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25 May 2016


On 10 May 2016 we visited the first of the hoped for 45 lighthouses. Having overnighted at Paternoster, we were only 5 km from the Cape Columbine lighthouse. The LH is in the CC Nature Reserve, where a small entrance fee is payable. The structure is square in cross section with fluted corners.


A foggy morning meant a late start to the day. We were welcomed by Wayne Brown (pictured in conversation with me), having phoned (022 752 2705) beforehand to advise of our intended visit.


He explained the operation of the LH, both historical and current. Various light sources had been used over the years, but currently a 400 watt metal halide lamp is in operation. The earlier fog signalling system was a pair of foghorns (diaphones) operated by 100 psi compressed air. I guess this was effectively a wind instrument, like a bugle, but not as musical. The compressor, 3 large air reservoirs and the final air tank (pictured below) have been preserved. The one diaphone (darker grey) is visible behind me in the picture. It protrudes through the wall.


Wayne escorted us through the lower buildings and tower. The visitors’ book on the first floor of the tower was duly signed. The lantern house was fascinating. The lens system is much larger and more complex than expected and the lamp appears to be very small. The rotational gearing system is driven by a surprisingly small electric motor. A large pipe (about 300mm in diameter) extends vertically all the way up the tower but is now redundant. Its purpose was to house cables and weights which had to be hoisted manually every 3 hours to drive the rotating mechanism.


The tour ended with a question and answer session which elicited some interesting information. The pedestal (lens and its supports) floats in a bath of mercury, hence very low friction and the small motor. The lens system directs the light by both reflection and refraction. Wayne used the term catadioptric for this.

Wayne explained that the fog signalling system had been re-sited when the technology changed from compressed air to an electrical nautophone.


As there was still some fog at sea, the fog detector (at the top of the above structure) was still in positive mode. We certainly experienced the sound at close hand, in fact for 2.5 seconds at one minute intervals.

Drafted       23 May 2016