LIGHTHOUSES: A Part of Our Past, Present, and Future
Why are so many people drawn to lighthouses? There are probably a lot of different reasons. Maybe it is because lighthouses are found in some of the most beautiful places on earth, many on rugged coast lines dotted with trees, others along the sandy beaches, still others on reefs or rocks out in the ocean. To some, lighthouses appeal to their nostalgic or artistic senses since many of the lighthouses are some of the most historical structures to be found in the United States today. Yet it may be that they are drawn to the lighthouses due to the multitude of heroic rescues associated with them. It does not matter, whether warning mariners of danger or aiding them in finding safe passage into the harbor, lighthouses today as in the past, stand as beacons of safety and security. The lighthouse mystic is a part of our past, present, and future.
Let their lights forever shine. Many years ago, people lived in a primitive way, hunting and growing their own food. Eventually, they decided to explore the water in a boat in search of what the sea had to offer for food. During the day it was easy for them to find their way home, maybe by a pile of rocks they had left on the shore or some other type of sign. Night was a different story since much of the shore looked the same.
Friends would often help them out by building bonfires on top of a high point to guide them safely home. Sometimes, nature even helped by providing a glowing volcano as a guide in aiding the sailors to find their way home. As bigger ships were built and mariners sailed further from home, many were wrecked as the waves pushed them into rocky shores or dangerous reefs. So the need for some type of warning signal arose. The lighthouse came into being. The first lighthouse was built in Egypt around 280 BC. Records tell us that the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt was the tallest lighthouse ever built - 450' (about the size of a 45-story skyscraper today). The source of light was an open fire at the top. Pity the poor keeper who forgot to bring the matches, or whatever they used, after climbing all the way to the top of the lighthouse. The Pharos lasted for 1500 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th Century.
A lighthouse is a structure with a light at the top which is located in a place which is considered to be important or dangerous to navigation. The two main purposes of a lighthouse are to serve as a navigational aid to help sailors know where they are and to warn mariners of dangerous areas. A lighthouse is to a sailor what a seeing eye dog is to a blind person. While we often think of lighthouses as a tall cone shaped tower, lighthouses come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. Depending on where the lighthouse is built, it may be tall, short, or squat. Lighthouses can be square, octagonal, conical, cylindrical or even skeletal. While many lighthouses stand alone, some have a building attached where the keeper of the lighthouse stayed. As a general rule, lighthouses were built of whatever materials were readily available. This could be stones, wood, concrete, steel, cast-iron, or even a mixture of shells, lime, water, and sand. Therefore, lighthouses tended to be unique.
Lighthouses are found in a variety of locations; rocky cliffs, sandy shoals on land, on a water swept reef at sea, and at entrances to bays and harbors. They are there to warn sailors of dangerous reefs under the sea, rocky coasts on land, and to guide ships to the entrances of bays and harbors. The lighthouses message has always been; STAY AWAY, DANGER, BEWARE, or COME THIS WAY. Every lighthouse, no matter where it is, tells every mariner, THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE. So, to always avoid the hazzards, navigate to a safe harbor, and to always know where you are, let your lighthouse beacon forever shine.
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