Read e-book online A natural history of lighthouses PDF

By John A. Love

ISBN-10: 1849951543

ISBN-13: 9781849951548

This is the tale of lightkeepers’ contributions to the usual historical past of lighthouses together with the heritage and upkeep of the manned navigation beacons. because keepers have been first engaged to keep up lighthouses round the British coast they've got encountered flora and fauna, and now and again built a prepared curiosity and services at the topic. in the direction of the top of the nineteenth century keepers have been inspired to publish annual returns of poultry routine permitting experiences on chook migration and several other authoritative books to be compiled. accordingly, ornithologists started to realize what percentage lighthouses have been well-placed to set up fowl observatories. besides the fact that, lightkeepers additionally famous that during yes climatic conditions and through migration occasions, flocks of birds have been drawn to the beam, leading to many fatalities. whereas the matter is now larger understood and significantly lowered, the automation of all British lighthouses has ended in there now not being lighthouse keepers to watch the location and file chicken, sea mammal, insect and bat activities.

The average heritage of Lighthouses highlights the contribution made via lighthouse keepers over the past century or to the examine of average historical past, and ornithology specifically. a lot of this can be mentioned within the phrases of the keepers themselves, set within the context of lighthouse historical past. Scotland has a particularly wealthy lighthouse culture, ordinarily as a result of a dynasty of Stevenson engineers masking over a century, all of whom additionally had a profound realizing of climate and geology—and certainly usual history—so very important within the putting in their lighthouses.

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Extra resources for A natural history of lighthouses

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Naval tragedies tend to be better recorded and more often pass into the historical record. One of the worst took place off the Isles of Scilly only a few years after Defoe’s storm. On the night of 22 October 1707 five large ships of the British fleet were lost and about 1,670 men were drowned. They were returning home from Toulon, under the command of 57-year-old Rear Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell in his 90-gun flagship HMS Association. A famous naval hero of the day, the Admiral’s body came ashore on St Mary’s where it was buried but later removed with all due honours to Westminster Abbey.

Robert Stevenson designed the Bell Rock lighthouse (36 m or 118 ft tall and first lit in 1811) so that its masonry blocks dove-tailed both horizontally and vertically – just as with Smeaton’s Eddystone. The result was so rigid that it too shuddered in big seas. On the other hand, when the second tallest lighthouse in the UK (at 48 m or 158 ft) was built in 1844 – Skerryvore, 17 km (10 miles) south of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides – Robert’s son Alan calculated that the weight of the tiers built on top of each other would be sufficient to bind the whole structure just as strongly so the tower yielded slightly to the pounding waves.

In the early morning of Friday 26 November 1703 – still fit and strong for all his 59 years – he bravely set sail from the Barbican Steps in Plymouth with several men who were to relieve the duty lightkeepers. He himself intended to stay in the tower for a few days, to oversee some repairs before returning ashore and onwards by coach to his London home for Christmas. However, after several weeks of persistent gales the sea was still displaying a considerable swell. The small tender had undertaken the voyage in similar conditions many times before but, due to the uncertainty of the weather, the skipper James Bound, was reluctant to take Winstanley.

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A natural history of lighthouses by John A. Love

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