The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse, gaurdian of the night,
Warning all the ships with light.
Still and slient, with light so bright,
To still the mariners inner fright.

By day a wonderous beauty,
The keeper is about his duty,
They both await the night to fall,
Until then it stand magesticly tall.

Steadfast and calm, it's duty clear,
It guards the ships and lives so dear,
As it stand over shore, rocks and sea,
Assages the worry and the fear,
Of the men and ships that passes here.

To the ships that routine journey begins,
It see them safely out and home again.

by Dejaelaine

Kõpu Lighthouse in Estonia, the third oldest operating lighthouse in the world,
having been in continuous use since its completion in 1531.

~~~ for larger view click here ~~~
Copyright Otto de Voogd 2006
Used with permission of
Photo page


The Lighthouse appears to go back as far as 280 B.C. Built on the island of Pharos in Hellenistic Egypt, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, is perhaps the most famous lighthouse in history. The first known/documented structure of it's kind.
Before the development of clearly defined ports mariners were guided by fires built on hilltops. The fire would improve the visibility and placing the fire on a platform eventually became a practice that led to the inventing of the lighthouse.
In antiquity, the lighthouse functioned more as an entrance marker to ports than as a warning signal, unlike many modern lighthouses.
A lighthouse, basically a navigational aid, is a structure designed to emit light from a fire, a system of lamps and lenses and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways.
Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, safe entries to harbors, and can also assist in aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined.

The World English Dictionary defines
lighthouse (lait haus)
— n
a fixed structure in the form of a tower equipped with a light visible to mariners
for warning them of obstructions, for marking harbour entrances, etc


Examples of some Lighthouse shapes -- click to view
Square Octagonal Conical Cylindrical Skeletal
Round Caisson Square Caisson Intregal Screwpile


♥Q: How could one lighthouse be distinguished from another?
A: DAYMARKS --helps mariners tell one Lighthouse from another and was able to use lighthouses as landmarks.

♥Years ago, before they had all the sophisticated technology of today ships near shore in the daytime would use lighthouses as a landmark. This use gave them an additional name — a DAYMARK.

♥If you are the Captain of a ship sailing along the coast. You need some landmarks to help you find your position. When you look on shore you see a tall red brick tower. Then you sail about forty miles down the coast and you see another round red brick tower — just like the first one. How would you know where you are? This is the way things were along a portion of the Virginia and North Carolina coast in the 1870’s.
♥ To help the mariner determine his location the Lighthouse Board (which was in charge of lighthouses from 1852 – 1910) issued an order to have each lighthouse painted in different colors and/or designs. This is the best example of DAYMARKS we can see today.

A drawing of the lighthouse by German archaeologist Prof. H. Thiersch (1909).
For larger view --click image
This work is in Public Domain

To see other depictions/renderings of the Lighthouse of Alexandria Click here

Lighthouse of Alexandria

♠The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages.
♠There are two detailed descriptions made of the lighthouse in the 10th century A.D. by Moorish travelers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh. According to their accounts, the building was 300 cubits high. Because the cubit measurement varied from place to place, however, this could mean that the Pharos stood anywhere from 450 (140m) to 600 (183m) feet in height, although the lower figure is much more likely.
♠The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. There were three stages, each built on top of one other. The building material was stone faced with white marble blocks cemented together with lead mortar. The lowest level of the building, which sat on a 20 foot (6m) high stone platform, was probably about 240 feet (73m) in height and 100 feet (30m) square at the base, shaped like a massive box. The door to this section of the building wasn't at the bottom of the structure, but part way up and reached by a 600 foot (183m) long ramp supported by massive arches. Inside this portion of the structure was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in animal-drawn carts.

LEFT: This image is in Public Domain
MIDDLE & RIGHT: Egyptian Coin Featuring Lighthouse of Alexandria

♠On top of that first section was an eight-sided tower which was probably about 115 feet (35m) in height. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up another 60 feet (18m) to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue, probably of the god of the sea, Poseidon.
♠The interior of the upper two sections had a shaft with a dumbwaiter that was used to transport fuel up to the fire. Staircases allowed visitors and the keepers to climb to the beacon chamber. There, according to reports, a large curved mirror, perhaps made of polished bronze, was used to project the fire's light into a beam. It was said ships could detect the light from the tower at night or the smoke from the fire during the day up to one-hundred miles away.
♠The structure was said to be liberally decorated with statuary including four likenesses of the god Triton on each of the four corners of the roof of the lowest level. Materials recently salvaged from the sea by archeologists, including the stone torso of a woman, seem to support these stories.
♠How then did the world's first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for over 1,500 years. Then in 1303 A.D., a major earthquake shook the region that put the Pharos permanently out of business. Egyptian records indicate the final collapse occurred in 1375, though ruins remained on the site for some time until 1480 when much of the building's stone was used to construct a fortress on the island that still stands today.
Althought the lighthouse was depicted on coins, small models and mosaics. During my research it is clear that agreement is made on the building's basic design, none provide much detail.
There is a surprising lack of descriptions by ancient writers and most come from Arab travelers. Many of these, may contain precise details the description can also be mixed with wild fantasies. They provide some good/detailes information on the lower levels, they provide little valuable information about the upper levels and almost nothing concerning the light source.

The Roman lighthouse at Dover Castle.
Used with permission of Author Chris McKenna (Thryduulf (talk))
the copyright holder of this work, hereby publishes it under the following license:
Creative Commons attribution share alike

Dover Castle Lighthouse

¹The tower was octagonal outside and rectangular inside rising to a height of perhaps 80 feet (24m). It had eight storeys each set back 1 foot (0.3m) from the one below, which gave the whole structure the appearance of an extended telescope. Dover castle's lighthouse was built by the Roman's who realise the importance of the straights of Dover.
Both tiles and brick were used in the construction. Fires were lit on the top stage to give a clear guide to ships crossing the channel.
²It is constructed from flint rubble bonded with double courses of tiles at regular intervals and faced with tufa ashlar. The windows and doors are arched and are decorated by the alternate use of tufa and tile to achieve a polychrome effect. The tiles are of the same pinkish material found in the fort of the Classis Britannica and it seems reasonable to suppose that they were built at broadly similar dates. The dating of the early phase of the fort is around AD130 to AD150.
²As it stands today only the first four Roman stages survive. The remaining 5.8 metres was used as a medieval belfry. The earliest reference to the bells appears in 1252, when three bells were cast in Canterbury to be hung in the tower.

Torre de Hercules
The Tower of Hercules located in A Coruña (Galicia, Spain).
~~~ click image for larger view ~~~

Author Alessio Damato
I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the
following licenses: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or
modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
(icensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike )

The monumental lighthouse tower stands at the entrance of A Coruña harbour in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula. The present structure, 185 feet (56.8 metres) tall, is considered a Roman work dating from or at least remodeled during the reign of Trajan (98–117 ce).
it is massive, dominates its prominent position and becomes ever larger the closer you get to it.
♣The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of La Coruña harbour in north-western Spain since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium. The Tower, built on a 57 metre high rock.
♣ It is designed to facilitate navigation along the rugged Galicia coastline, on a strategic point on the sea route linking the Mediterranean to northwest Europe.
♣A wood-fired system was located on the summit platform in a shelter opening on to the seaward facade; it possibly had columns used for navigational alignment when making the difficult approach and entry into the harbour.
†When some years ago the Tower of Hercules in La Coruña, Spain, held the title of the world's oldest functioning lighthouse, now the honor belongs to Kõpu, Hiiumaa (see below)

Kõpu Lighthouse
(image at top of page)

†The 36-meter Kõpu lighthouse, in the western part of Estonia's second-largest island, was built in the beginning of the 16th century. According to historical records, the first firewood was ignited at the top of the lighthouse on August 1, 1531. The tower served as an important beacon for merchant fleets of the Hanseatic League that were sailing in the Baltic.

¹This info is from:

²Dover Museum

♠This info is from:

†This info is from:

♣This info is from:
World Heritage Centre

LighthouseCurrriculm Grades K-4
An educational service provided by
The United States Lighthouse Society


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