The History of Lighthouses
By Nikita Hillier
“Once the lighthouse is seen, the rest of the sea is ignored.” -Terri Guillemets
I’ve never been particularly fond of the ocean, or any body of water for that matter. Truthfully, I’m a country girl through and through, but something about a lone lighthouse sitting high above the rest of the world soothes me in an unspeakable way. I find it extremely hard to explain why I’m so captivated with these structures. There is a possibility that it’s because there was nothing like that where I grew up, or maybe it is because they remind me of a place I once loved. Lighthouses have been used in literature for an immeasurable amount of time to symbolise individuality, power, strength, safety, and sometimes even death. They continuously withstand the harshest of storms and turbulent ocean waters, so it comes as no surprise that they are depicted as a symbol of strength and longevity. If only everyone had their own personal lighthouse guiding them on the right path, life would be a whole lot simpler.
Lighthouses in their earliest form.
Though there may be heavy debate about the earliest existence of lighthouses, it is believed that the first ‘spark’ was in the form of bonfires on the beach. From then, the earliest actual lighthouse was built over 2000 years ago in Egypt, and according to archaeologists, they have found remains of more than 30 lighthouses which had all been built by ancient Romans. Besides all that, the first ‘official/oldest’ lighthouse in the world is The Lighthouse of Alexandria (280 BC).
The purpose of lighthouses.
A lighthouse is a large tower with a beaming light at the top which is located in a dark, dangerous, or low vision area regarding navigation (travel over water). A lighthouse is the traffic light of the sea and serves as a great navigational aid and is also used to warn boats of potentially hazardous areas. Many factors such as fog, rain, or even hail, can compromise visibility, so in that instance, a lighthouse will aid in navigation. Though they aren’t as necessary as they used to be, they are still used often by many seafarers.
The story of the South Solitary Island Lighthouse.
Perhaps one of the most interesting lighthouses in the world, South Solitary Island Lighthouse is said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl who was buried in a bathtub. In 1912, a young girl (17) died at this lighthouse and is said to have succumbed to typhoid during a harsh storm that battered the island. This left her family no choice but to entomb her body in a bathtub until the weather cleared and they could move her to the mainland. Once the storm finally settled and the sun came out from behind the clouds, the young girl’s body was shipped off the island for burial, but some believe her spirit never left. According to some sources, her body was left in the bathtub. In 1971, then nine-year-old Darren Squibb moved to South Solitary Island where his father took a job as a lighthouse keeper. He always said that he felt something was ‘off’ about their new home and that it was eerily strange. He once said, "I remember sitting on one of the boxes in the loungeroom and looking around and sensing there was something odd about the house." During his time on the island, he said that he had become traumatised by a constant feeling of a presence in his room, footsteps in his hallway, and someone playing with his hair as he slept. Once, during the night, he even recalls briefly seeing the young girl’s ghost as he ran to his mother’s room. Mr Squibb said his father also believed he saw a ghostly figure in the house on a separate occasion but did not say anything until after the family left the island.
The relationship between lighthouses and the people needing guidance shall never succumb to storms or rough sea. Within the dark night, beams of light will reach through and navigate those in need of guidance to safety, and a new story, a new hope, and a new, safe journey will be born. As a sailor would say, “I wish you a calm sea, a fair wind and a strong mast!”