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1. From Historical Occasions To Electrification

As an island nation, we within the UK are used to seeing lighthouses around our coasts, however have you ever ever stopped to think about once they have been first constructed and the way they labored in these early days.

The aim of lighthouses is clearly to mark harmful coastlines, rocks and reefs and to aid navigation, especially at night or in misty conditions.

Ancient times
The primary recognized warnings made to boats of hazardous rocks and shores, have been fires, set at the sting of the water, nevertheless it was in Egypt that we first heard of actual structures being built, which used light to guide ships.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria
Built on the island of Pharos, the lighthouse was commissioned by Ptolemy in 290 B.C. It took 20 years to construct, and turned the tallest constructing in existence, aside from the nice Pyramid, standing at between 450 and 600 feet in height, and was recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It is thought to have cost around the equivalent of three million dollars or £2.8 million. Its design was nothing just like the slim constructions we’re conversant in right now. It consisted of three stages, the primary being within the form of an enormous field constructed on a 20 foot excessive stone platform. On prime of this was an eight sided tower, adopted by a cylinder that prolonged to an open cupola the place the hearth burned to supply the sunshine. On its roof was a big statue, thought to be of the sea god Poseidon. The fire’s mild was believed to have been projected into a beam by way of a large curved mirror, probably manufactured from polished bronze. It was stated that ships might detect its indicators as much as one hundred miles away, the sunshine from the tower by night, and the smoke from the hearth by day. This declare nonetheless seems a bit extreme.

The lighthouse turned so well-known that the title “pharos” turned the foundation of the phrase “lighthouse” in many languages. It stood for over 1,500 years, surviving a tsunami in 365 Advert, however earth tremors resulted in cracks forming within the structure which needed restoration. Then, a major earthquake within the area, within the 14th century, triggered such extreme injury that the construction eventually collapsed.

Other early lighthouses
In medieval times the Iranians apparently erected large minaret towers in the mouth of the Persian Gulf to aid navigation. In China, the medieval mosque at Canton additionally had a minaret serving as a lighthouse, and in 1165 a pagoda recognized because the Liuhe Pagoda, was inbuilt Hangzhou and acted as a lighthouse for sailors in the Qiantang River.

One of the oldest working lighthouses in Europe is Hook Lighthouse, constructed at Hook Head in County Wexford, Ireland in 13th century and inbuilt circular design. Two lighthouses, referred to as the Pharos, were constructed at Dover (UK) soon after the Roman conquest of Britain. They have been constructed on two heights (the Japanese and the Western). The one on the Japanese Top nonetheless stands within the grounds of Dover Castle.

One other well-known early Roman lighthouse is the Tower of Hercules, most likely built in the primary century, on a peninsula at A Coruna in north-west Spain. It was originally recognized because the “Farum Brigantium”, the Latin phrase farum being derived from the Greek pharos.

The sunshine was initially produced utilizing a wooden fired system situated on the summit platform, however the lighthouse was abandoned after the Viking Invasions of 854-fifty six. It was restored within the 14th century when the town became one of the kingdom’s largest ports, and by the seventeenth century it had been fitted with a dome formed lantern. Extra restoration was accomplished within the early 18th century, and in 1847, a system utilizing Fresnel lenses (see later) was installed. It was electrified in 1926, with a beam visible for up to 32 nautical miles and is the oldest Roman lighthouse in use today.

Mild sources
Some early lighthouses used wick lamps as a mild supply and sometimes the beam may solely journey just a few miles. The Argand hollow wick lamp and parabolic reflector have been developed in Europe round 1781, while in the USA, whale oil was used with wicks till the Argand system was launched round 1810,which was then later changed with Colza oil (just like rapeseed oil), lard oil after which Kerosene.

The Fresnel lens
In 1822 a Frenchman, named Augustin Fresnel, found out how to extend the light depth utilizing prisms, and the primary Fresnel lens was installed in 1822 within the Cordouan lighthouse within the mouth of the Gironde estuary. This gentle might be seen from 20 miles or 32 km away. By the 1860s, low-gentle-loss Fresnel lenses, a lot bigger than the original ones, were in use in lighthouses around Britain and France, their use quickly extending to Italy and further afield to Australia and America.

To create the flashing impact, designers needed to provide you with a means of creating the lens revolve. This was finished utilizing a rotating stand with a clockwork mechanism with descending weights on cables. The keeper periodically cranked up the load to the highest of the lighthouse and because it descended, the lens revolved. The flashing impact was achieved every time a section of the rotating lens handed between the lamp and the observer. The speed of rotation decided the frequency of the flash and made it potential for every lighthouse to have its personal recognisable sample.

The arrival of electricity
Across the flip of the twentieth century, acetylene gasoline (electricity and carbide) started changing kerosene, and round 1910 many lighthouses started utilizing the intelligent machine referred to as the Dalen Solar Valve, invented by the Swede, Gustav Dalen. The valve opened and closed the gasoline provide to the lamp in response to how a lot sunlight it acquired, so the lights may very well be turned on robotically at dusk and off at daybreak. Dalen additionally discovered the right way to retailer the gasoline in tanks and to interrupt its movement, inflicting the sunshine to flash. Dalen’s innovations resulted in financial savings in gas and upkeep, because the lamps only needed servicing twice a year.

As electricity became available, the clockwork mechanisms in the lighthouses were changed by electric motors, with 100W bulbs offering the sunshine supply, and electronically operated fog indicators have been added. With all this electrification and automation, lighthouse keepers were sadly obsolete and from the 1980 they became superfluous to requirements. The last lighthouse in the UK to be automated was North Foreland in Kent, in 1998.

Right this moment
Many Fresnel lenses have been changed by rotating aerodrome beacons which require much less maintenance. The system of rotating lenses has in some cases been replaced by a high intensity light that emits short flashes, similar to the obstruction lights used to warn aircraft of tall buildings.

Latest improvements embrace Vega Lights, (lighthouse beacons offering a variety of as much as 22 nautical miles with a 100 Watt lamp). They can operate in remote, solar-powered locations, on unattended sites, and require maintenance only as soon as a yr. There are within the area of 600 of those in operation world wide.

Know-how strikes on, and as new improvements similar to GPS make navigation easier and safer, it could also be tempting to think that lighthouses have had their day.

Personally I’d want to have a dependable backup to my GPS, and there’s nothing so comforting in your first ever night time watch underneath sail, than to see the beam of a lighthouse shining through the darkness, to rely the flashes and know that you are the place you ought to be.

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