Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Port Nolloth Lighthouse

Port Nolloth Lighthouse ca 1940s
(thanks to P J Hannabus for the photo)

Port Nolloth (originally Robbe Bay) was named after Commander M S Nolloth, R.N., later Rear Admiral.  He undertook surveys along the west coast of SA, investigating bays suited to serve as harbours for the copper mining industry. The Cape Copper Company constructed a timber jetty at Port Nolloth in the late 1860s; this being replaced by a concrete wharf later. The jetty is protected from the open sea by a long reef but access was limited to small craft which had to negotiate a bar and narrow shallow channel. Sailing vessels and steamers had to anchor in the roadstead outside. Copper ore was unloaded and loaded using lighters. At a later stage the  entrance and channel were deepened to permit small coasters to enter the port. Ore had to be conveyed to and from the mines by ox-wagon, which was very slow and the countryside was an arid desert.


The Cape Copper Company had maintained a small primitive light, an ordinary ship's lantern with a wick burner, mounted on a structure composed of secondhand rails. This was probably introduced in the 1870s.  It was known as the Carl Von Schlick beacon. But this did not provide sufficient protection for Port Nolloth shipping, owing to dense fogs which occurred in the area. Strangely, it wasn't until 1905 that masters presented a petition to the Cape Colonial Government  urging the putting up of a permanent coastal light and fog signal at Port Nolloth.
This came to fruition in 1909.

The lighthouse comprised a fifth order, dioptric revolving lens floating on a mercury bath and driven by a spring-activated clockwork mechanism. The light source was a 35 mm petroleum vapour burner. The tower was a cast iron column supported by four heavy steel wire guys anchored in a solid concrete foundation. A ladder linked ground surface to a balcony or working platform at the top of the tower.

In March 1921 the petroleum vapour apparatus was replaced by AGA acetylene gas equipment.  An electric fog signal was installed at the lighthouse in March 1935.





The original rail lighthouse tower.

3 comments:

andrew van rensburg said...

Thank you for the interesting post, Mole. I believe the lighthouse, during the 1970's, was relocated 50 m inland and automated. It has a lighting system which flashes white or red to indicate to vessels whether there is enough water over the reefs to enter the harbour or not. Regards, Andrew

Mole said...

Thanks for the additional info, Andrew.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the railways house just opposite Port Nolloth lighthouse as my ex husband was a lighthouse keeper, my late son was born in Port Nolloth clinic/hospital in 1974.