Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Brief History of Lighthouses


Structures have been needed along coastlines to warn sailors for as long as people have put vessels into oceans, seas, and bays. The first lighthouse is thought to be The Lighthouse at Alexandria (Egypt) built in 256 BCE was believed to be about 330 feet tall, making it one of the seven wonders of the world at the time. Multiple earthquakes between 950 and 1323 CE tumbled the structure to ruins.

In the Unites States, lighthouses were first governed by the Lighthouse Establishment created in 1791 as part of the Treasury Department. Complaints from owners in the shipping industry prompted the 1852 creation of The US Lighthouse Board, a quasi-military organization that focused on modernizing the structures and equipment. Construction of many of the coastal lighthouse was completed by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Their expertise was needed to determine which type of structure worked best for the designated location. After 1865, all lighthouses had Fresnel lenses (named after the developer French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel). The special design of the lens (flatter and with more angles) captures and beams more of the light from a single source. 

1-Fresnel lens; 2-convex lens from Wikipedia

Men recruited into the lighthouse service had to meet specific physical requirements and were responsible for detailed recordkeeping and maintenance to keep the equipment functional. Most lighthouses sit on bluffs or beaches overlooking an ocean where the light at the top of a tower shining at night marks the coastline to prevent ships from running aground. Some towers are built from a ground base (with attached house), and other rise from the second floor of a base structure where the lightkeeper lives. Because the structures also serve as daymarks for ships to chart their progression along a route, neighboring lighthouses have different overall designs or different patterns are painted on the towers. Due to remote lighthouse locations, lightkeepers often had to be self-sufficient by maintaining a vegetable garden and raising chickens and a cow. Supplies and mail were delivered by a light tender (person on a small boat) on a regular basis.

I’ve always found lighthouses fascinating, and I just released my second novella in the “Keepers of the Light” series titled Between Two Beaus.

When Gala’s decision to act as a fake fiancĂ©e threatens the balance among the trio of friends, she is torn between Hal, who has suddenly shown interest, and fulfilling her promise to Bork.

Amazon or free in Kindle Unlimited

If you want to learn more lighthouse facts, join the series Facebook page here.

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