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Book

Author:Williams, Harold
Year:1993
Title:Southern Lights : Lighthouses of Southern Africa
Place:Cape Town
Publisher:William Waterman Publications

To most a lighthouse evokes the romance of the sea, the danger of the tide and the solitude of the lightkeeper who stands watch over his tower, making sure that the light flashes its warning to mariners traversing a treacherous coast.

Ever since man set to sea, he has created beacons on land to help wary mariners steer their vessels clear of danger. Like so many lighthouses of other lands, the history of South African lighthouses is built upon the skeletons of many valuable vessels and countless lives lost to the cruelty of a darkened coast. South African lighthouses have developed considerably since the first primitive 'navigational aid', a fire lit on Robben Island in 1656. It was the determination of pioneering men who, in later centuries, battled with the obstinacy of the authorities, that led to the construction of our Southern Lights. Their efforts were never easy. Often a lighthouse had to be built in a remote, inaccessible location; in thickly wooded jungle or on jagged rock.

Living conditions at the early lighthouses were also very primitive. The keeper and his family had to reside in the tower and, in some instances, only one room was provided as a living quarters. There was also a deep feeling of melancholy and loneliness that accompanied a tour of duty at a far-removed lighthouse. Tales of tragedy punctuate the history - the poisoning of a lightkeeper's son on Robben Island last century, and the lightkeeper's wife who threw herself, through despair, into a well - as do incidents of heroism, such as the attempted rescue of a headman off Bird Island.

The establishment of Africa's southernmost lights is traced up to the end of the manned era, and a technical description of those erected since the introduction of the new technology of fully automatic lighthouses is given.

Southern Lights is a unique in-depth account of the lighthouses along the Southern African coast that covers in meticulous detail a previously neglected aspect of the maritime heritage.

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Buildings linked to this book

Danger Point Lighthouse, 1895, Gansbaai, Western Cape. pp 81-83
Lighthouse, c1903 : n.d. : 1982, Swakopmund, Namibia. pp 89-90
Lighthouse, Bird Island, 1873, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. pp 25-31
Lighthouse, Bluff - Cooper Lighthouse, 1867, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. pp 91-97
Lighthouse, Cape Columbine, 1936, Paternoster, Western Cape. pp 121-123
Lighthouse, Cape Recife, 1851, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. pp 21-23
Lighthouse, Cape St Blaize, 1862-1864, Mossel Bay, Western Cape. pp 52-55
Lighthouse, Great Fish Point, 1898, Port Alfred, Eastern Cape. pp 86-88
Lighthouse, Green Point, 1820, Green Point, Cape Town, Western Cape. pp 1-7
Lighthouse, Green Point (Umkomaas), 1905, uMkomaas, KwaZulu-Natal. pp 93-94
Lighthouse, Mahlongwa Heads, 1892, uMkomaas, KwaZulu-Natal. pp 93
Lighthouse, Port Shepstone, 1905, Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal. pp 93-94
Lighthouse, Robben Island, 1862, Robben Island, Western Cape. pp 56-60
Lighthouse, Scottsburgh, 1892, Scottburgh, KwaZulu-Natal. pp 93-94 (ill)
Lighthouse, Seal Point, 1876-1878, Cape St Francis, Eastern Cape. pp 68-73
Lighthouse, Slangkoppunt, 1914-1919, Kommetjie, Western Cape. pp 113-114

People or firms linked to this book

COOPER, Harry Claude Lee. pp xii-xv, 5, 14-17, 27, 37, 39-40, 55, 59, 64-67, 77, 91, 112, 114-119, 122, 154
TUCKER, John Scott. pp 57