Claim: Aircraft carrier attempts to bully a lighthouse into moving out of its way.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1998]
Americans: "Please divert your course
Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course
Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course."
Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."
Americans: "THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE
Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."
Origins: The tale of the self-important aircraft carrier captain getting his well-earned comeuppance at the hands of a plain-speaking lighthouse has been making the rounds on the Internet since early 1996. Most write-ups purport to be transcripts of a 1995 conversation between a ship and a lighthouse as documented by Chief of Naval Operations.
It ain't true. Not only does the Navy disclaim it, the anecdote appears in a 1992 collection of jokes and tall tales. Worse, it appears in Stephen Covey's 1989 The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and he got it from a 1987 issue of Proceedings, a publication of the
It's far older than that, as this excerpt from a 1939 book shows:
"You confounded fool!" he roared. "Where the devil do you think your ship's going? Don't you know I've got the right of way?"
Out of the gloom came a sardonic voice:
"This ain't no blinkin' ship, guv'nor. This 'ere's a light'ouse!"
The Other: "This isn't a blinking ship. It's a lighthouse!"
The Navy's take on this crazy bit of faxlore is contained in the following 1996 newspaper article:
But for the past four months the story of the ship and the lighthouse has been passed along, as gospel, by comedy talk-show hosts, lazy newspaper columnists and clueless cyberspace jockies until it has taken on an air of the apocryphal. It clings to Navy lore like that old captain from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." And, like Coleridge's haunted captain, the Navy is having a real tough time getting this albatross off its neck.
This week the story was repeated by The New York Times News Service, quoting a Canadian newspaper. Last week it was read to a global radio audience on Michael Feldman's popular Whad'ya Know? program on Public Radio International. Earlier, the same network's Car Talk program aired the tale.
In the story's current form, the ship is identified as the carrier Enterprise. In the past it involved a battleship. A version that arrived via
Various versions carry little embellishments. An amateur-radio buff communicating via the Internet said it happened in Puget Sound. A columnist in the Montreal Gazette said it happened last fall off the coast of Newfoundland. A columnist in North Carolina quoted a local man as saying it happened off the Carolinas.
"It's a totally bogus story, but over the last four months we've gotten at least 12, maybe
"The first time I heard of it
Dutifully, when all those reports about the carrier Enterprise began to surface, the Navy had to follow procedures and check it out.
"Yes, we talked to the Enterprise," Wensing said. "It was like, "We've heard this story and we're pretty sure that it's without
For the record,
Of the many flaws in the recent version, the most glaring is that there is no longer a radio
Westfall said he, too, had heard the story for years, but he had a different understanding of its origin.
"I always thought," he said, "it was just something one of us Coasties had made up to poke fun at the Navy."
Barbara "misdirected intelligence" Mikkelson
|The Lighthouse Joke (U.S. Navy)|
Addis, David. "Standoff: Navy Says No Lighthouse — No Comment." Virginian-Pilot. 14 March 1996 (p. A1). Asimov, Isaac. Asimov Laughs Again. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. ISBN 0-06-016826-9 (p. 119). Copeland, Lewis and Faye. 10,000 Jokes, Toasts and Stories. New York: Garden City Books, 1939 ISBN 0-385-00163-0 (p. 692). Covey, Stephen. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. ISBN 0-67166-398-4 (pp. 32-33). Koch, Frank. "Pulling Rank." Proceedings. November 1987 (p. 81). Silva, Mark. "DNI Mike McConnell: 'America Hates Spies.'" Baltimore Sun. 13 March 2008. Drumheller Review. 25 June 1931.