Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Old Fastnet Light

Came across this photo in the National Library of Ireland Archives and it shows the original Fastnet lighthouse which was demolished down to a stump when the new one went up. The stump can clearly be seen in the photographs here but because of its colour and the description of 'Cast Iron', I had it in my head that the tower itself was a dull rusty brown colour. Seems I couldn't have been further from the mark!
This little beauty incidentally ruled the roost for exactly 50 years, having first been lit in 1854.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Baltimore Beacon revisited

 Built in 1849, Baltimore Becon is a conspicuous landmark, though it has never been lit. An original smaller beacon on the site had been vandalised, so it was recommended a big fifty footer be built.
 Due to its resemblance to a pillar of salt, it has often been called Lot's Wife. I clambered up to it last year. These photos are from the sea, looking up.
 Baltimore, incidentally has absolutely nothing to do with its American namesake.

Barrack Point revisited

On the ferry back from Clear Island, I was delighted that the pilot decided to do the ocean-side route, rounding Sherkin Island before entering Baltimore Harbour via the twin pinnacles of Sherkin Island Lighthouse and Baltimore Beacon (above)
 Sherkin Island Light (also called Barrack Point, though not after the President) was built in 1885. Last year, I got a good view of it from Baltimore Beacon. These pictures are from another perspective - the boat chugging through the gap between the headlands.

Fastnet revisited

 One of the great European lighthouses, the Fastnet is a remarkable piece of construction, lying south west of Cape Clear Island. When I was there a year ago, it was an evening trip and the photos I got, although quite spectacular, were somewhat murky and gloomy, though they did add to the atmosphere. This time, it was a glorious summer's afternoon trip, and the pictures are much better.
The first Fastnet light (the black stump of which can still be clearly seen in the photos) was first exhibited in 1854 and was constructed using cast iron plates. It was apparently painted white with a black hoop. Although a wonder of engineering at the time, it soon became clear that the material possibly wasn't the best for waveswept lighthouses.

 Three peninsulas up from the Fastnet Rock, the Calf Rock Lighthouse off Dursey Island was also constructed of cast iron plates. Storms frequently battered them and bits started falling off, so they strengthened it at the bottom. Then in November 1881, in a terrible storm, the whole lighthouse was torn away, leaving only a stump.

 Of course, alarm bells began to ring for the Fastnet, in an even more precarious position than Calf Rock. With their customary urgency, it was another 17 years before they commenced work on the new Fastnet. Constructed of large Cornish granite blocks, cut and numbered and shipped over from Cornwall to Crookhaven, the newly constructed Ierne transported them over to the Rock, winching them onshore, where each block was personally laid into place by a man named Kavanagh, from Wicklow.
 Because of the weather, progress was desperately slow but slowly the new tower rose. They decided to build it from sea level, figuring that the reason that the seas came up so high on the old one, was because the rocks pushed the waves upwards.
Eventually, Kavanagh laid his last block and the tower was complete. Kavanagh went back to Wicklow for some shore leave, where he died suddenly without ever seeing the tower lit. He was the only casualty of the construction.
 The light was first lit in 1904 and the old tower slowly disassembled, leaving just the black stump.

There is a famous yacht race that takes place every two years, that goes from southern England, round the Fastnet and back again. Those of us old enough to remember, recall the 1979 race in which a fierce storm decimated the field. There is a simple memorial on Cape Clear to the fifteen men who lost their lives that fateful night.

Cape Clear Island

 The ferry from Schull to Cape Clear Island (or Oileann Cleire) now only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we drove down to Baltimore to get the ferry over to Ireland's most southerly inhabited island.
 A lighthouse was established here in 1818 on the southern part of the island. However, it very quickly became apparent that, like Wicklow, Kinsale and others, its position on top of a cliff meant it was frequently obscured by fog and mist
Despite much petitioning by the maritime community, nothing was done about this state of affairs until the inevitable happened. The passenger-carrying sailing ship, the Stephen Whitney, was heading eastwards along the southwest coast of Ireland in heavy fog and, not being able to see Cape Clear light, mistook Crookhaven Light for the Old Head of Kinsale, and ran aground on one of the many jagged islands off West Cork, with the loss of 92 of the 110 souls on board.
 Even then, the authorities procrastinated until a letter to the Times from A Seaman (believed by many to be a ship's captain) lambasted them for their tardiness and turn-a-blind-eye attitude and more or less ordered them to put a light on the Fastnet instead. When this happened on the first day of 1854, the Cape Clear light was extinguished.
 From the north harbour, where the ferry leaves you, follow the road that cuts through the centre of the harbour, keep going around south harbour and then start climbing. The road leads all the way to the lighthouse.
The light is situated next to an old signal tower built in the early 1800s when the British authorities thought the French might attack, but quickly deserted when it was clear they wouldn't. The lighthouse keepers and their families appropriated the old signal tower quarters. In fact at one time, there was a covered walkway between the lighthouse and the signal tower, only recently removed.
 The plaque above was originally placed on the lighthouse but is now situated on the main road between the North Harbour and the Church
 Above, the view from the light, with the Fastnet in the distance.
 The old cottages are now just end walls and no more.

 Good woman yourself, Elizabeth!

Castletownbere 3

 Built on the sight of the front beacon, Castletown Directional Light was established only in 2011, when Castletownbere 2, a few yards further back was discontinued. Above is a view from the side.
 Above and below, the view from the rear
 The front rectangular panel was originally painted a bright luminous red to act as a daymark but for some reason this has been changed to Black, though I can't see any mention of this fact in CIL's notices to mariners.Apparently, the reason was that the orange/red stripe was fooling the mariners eye and merging with the green light to make it look white. Strange but true. The new colour was introduced around the end of May 2013

 All the photos below show the new Directional light with the old one behind it.
 The light shines through a small hole in the middle of the black panel.

 As the photo above, the luminous red paint is still evident on the light

The light flashes red or green or white, though not at the same time.