A simpler lifestyle is all about appreciating nature. Lighthouses today are often tourist attractions and holiday homes. But they were built to protect ships that would be at risk of hitting rocks, especially in stormy weather or at night. Not all lighthouses are tall and cylindrical, with white and red stripes. There are circular lighthouses and even short squat ones! Many are now not in working use, but some are. Years ago, lighthouse keepers would live year-round to keep the gas light going, to warn ships of impending wrecks. There were no shopping malls back then
The Scilly Isles may look like the Caribbean to us, but today it is a mess of plastic waste. One local sailor got lost at sea for a few days, and was so shocked at the trash he found amid the waves, that he now campaigns for the islands to go plastic-free. And any diver will tell you of ghosted shipwrecks below the clear waters. A testament to how dangerous the waters around these beautiful islands can be. Still, the migrating birds still love them, often stopping off as a ‘resting point’ on their way to or from Europe.
If you would like to learn more about the lighthouses of England, visit Trinity House which lists them all, along with light vessels (ships that act also as lighthouses). The charity also helps support the seafaring community, which has often risked lives for our safety.
The site also describes why lighthouses are different colours and shapes – often due to local lighting and the shape of the land. So if surroundings are dark (woodland), the lighthouses is painted white to help it stand out. The red and white stripes so familiar, are often when near white cliffs or rocks. Some lighthouses are short, so sailors can more easily see the beam. If nearby to each other, they produce different flash patterns, so mariners know which is which.
In the sea, you may also see mooring buoys. Don’t mistake these for balloons or bouncy balls (both hazards to wildlife). But these PVC items may keep sailors safe, but can be dangerous for seagrass beds, where sea turtles feed. Anchors from boats can also scour the seabed. New Advanced Mooring Systems are being used that do the same job, but without the damage to the ocean floor. They use elastic to life the chains off the seabed even at low tide, and use a helical screw over a traditional weighted anchor (load-tested so boaters can hold their vessels in place). The project is being used in Norfolk to protect native spiny seahorses!
The Scottish Lighthouse Mystery
One long-forgotten mystery is still talked about, on Scotland’s Flannan Isles. Many years ago, three lighthouse keepers mysteriously disappeared from their charge, and nobody knew what happened. It was a complete mystery (a bit like that Peter Weir film Picnic at Hanging Rock, where the schoolgirls disappear without trace). There were stories of ghosts and aliens.
Recently, it was reported the mystery is likely solved. One of the men had been unfairly reprimanded for his equipment washing away in a gale. It is now believed that (fearing it would happen again), it was a tragic chain reaction: he was washed away trying to save his equipment – along with his two colleagues who were trying to help.