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Look in The Electric Mirror to Find the Ark of the Covenant
Ancient Lighthouse Coins
Lighthouse Helgoland
Navesink Lighthouse Light
Old British Lighthouses
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Lighthouse History in Text and Images Ancient and Modern


 A lighthouse carbon arc lamp built by Larry Brian Radka


Lighthouse beginning page previews and their links under the pictures below lead to more lighthouse history and images of these ancient and more modern lighthouses:





Lighthouse of Alexandria


Speaking of the lighthouse of Alexandria, "the poet Lucan, in his 'Pharsalia,' asserts that it [the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria] indicated to Julius Caesar his ap­proach to Egypt on the seventh night after he sailed from Troy; and he makes use of the significant expression 'lampada,' which could hardly be applied, even poetically, to an open fire," wrote W. H. Davenport Adams in his 1871 edition of Lighthouses and Lightships. "Pliny expresses a fear lest its light, which, seen at a distance, had the appearance of flames, should, from its steadiness, be mistaken for a star; but as­suredly he would not have spoken in such terms of the wavering, irregular, and fitful light of an ordinary fire. We conclude, therefore, that its lighting apparatus was more complete than has generally been supposed." . . .



The First British Electric Lighthouses


No detailed history of any early modern use of electric carbon arc lamps in lighthouses seems to be readily available.  If diligently researched, the stories can be found in bits and pieces of electrical material in old newspapers, magazines, letters, official papers, reports, and a few books.  However, the average lighthouse enthusiast has no convenient means to acquire this rare information or put it together for a good understanding.  Therefore, we will try to do so, in a series of short articles on the various electric carbon arc lighthouses that once helped the nineteenth-century mariner to sail safely on his way. . .



Fire Island Lighthouse Electric Carbon Arc Lamp


Low-light-loss Fresnel lenses for lighthouses, much larger than the first one built by Augustin Jean Fresnel (1788-1827) and illustrated above, began focusing the brilliant electric carbon arc lamps blazing away in lighthouses along the British and French seacoasts in the 1860’s. [i] By the 1880’s, their popularity had extended to Italy, Australia,and even the New World. Chambers’s Journal made the following announcement of an installation in South America in 1884 as follows: . . .



Lighthouse Helgoland's Carbon Arc Lights


“A new form of electric flashlight has been installed in the lighthouse tower at Heligoland[i] by the Siemens-Schukertwerke, of Nuremberg, Germany,” stated the August 22, 1903 issue of Scientific American.  “There are three lower searchlights arranged 120 degrees apart, and another mounted upon the top, all operated automatically and driven by electric motors,” added the article titled “Modern Searchlights.”  “The carbons, which are fed by automatic mechanism are placed in a horizontal position, as is usual with most large searchlights.  The intensity of the light is 30 million candle power as a minimum, and the maximum current used is 100 amperes.  The light flashes occur every 5 seconds, and they remain in one position only .1 second.” . . .



The Lighthouse at Alexandria in Ancient Egypt


The lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven wonders of the Ancient World. Atop the Pharos stood a great mirror, a reflective telescope, and electric searchlight, all in one.  You might ask:  Did the ancient Egyptians really have electric lights?  The answer is in the affirmative and the abundant evidence of its existence follows: . . .



The Navesink Lighthouse Beacon


The history of the Navesink Lighthouse carbon arc light is not perfectly clear.  At some time in 1896, a huge electric carbon arc light apparatus and gigantic fresnel lens left New York's Fire Island Lighthouse and eventually arrived on December 21st at the U. S. Lighthouse Depot at Tompkinsville on Staten Island for testing.  Apparently, the arrangement remained there for over a year, before being installed in the south tower of the Navesink Light on New Jersey's highlands in June of 1898.  At least, this is what the 1898 Report to Congress from the Lighthouse Board seems to indicate. " Although not authenticated, there is some opinion that the generator plant and the 2nd order bi-valve lens initially slated for Fire Island went to Navesink," wrote Editor Wayne C. Wheeler, in the summer 2000 edition of The Keeper's Log. . . .



A Short Excerpt from The Electric Mirror

on the Pharos Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting


This bizarre description of the good monk—whose light ecclesiastic duties probably denied him the ability to climb 1,800 feet to verify its height—should be accepted with caution.  We can, however, safely assume, after about 400 years, and a description as fabulous as this one, that the Pharos did, indeed, recover from any damage that it might have suffered from the great earthquake and tsunami of the year 365. . . .




Al Bakri's Rare Description

 of the Ancient Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria



Such a height for the Lighthouse of Alexandria is highly unlikely, and "the first wonder" was the Pyramids, built long before the Pharos Lighthouse that was probably the Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World instead.  Yet, the Lighthouse at Alexandria must have been an equal spectacle to see.  However, Al Bakri, a medieval Arab traveler, who carefully observed it, when it was still standing tall during his visit to Alexandria, was probably more accurate than Epiphanius in the determination of its height.  He reported:  "The Pharos today is composed of four stages.  The first, of a rectangular design, is remarkably built in rectangular cut stones, of which the joints are so well concealed that the whole seems to be formed of a single block of stone, remaining insensible to the ravages of time.  Its height is 320 cubits. . . .




A Piece of U. S. Lighthouse Service History


The following article on the United States Lighthouse Service appeared in the August 21, 1915 issue of Scientific American.  The details therein should interest both lighthouse enthusiasts and historians, and this rare piece of history runs as follows: . . .



Lighthouse Coins in Antiquity


Lighthouse coins display ancient electric lighting technology in The Electric Mirror on the Pharos Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting as well as on the lighthouse coin depicting the ancient lighthouse at Messina illustrated below: . .






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This page was last modified on Sunday, February 18, 2018