Beacon on the Rock: The Dramatic History of Lighthouses from Ancient Greece to the Present Day

Beacon on the Rock: The Dramatic History of Lighthouses from Ancient Greece to the Present Day

Beacon on the Rock: The Dramatic History of Lighthouses from Ancient Greece to the Present Day

Beacon on the Rock: The Dramatic History of Lighthouses from Ancient Greece to the Present Day

Excerpt

Lighthouses have a special place in the heart of mankind. These often majestic structures have saved
many human lives
as well as valuable cargoesfrom watery graves on inhospitable coastlines all over
the world. The lighthouse keepers played their part, too, as we shall see, with many acts of individual
heroism when succoring the shipwrecked, sometimes surrendering their own lives in the attempt.

The lighthouse is an icon of rugged reliability, probably more so than any other structure built by mankind. Lighthouses have been beacons, homes, and refuges, and today remain symbolic of the world's maritime heritage.

This book is a voyage of exploration that starts by looking at the early primitive beacons. Some were no more than open fires on exposed headlands; others, as we shall see in the case of the Pharos at Alexandria, were magnificent structures. But, whether simple fires or tall towers, they guided the mariner into his safe haven. Like the ships that they served, the development and design of lighthouses was slowly but continually improved—as was the equipment they used to provide the light. The men responsible for this development came from a wide variety of backgrounds: some, such as Henry Winstanley, who built the first offshore lighthouse on the Eddystone Rock off the south of England, were well-known merchants of their time; others rose from relatively obscure, even humble, beginnings to make a name for themselves. Others were in it just for the money!

North American shores were lit almost as soon as they were colonized, and our exploration will show how the colonists built lighthouses by following European methods—and in some cases even importing materials and lamps from the Old World.

Our voyage will continue by looking at the improvement of lamps from the simple oil-pot lamp to the modern solar-generated electric light source. We will see how the simple fixed light evolved into a multibeamed, flashing, coded light that enabled the navigatot to know exactly which lighthouse the vessel was passing.

During the period covered by this book, many different fuels . . .

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