In ancient times mariners returning from sea were guided to port by fires built on hilltops; the elevated light serving as a point of reference for landings which were frequently perilous. One wrong move along a rocky coast meant expensive loss of precious cargo, and certain death for sailors with families. Gradually the technology evolved and hilltops were replaced with man-made platforms which gave rise to the modern lighthouse.

For centuries, until the era of remote operation arrived, lighthouses needed to be staffed with crews of dedicated, steadfast lighthouse keepers. It was a job that required exceptional individuals — resourceful men with the skills to handle unexpected challenges and the mental fortitude to tolerate lengthy tours of duty, in remote locations, with finite resources and little communication.

As keepers of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse, Thomas Marshall, James Ducat, and Donald McArthur were considered the right kind of men for the job, but in the midst of a squall in December of 1900, passing ships noticed their light on the rocky and uninhabited isle was inexplicably unlit. When a relief ship arrived 11 days later, the crew found all three keepers had apparently vanished, without a trace.

Written, produced, and narrated by Troy Larson
Music: Long Note One, Long Note Two, Vanishing, by Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
Sound Effects Licensed under Creative Commons via Freesound.org

Troy Larson is a father, author, and photographer from Fargo, North Dakota.