
All French lighthouses are automated, though a few are still manned.
The last lighthouse keeper in Iceland was terminated in 2010.
Baily Lighthouse was the last Irish lighthouse to be unmanned, in 1997.
As of 2011, there were 62 manned lighthouses in Italy
In 2006 Meshima Lighthouse became the last lighthouse in Japan to become automated.
As of 2011, there are two manned lighthouses in the Netherlands, one at Schiermonnikoog and the other at Terschelling.
All lighthouses in New Zealand have been automated since 1990.
The last Norwegian lighthouse keeper moved out of Runde Lighthouse in 2002.
The last manned lighthouse in the United Kingdom, the North Foreland Lighthouse, was automated in 1998.
The last civilian keeper in the United States, Frank Schubert, died in 2003. The last officially manned lighthouse, Boston Light, was manned by the Coast Guard until 1998. It now has volunteer "keepers" whose primary role is to serve as interpretive tour guides for visitors.
This project is for lighthouse keepers everywhere.
Notable lighthouse keepers
- "Knott family" - The Knott family of lighthouse keepers is accredited with the longest period of continuous service in the history of manned lighthouses, commencing in 1730 at South Foreland with William Knott and ending in 1906 at Skerries (Anglesey, Wales) with Henry Thomas Knott who died in 1910 having retired to Crewe.
- "Ida Lewis" - Rhode Island's famous heroine.
- "Fanny Salter" - Chesapeake Bay’s most famous female keeper.