by Lynda Miller
Recounting how Lighthouses began
|Flashlights of the Ocean|
Visualize yourself on a ship being tossed back and forth as a storm rages through the night. "Captain!" shouts a sailor, "reefs off the bow!" Suddenly a bright light sweeps across the black water revealing long jagged reefs flanking the entrance to the harbor channel. "Take to the port!" the captain yells, saving the ship and all souls on board.
Thus began the use of lighthouses. It's like having a powerful flashlight that is used to show the way in the dark of night.
The first known lighthouse was built in the year 250 B.C., in Alexandria, Egypt, on the island of Pharos, named "Pharos Light". It stood 450 feet tall – that's 45 stories high. The caretakers carried wood to the top and placed it on the wood burning fire. It's still believed to be the tallest lighthouse in the world and one of the "Seven Wonders of the World." It stood 1500 years until it was destroyed by an earthquake.
A typical lighthouse of the 1700s would have been 150 feet tall. It included a nice home to live in, a fuel house, boathouse and fog-signaling building. In those days it took most, if not all, of the family working together to keep the lighthouse running.
The keeper, and any family helpers, rose before the sun and carried whale oil up the 200 spiral steps in the tower to the lantern room. They trimmed the wicks and filled the lantern. Then they set to cleaning the lens. That alone could take a full day. Once that was done, the clockwork was wound.
Once a week all the brass in the building was polished and the inside and outside windows of the tower were washed. The gallery, or the balcony as you would call it, was mainly used to wash the outside of the windows.
When the sun began setting the keeper climbed back to the tower to light the lantern and maintain an eight-hour watch. He climbed the stairs three times a night to check the lantern and wind the weights.
The Fresnel (pronounced Frey-nel) lens used candles that rotated on a frame giving the appearance of a flashing light. It burned brighter than any other lens and gave off the effect of being seen from the side. It is a beautiful lamp made of 100 pieces of special cut glass.
During perilous storms the keeper hung onto a rope while he walked down a wooden pier of 400 feet or more to the lighthouse. Many times he thought he would be swept away by the waves -some as high a 10' - as they washed over him and the pier. During these same storms he would rush down to the Ocean to save the lives of those in boats or those being washed up on shore from their wrecked ships.
The keepers kept a journal and recorded everything daily - from weather conditions to the amount of fuel used. It could be a very lonely life, and yet when a keeper was hired they stayed until they retired or died.
Original Seven Wonders of the World
The Seven Wonders of the World are the most impressive man-made structures. Some are still in existence today while some have disappeared. Scholars defined the list back in the 2nd Century B.C. They are broken into the Ancient, Medieval and Modern. The Seven original are:
The Great Pyramids of Giza
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Statue of Zeusat at Olympia
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Mausoleum of Massasollo's at Haliearanassuc
Colossus of Rhodes
Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt
(The Great Pyramid of Giza is still standing)