For hundreds of years lighthouses have shone as literal beacons for sailors, fishermen and ferry passengers providing safe passage ashore. However, with the advancement of sophisticated GPS (Global Positioning Systems), many are now questioning the future of these iconic coastal lights.
Most mariners and fishermen still say that they use the lighthouse as a backup for electronic equipment, although only about 75% of lighthouses in the USA are still operating as navigational aids, federal funding is now almost exclusively limited to the maintenance of the lights.
In Britain, a country whose coastline is protected with hundreds of lighthouses, the last keeper retired in 1998. Now, all British lighthouses are fully automated and monitored from a few central offices.
Germany has been slowly extinguishing its lighthouses over the last decade and keeping them only as historical buildings and not official navigation aids.
10 Interesting Lighthouse Facts:
- The first lighthouse was Egypt's Pharos of Alexandria, it was built in the third century BC. Made from a fire on a platform to signal the port entrance.
- The USA has more lighthouses than any other country in the world.
- The world's oldest existing lighthouse is considered to be Tower of Hercules. It is a World Heritage Site that marks the entrance of Spain's La Coruña harbour, erected in the first century and still operational today.
- The most expensive lighthouse built in America is St. George Reef, near Crescent City, California. It took 10 years to construct and cost $715,000!
- Lighthouse keeping was one of the first U.S. government jobs available to women.
- Towers are given different colors and patterns -- diamonds, spirals and stripes, for example -- to distinguish them from each other.
- A lighthouse's height takes into account the curvature of the earth, so the higher light above MHW (mean high water), the further away it can be seen at sea. But not be so high up that local sailors will not see it.
- Lighthouses in close proximity to each other have different flash patterns to allow the mariner to identify their location.
- Originally lighthouses were lit with open fires, only later progressing through candles, lanterns and electric lights.
- These days, lighthouses are run by machines and remote monitoring, but when the technology was not so advanced the lighthouses were run by lighthouse keepers.