Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mizen Head (revisited)

 A much better day than our last visit in 2004. The lights themselves are pretty unspectacular and the building, due to its position on a cliff, is not a tower structure but still, this is one of the great lighthouses and one of only two in Ireland (the other being Hook Head) to have a Visitors Centre.
 To find it, simply go to Goleen and follow the signs to Mizen Head. There's a lovely panoramic view of Barley Cove en route. There's a coffee shop, a large parking area and a souvenir shop. You buy a ticket and go through to an information centre. Then there's a 10 minute walk down a good path and across the brand new 2009 bridge that crosses over to Cloghnane Island on which the Visitors Centre is located. Most fascinating for me was the huge list of wrecks around the coast.
 On the 28 April 1905 the Board of Trade gave sanction for the erection of a lighthouse and fog signal at Mizen Head but at the Lighthouse Conference held in April 1906 it was agreed that a fog signal only was necessary at Mizen Head and that the new station should be put in the care of the Principal Keepers of Fastnet Lighthouse.

On 18 October 1907 sanction was given for the erection of a reinforced concrete bridge to give access to the Island, to be built by Messrs Thorne and Sons, of Westminster to a design by Noel Ridley at a cost of £1,272.
The SS Trada was wrecked at Mizen Head on 22 December 1908. Sixty three lives were saved by the resident engineer and workmen at the site. At the enquiry held on 26 January 1909 the Master of the vessel blamed the disaster on the lack of a fog signal at Mizen Head.
On 3 May 1909 the fog signal was established and Keepers' dwellings were built. The Fog Signal was an explosive charge fired at intervals. In July 1914 the dwellings were whitewashed so as to act as a better daymark.
There was an armed raid on Mizen Head on 21 May 1920 and practically all the explosives were taken. As no protection was offered to the station by the Government the Board withdrew explosive fog signals from all stations around the coast. The fog signal was re-established on 29 February 1924. On 1st June 1934 the character of the fog signal was changed from 2 shots every 7½ minutes to 2 shots every 5 minute with a brilliant flash accompanying the fog signal when sounded by night. This flash was discontinued during World War Two and re-introduced in 1949. The explosive type fog signal was finally withdrawn in 1969.
A Radiobeacon (the first in Ireland) was installed and put into operation on 1 January 1931, at a cost of £10,017. In more recent times utilisation of radio direction finders by mariners has been to a great extent superceded by more modern technology. For this reason, the Commissioners discontinued their Medium Frequency Radiobeacon service on 1st February 1999.
In May 1931 Mizen Head was taken out of the care of the Principal Keeper of Fastnet and a Principal Keeper of Mizen Head was appointed, with two Assistant Keepers, one of whom also did duty at Crookhaven.
A light white occulting light with the character Oc W 4 secs was established at Mizen Head on 1st October 1959. On 10th October 1968 the range of the light was increased to 16 nautical miles.
 The new bridge
Looking back from the lighthouse.

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