Lighthouses are a feature of places that have treacherous coastlines. They warn sailors of dangerous areas and act as a signpost to help marine traffic know it’s position on the earth. These days, GPS negates the need for lighthouses, but around the world, many still operate, although they are mostly automated. The era of the isolated lighthouse keeper has disappeared into the sea fog. Yet, for me, there is something romantic about a lighthouse and each has its own unique story to tell.
And, not all lighthouses are painted red and white! If the lighthouse is against a cliff or pale rocks, it may well have red and white stripes, but if it is against a darker background, it will be all white. Apparently, some towers are painted in different colours and decorated in patterns — diamonds, spirals and stripes, for example — to distinguish them from each other (CNN Travel).
I have never had the pleasure of seeing a lighthouse decorated in this way. That is something to add to the photography bucket list.
A trail of 2018’s travels
Happily, in my travels this year, I have visited places on treacherous coastlines with operating lighthouses and I’ve taken pics of the lighthouses.
West coast of Africa, Swakopmund, Namibia
Ornate, tall and skinny but in need of some TLC, perhaps a new coat of paint!
First built in 1903 at 22m, it was extended to 28m in 1911. Both phases are easy to see in the current structure. The tower was first built of hewn quarry stones (which is the darker stone) and supported a cupola of 11 metres high, but since it stood on a dune it was some 22 metres above sea level and its light was visible over a distance of 14 nautical miles. in 1911, the cupola was removed and put back into place again after the original tower had been raised by 16 metres. The light signals were now visible over a distance of more than 33 kilometres. [Source: The Lighthouse – A monument to harbour dreams]
The southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Aghulas Lighthouse
In contrast to the other two, this one has been freshly painted, standing proudly above the hazardous oceans (Atlantic and Indian) at its feet.
This limestone lighthouse is a national monument and was based on the design of the ancient lighthouse of Pharos, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world. The lighthouse began operating on 1 March 1849 and is 27 metres high. Today, the Agulhas lighthouse is the second oldest working lighthouse in South Africa. [Source: South African History Organisation]
Details from the roof of the Aghulas Lighthouse
East coast of New Zealand, Otago Peninsular, South Island
Weather-worn, rusty and isolated, this one looks slightly drunken at this angle. Not only does it guide ships into the Otago Harbour, but it also stands guard over the Royal Albatross Breeding Colony, at this tip of the peninsula. Sadly this means that you cannot get inside it, so you have to be satisfied with looking at from a boat.
Taiaroa Head Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in the South Island and is a listed New Zealand Historic Places Trust building. Unusually made from stone and first lit in 1865, it is about 12m high and stands around 60 metres above sea level. [Source: Taiaroa Head Lighthouse]
Other lighthouses I’ve visited in South Africa
As I looked at these pics, I realised that I have visited other lighthouses in South Africa in the last 8 years. Sadly, I visited some in my photography ‘dark days’ (i.e. I didn’t take photos – shock!). The ones below were shot back in the days when I didn’t shoot in RAW, and the quality is not fantastic (as far as I’m concerned). But, they illustrate the point that not all lighthouses are painted red and white and they come in all shapes and sizes!
Donkin Reserve Lighthouse – Port Elizabeth
This sleek, white lighthouse (built in 1861) is in the town centre of Port Elizabeth and is very high! I decided that I would go inside and climb to the top, not sure why but I did it!
The area includes a Stone Pyramid Monument with a touching inscription erected by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth, after whom the city was named, which is approximately 10 meters high and the sides at the base measure about 8 meters each.
Cape St Francis
The Cape St. Francis Lighthouse, also known as Seal Point Lighthouse, is in the Eastern Cape. Built in 1878, it stands 27.75m off the ground and is one of the tallest lighthouses in South Africa.
Yes! Lighthouses are definitely going onto my photography bucket list, especially as I embark on new adventures beyond Africa. I might just try to visit as many as I can to discover how many are red and white, how many white and how many are decorated in other ways. What an adventure to look forward to!
Do you have any interesting lighthouses where you live?