photo: Daniel Gregoire / Unspalsh

Nature and the sea can be deceptively peaceful. At one point, gentle and revealing the most beautiful of natural wonders, and the next - cruel and destructive forces that sweep everything in front of them. The sea is a treacherous beast, and nothing seems to stop it on its way except the sea light. It is as if this "little David" will be swallowed up at any moment by the "terrible Goliath Sea Beast", but he is resisting another threatening wave. This is how it has been and will be for centuries!


From ancient times, the lighthouse directs lost ships, and after a while they are used as an entrance to the port. Today, if modern headlights are seen from afar, tall platforms have been built centuries ago to ignite fire so that even the farthest ship can have a landmark.


There is no clear opinion as to who created the first marine lighthouse. According to some, this is Palamed from the town of Nafplio, others refer to the creators of the lighthouse in Alexandria (built on the island of Pharos), who impose "fashion" on the lighthouse in different parts of the ancient world. Even the commander of the Greek fleet, Commander Themistock, says in his memoirs that he first notices a lighthouse, but in ancient times - a lit fire on a small platform at the port of Piraeus.


Disputes continue to this day. Many peoples of today, considered to be the heirs of great empires and civilizations, dispute the main merit of creating this miracle, leaving behind the most important thing - its application and saving countless lives in the stormy waves of the sea. Naturally, in order for a light to produce light, different combustible materials are used - oil lamps, wood or coal, and a protective device is required around the fire so that it does not go out.


Thanks to the conquering policies of the Roman Empire, today in Europe, along with the monuments left over from a bygone era, there are preserved headlights in some places, such as the famous "Tower of Hercules" in La Coruna and the "Lanterna" lighthouse in Genoa. Over the years, construction and materials have been refined, with the result that many new headlamps have emerged in Western and Northern Europe.

Hook Head Lighthouse

Today, one of the oldest working headlights in Europe is the Hook Head Lighthouse in County Wexford, Ireland. In France, headlights also appeared in the Middle Ages. The first of its kind was built in 1581 at the behest of Henry III and is 40 meters high, and its construction takes 27 years. It was not until 1820 that the tower was the first in the world to use the Fresnel lens (an optical lens invented by Augustine Fresnel), significantly reducing the thickness and weight of the glass used.

Eddystone Lighthouse


It is located 14 km south of Plymouth, England. It was erected for frequent shipwrecks and is considered a real feat and madness at that time because of the sharp rocks, so it is located on a special structure.

Eddystone Lighthouse

Initially, Henry Winstanley (Henry Winstanley) built an octagonal wooden structure in 1696, but was swept away by a major storm in 1702. Then John Rudyerd, in 1708, designed a new scaffolding of bricks and concrete, which survived until 1755, before being destroyed by fire. John Smeaton restored the lighthouse in 1756 and built an additional tower that withstood the harsh conditions until 1877. It requires innovation in construction using granite and hydraulic lime, and the base retains marble dowels. It elevates the tower to a height of 72 meters, but designs it slightly curved in the likeness of the tower in Pisa, so that it can dissipate the energy of the waves coming from it.

In Britain, where headlights are privately owned, abuses of fees have begun, forcing foreign vessels to evade the British coast and seek asylum along the coast of the country. With the increase in trade between the two countries in the seventeenth century, effective lighting equipment was also needed to help early warning of approaching ships on dangerous rocks or reefs.

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Afterwards, Scottish engineer Robert Louis Stevenson (besides a well-known writer, he is the offspring of a third generation of headlamp builders) is committed to improving the design of all headlamps in England because he realizes that good design is at the heart of the sustainability of the natural whimsy headlamp . With the construction of the Bell Rock headlamp, the rotating lights are red and white, which will be easily recognizable in the distance. Over the next 50 years, Stevenson used his experience to impose, design, direct, and even improve various headlamps, giving advice on the selection, installation and design of these equipment and taking the opportunity to impose the use of Fresnel lenses. Stevenson's heirs continue his covenant, creating new headlights across Scotland.


Following Stevenson, the blind architect Alexander Mitchell imposed the use of screw dowels to lock the struts, patenting his invention in 1848. Subsequently, this approach for securing facilities begins to be applied elsewhere. But along with innovations in headlight construction, the question arises of providing good enough lighting. More than 400 tonnes of coal per year go to maintain a single headlamp.


Looking for the perfect light


In 1782, the Swiss scientist and inventor Aime Argand made a revolutionary discovery by creating the first smokeless flame lamp, which replaced the then oil lamp and began to establish itself over the course of a century as a way to illuminate the headlights. But this is only a temporary solution. In 1865, John Wigham, a Scotchman, developed a gas headlamp gas system using pig or whale oil. This system remained available until the early XNUMXth century, when the first light bulbs appeared. In Ireland, kerosene and paraffin were used to illuminate headlamps in the XNUMXth century.

In 1870, John Wigham patented the first windproof oil lamp. From a young age, he has been very interested in lighting and the sea. In 1901, Arthur Kitson invented an oil burner that was improved by David Hood at Trinity House. The fuel is evaporated at high pressure and burned to heat the mantle, producing a power greater than six times the illumination of traditional oil lamps.

Gustav Dalen

But real recognition goes to Nils Gustaf Dalen. In 1906, while chief engineer at a gas company, he began experimenting with various gases to produce light. After failing with the acetylene test and losing his sight, he invents the gas battery and creates an agamasan (porous substance - used for the safe storage and operation of acetylene). Thus, thanks to its safety and reliability, agamasan became a major source of illumination until 1960, and was even used to illuminate the Panama Canal.

The first parabolic reflectors


And so with the development of the new lamp, the first parabolic reflectors appear. Although they were invented in 1763 by William Hutchinson. They allow the bundles of light to be passed through the system and maximize their power in a concentrated beam. Over the next 100 years, other scientists invented several variants of thinner lenses, and it was not until Augustine Fresnel that this invention gained real application. The system is named koptter (from Greek κάτοπτρον - "light"). The lens thus created captures the incident light at an oblique angle and allows the light from the headlamp to be seen at a further distance. The new invention was first applied in 1823 at the Cordouan lighthouse, with a scattering length of more than 32 km. Today, this system is still used by some headlights.


Today, headlights are a symbol of hope for many sailors who, following the path of these "light-guards", can be sure to be back with their families again.

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