Saturday, August 31, 2019

Mysterious Lighthouse of the Flannan Isles

Flannan Isles Lighthouse is near the highest point on Eilean Mòr, one of the  Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. It is best known for the mysterious disappearance of its keepers in 1900.  The keepers were: James Ducat, Donald McArthur and Thomas Marshall.

Subsequent researchers have taken into account the geography of the islands. The coastline of Eilean Mòr is deeply indented with narrow gullies called geos. The west landing, which is situated in such a geo, terminates in a cave. In high seas or storms, water would rush into the cave and then explode out again with considerable force. It was possible MacArthur may have seen a series of large waves approaching the island, and knowing the likely danger to his colleagues, ran down to warn them only to be washed away as well in the violent swell.Recent research by James Love discovered that Marshall was previously fined five shillings when his equipment was washed away during a huge gale. It is likely, in seeking to avoid another fine, that he and Ducat tried to secure their equipment during a storm and were swept away as a result. The fate of MacArthur, although required to stay behind to man the lighthouse, can be guessed to be the same. Love speculates that MacArthur probably tried to warn or help his colleagues and was swept away too. This theory also has the advantages of explaining the set of oilskins remaining indoors and MacArthur's coat remaining on its peg, although perhaps not the closed door and gate. Another theory is based on the first-hand experiences of Walter Aldebert, a keeper on the Flannans from 1953 to 1957. He believed one man may have been washed into the sea but then his companions, who were trying to rescue him, were washed away by more freak waves.

A further proposal is based on the psychology of the keepers. Allegedly MacArthur was a volatile character; this may have led to a fight breaking out near the cliff edge by the West Landing that caused all three men to fall to their deaths. Another theory is that one of the men went insane (perhaps MacArthur, as evidenced by him leaving the lighthouse without his rain gear and his strange behaviour documented in the log book), murdered the other two, threw their bodies into the sea, and then jumped in to his own death.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Cape Columbine Lighthouse, Western Cape

Cape Columbine Lighthouse, light on.
Latitude: 32° 49’ 39” S Longitude: 17 ° 51’ 23” E
Date commissioned:  1 October 1936
Architect/builder:  HC Cooper
Primary structure material of construction:  Square masonry tower painted with red lantern house.
Height of tower:  15 metres
Character of light:  One flash every 15 seconds
Heritage status:  Being older than 60 years, the lighthouse is protected under the National Heritage Resources Act 25 of 1999.
Inhabited/manned:  Yes
Open to public:  Yes
Present Keeper: Japie Greeff
Cape Columbine Lighthouse is situated on a prominent headland about 5km from the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster (Our Father), deriving its name from the heartfelt prayers of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors. The lighthouse, which is built on rising ground at Castle Rock and is usually the first lighthouse sighted by shipping coming from South America and Europe, is about 30 km from Vredenburg on the West Coast.
The lighthouse was named after the barque Columbine which was wrecked there on 31 March 1829.  Several ships were wrecked in the area, which is known for its multitude of submerged rocks and reefs.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

North Sand Bluff Lighthouse, Port Edward, Natal

North Sand Bluff Lighthouse is a fully automatic lighthouse in the village of Port Edward a few kilometres north of the Umtamvuna River which forms the border between South Africa and Transkei. Commissioned on 17 July 1968 it is the most southern lighthouse on the Natal coast. Originally a lattice tower its appearance has now been altered for the better.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lighthouse: Kalk Bay, Cape

The Kalk Bay harbour is not just a bustling landmark, it has a rich history, too. Its famous red-and-white-striped lighthouse – situated at the tip of the bustling pier – is the perfect spot for sunset photo ops or relaxed evening ambles.

In winter, it sheds its laidback armour, giving new meaning to the phrase Cape of Storms, as large waves are known to come hurtling into the bay, crashing against the jetty and lighthouse with substantial impact – a riveting sight to behold.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Green Point Lighthouse, Cape: haunted?

The red and white lighthouse at Green Point was first lit on 12 April 1824. Originally it had two fixed white lights but now displays a revolving white flashing light. The tower is in use as it was from the first. The designer and builder was Herman Schutte who emigrated from Germany to the Cape in 1789, settling in Cape Town. Construction was completed in 1823 but there were delays before the light finally shone. This seems to have been the story of so many SA lighthouses, financial hitches and colonial bureaucracy playing their part.  

It is the oldest working beacon in South Africa. There have been rumours that the tower is haunted by a ghost with one leg, known as 'Daddy' West. A keeper named W S West did work here from 1890 to about 1901. An attempt was made to record the spirit speaking during a paranormal investigation in 2014:

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Bluff Lighthouse, Durban

This photo, showing the signal station and staff quarters, was taken prior to the addition of the ugly concrete casing supposedly meant to 'strengthen' the lighthouse, added in 1935.

The citizens of Durban had long pleaded for a lighthouse on the promontory known as The Bluff but due to various delays they had to wait until the structure was finally opened, with suitable fanfare, in January 1867. 

My great grandfather, Thomas Gadsden, was keeper of the Bluff Light from the late 1860s to early 1880s. He married one of the Port Captain's daughters, Eliza Ann Bell. At one stage Thomas's brother-in-law, Douglas Bell, was Assistant Lightkeeper. It wasn't unusual for a lighthouse to be a family affair.  

Senior Lightkeepers

1867 - 1880              T A Gadsden (Assisted by D Bell in the 1870s)
1885                          Moffat
1898                          J Stephenson
1.7.1898                    B Shortt
1918                          G Johnson
1922                          L R P Daly
1927 - 1933              T F Addison
1938                          G A Orchard
20.1.1941 - 1.4.1942 A Gray


27.7.1889 - 30.6.1898 F B Shortt
1.7.1898                     John Murphy
18.8.1931 - 16.7.1934 A Spring
16.7.1934 - 1.3.1941   E L Andreason                   

See Also

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Smiths in Natal 1890s

William Smith is listed in the Natal Almanac's Postal Directory for the Colony, 1897 as:

'Smith, Wm. Dickson, blacksmith, Umzinto'.

In William's records his middle name is not always given but where it is, it's spelled 'Dixon', as now generally used by the family. The Dickson spelling is probably an error by the Almanac.

His occupation is given as 'blacksmith' at Umzinto (on the Natal South Coast). At this stage William was operating his carriage-building and smithy business on the banks of the Umzimai River in Umzinto.

He had by then been resident at Umzinto for some years and had met and married Charlotte Anderson, widow of Farquharson Anderson, in 1886. 

By 1897, the date of this Almanac, their eldest son Ernest John Smith was about 10 years old. Their daughter Ruby and younger son Vere had been born in 1888 and 1889 respectively.

Little did they know that their peaceful life would be shattered by war with the Boers and that William was to die far from home during the Siege of Ladysmith in January 1900.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Souvenir Saturday: The Vic Bar, Durban

The Vic Bar, Point Road, Durban.  Popular in the 1980s as a meeting and drinking spot and also for the hostelry's so-called PUTCO Chicken - a flattened Portuguese-style treat. Probably not flattened by a bus but that was the joke at the time.

PUTCO was founded in 1945; South Africa's oldest and largest bus company transported more than 350 000 passengers per day.