Saturday, November 30, 2019

Hood Point Lighthouse, East London, South Africa

Photo: Buffalo City Tourism

Hood Point Lighthouse

This lighthouse began operating on June 4, 1895. It is 14 m high and centres on a white, round stone tower. The lantern dome is painted red. Before the building of the lighthouse, the Castle Point Lighthouse served the area. The Hood Point Lighthouse was declared a provincial heritage site on May 22, 1998, under the National Heritage Resources Act. 

The lighthouse is situated two kilometres from the root of the harbour breakwater on the west bank within the boundaries of the city of East London. Hood Point, one of the most popular stations in the service, has a delightful parklike golf course on its western boundary which outweighs the imposing presence of a nearby cemetery on its north-eastern flank.

This lighthouse was established on the recommendation of the colonial government's lighthouse commission of 1890 and was lit for the first time on 4 June 1895. The tower is a nineteen-metre circular concrete structure which was constructed by Messrs Hendry & Pearce and the clerk of works was H Freeman. The lantern and optic equipment were supplied by Messrs Chance Brothers of Birmingham, England, and were erected by their engineer, Stokes. The optical apparatus is a first-order quadruple group flashing lens system comprising four dioptric panels with a totally reflecting prismoidal mirror of 180 degrees. It rotates on a mercury bath and is centralised by means of ballbearings on a central vertical steel shaft. The lens makes one complete revolution in forty seconds and was powered by a weight-driven clockwork machine (3 cwt). The original light source was a five-wick Trinity House, Douglass burner which provided a final light beam intensity of 7 500 cd. This wick burner was replaced by a petroleum vapour burner in 1910, which resulted in the candlepower being increased to 375 000 cd. When initially installed, the lightkeeper experienced some problems with the wick burner. The burner worked satisfactorily on four wicks but tended to flare when the fifth wick was introduced.

The focal plane of the light is fifty-five metres above mean sea-level; the character is four white flashes every forty seconds and the light is visible for thirty-one sea miles. The tower was originally painted in squares of vermillion and white. This was changed to all white in March 1929.

[Extracted from Williams, H A. 1993. Southern Lights. Cape Town. William Waterman Publications. p, 84.]

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Bluff, Natal, 1915

A printed black & white postcard of two ships near Durban harbour entrance, with the Bluff in the background. The card was sent to Jessie Gibson, Beauty Point, Tasmania from her friend Phyllis. It is dated 11 December 1915. The top left corner is missing where a postage stamp has been removed.

On the reverse, printed in green ink: 'Published by G. S. J., Durban. No. 67'.

Handwritten in black ink: '11/12/15 / Dear Jessie / This is just to wish you a / Merry Christmas though I'm afraid it won't reach you in time. / I'm sorry I can't write you a / letter but I'm afraid there / is not time. / This is the Bluff & a ...[?] of / the bay. You can have fine / times on the Bay & the Bluff is decent for picnics but now / some whale factories have / been started there so we / don't go often. My holidays / start next Thursday / the fifteenth. Have you started / yours yet? Yrs Phyllis'; and 'Miss Jessie Gibson / Beauty Point / Tasmania'.

Jessie Gibson (1901-1990) was the only child of James Alexander Gibson (1873 - 1904) and Laura Lydia (‘Dorothy’) Gibson, nee Langley (c.1861 - 1927).
Dorothy Gibson was the daughter of Henry and Kenzia (Kezia?) Langley (d. 1911). The couple had three other children, Ada (c. 1854 - 1917), Violet St Clair (‘Clara’ or ‘Clare’) (c. 1856 - 1938) and Henry Larwill Langley (‘Harry’). Henry snr died and in 1882, Kenzia and her three daughters emigrated from England to Australia. Henry jnr remained in the UK.
Prior to emigrating, Dorothy had been employed as a teacher at a workhouse. She sought employment in Tasmania as a teacher but was unsuccessful. She trained as a nurse and from c. 1893-1897 was matron at the hospital at Beaconsfield, Tasmania. Dorothy married James Gibson in 1898. After her husband’s death, she became postmistress at Beauty Point.

Ada married Walter S. Bell and had two children; Alison and Doris (Jessie Gibson’s cousins). It was Walter’s second marriage. The Bells moved to New Zealand. Dorothy and Jessie both visited there.

Clara worked as a nurse before she married John Edgcumbe in 1898. They did not have children. As a child, Jessie spent time with the Edgcumbes at ‘Entally House’, Hadspen, and in Launceston. After Clara was widowed, she lived at Beauty Point with Dorothy and Jessie.

Jessie was educated in Launceston. She did not marry. She lived at Beauty Point all her adult life.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Below the Bluff, Durban Bay

An area well known to my father, who owned a canoe in which he sailed regularly from the Point to this side of the Bay beneath the Bluff and on to Salisbury Island (looking very different then) and back ca 1930s.

William Bell ('Bill') Gadsden ca 1935

Saturday, November 23, 2019

L'Agulhas Lighthouse: daytime

The most southerly cape on the African continent was named in 1488 by Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias, Cape of the Needle.  The reference was to the compass needle which swung in various directions when the Portuguese vessels rounded the cape. Dias found that the magnetic needle and true north coincided. i.e. there was no magnetic declination or variation.

Within the twenty-six mile range of the Agulhas lighthouse the coast is fringed with dangerous reefs on which more ships have been wrecked than on any other part of the South African coast.

The necessity for a lighthouse at Cape Agulhas was recognised by Col Mitchel, surveyor general and civil engineer of the Cape colonial government early in 1837. He visited Cape Agulhas in March 1839 and the project of building a lighthouse proceeded. It took some years for the foundation to be laid at the chosen site. Wheels turned slowly with colonial bureaucracy. Finally, the lighthouse was completed by 1848. Ninety people were involved in putting up the structure, a case of 'many hands make light work'. The task of housing and feeding a large workforce at such a distance from Cape Town must have been enormous.

The lamp was lit on 1 March 1849. The original equipment remained in use until January 1905 when H C Cooper installed a new incandescent burner. The next modification was on 5 February 1908 when the burners were altered to consume white rose oil. This installation was the only change made to the lighthouse in over 50 years of operation. Later improvements to the optical apparatus were made by Cooper in February 1910.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

L'Agulhas lighthouse, Cape

Agulhas: light on.

The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse has stood for over 150 years as a maritime chaperone over the notorious 'Cape of Storms', at the southernmost tip of Africa.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Lighthouse: The Hill, Port Elizabeth

After the tower was extended.

Monument and lighthouse, Port Elizabeth.

Sir Rufane Donkin commissioned soldiers to build a pyramid similar to that of Caius Cestius in Rome. The stone structure was personalised and brought to life by the heartfelt message commemorating Donkin's wife; ‘In the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the name to the town below’.

Not to be outdone by the Roman Caius Cestius, a reserve was also built around the pyramid. Now commonly known as the Donkin Reserve or Donkin Hill. To continue the essence of Port Elizabeth created by Donkin, a lighthouse was also constructed along with a cottage near the pyramid; a beautiful mosaic floor decorates the floor around the pyramid.

The Donkin lighthouse towers over the pyramid and was built in 1861. Later the height of the lighthouse was extended. In 1938, the pyramid was declared a National Monument.

Formal tours of the Donkin Reserve are conducted regularly, showcasing this popular attraction off to the world. Visitors are able to climb to the top of the lighthouse and savour truly breath-taking views of the city and the bay.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Lighthouse Green Point Natal, Clansthal

Green Point lighthouse, Natal.
The Green Point Lighthouse, otherwise known as the Clansthal Lighthouse is in Clansthal, between Scottburgh and Umkomaas and shouldn’t be confused with the other Green Point Lighthouse, known as Mouille Point Lighthouse, in Cape Town.

Erected in 1905 it has a cast-iron structure and is painted in red and white striped bands.  It served to warn mariners of the presence of the Aliwal Shoal, 5km offshore, and was the second last lighthouse to use petroleum vapour burners. This building is a national monument. Since 1961 the lighthouse has been fully automated.

To avoid the Aliwal Shoal, ships rely on three lighthouses – Ifafa Beach, Port Shepstone and Green Point. Aliwal Shoal, named after the ship, Aliwal, that sunk here, consists of incredible hard and soft corals and diverse tropical and subtropical fish, and is considered a “hub” for scuba divers around the world.  The lighthouse at Ifafa has a radio beacon that has helped prevent further shipwrecks along this coast.

Early days at the Green Point Lighthouse; ca 1905

Address: Clansthal, Ezembeni
Height: 21 m
Opened: 1905
Light source: mains power

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Monday, November 11, 2019

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Remembrance Day 2019

Image result for world war 1

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

A E Housman

Image result for poppy day

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Lighthouse hauntings 3

Image result for danger point lighthouse gansbaai

Danger Point Lighthouse, Gansbaai
Danger Point Lighthouse was previously one of the less-enjoyed postings for South African light-keepers. Though legend has it that this was due to the presence of the infamous Flying Dutchman ghost-ship that haunted the waters, it was more likely due to the isolation of the structure, positioned along a notoriously treacherous stretch of coastline. 
Authorities built the lighthouse after several notable disasters, including the tragic case of the HMS Birkenhead, which struck an unmapped rock in 1852, killing more than 440 people. Danger Point is a fully operational lighthouse.
According to legend, the Flying Dutchman is a phantom ship doomed to sail the open seas and oceans for infinity, never being able to return home. The myth can be traced back to 17th-century nautical folklore that was heavily nurtured by superstitious beliefs of all sorts among sailors.
Early written accounts of the Flying Dutchman are dated to the 18th century and alleged sighting of this otherworldly vessel was well reported through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, too.
Image result for flying dutchman

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Lighthouse hauntings 2

Lighthouse Keeper Japie Greeff (currently at Cape Columbine light) shares an unusual encounter with us;

‘I was stationed at Cape Point Light from 1990 to mid-1993 and I very soon became aware of a little girl, about nine years old, who would often appear in the sitting room with me when I was watching television in my cottage. She was a dear, sweet little girl and would come and sit in the chair next to me and quietly watch television with me.  

Many times I attempted to find out who this little girl had been.

Was she the daughter of a Lighthouse Keeper?  If so, which Lighthouse Keeper?

Perhaps the daughter of a Captain from one of the ships of old, lying wrecked on the shore?  Which Captain?  Which ship?

Might it have been the Lusitania?  Eight people died when a lifeboat capsized from Lusitania, could this little girl have been one of those lost souls aboard the lifeboat?

What year did she pass away and under what circumstances?   

All these questions lay unanswered as no-one knew anything about the history which surrounded her.  I tried in vain to discover something about my dear little sweetheart and all I know, and can tell you, is that she was an endearing and gentle little soul.

To this day she still remains at the Cape Point Lighthouse and forever in my heart.’

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Lighthouse hauntings 1

Pensacola - ghostly lady

Green Point Lighthouse Haunted
The Green Point Lighthouse is one of the most famous haunted sites in the Mother City.It was first built in the early 1800s and is one of the most recognised beacons along the promenade. But while it looks pretty in daylight, it gets weirder after dark.
For many years, rumours have long swirled that the tower often visited by the spirit of a one-legged man by the name of W.S – or Daddy West, who is believed to have once worked at the lighthouse. Go to the link below for more.

Sunday, November 3, 2019


The Castaway

Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.

He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd
To check the vessel's course,
But so the furious blast prevail'd,
That, pitiless perforce,
They left their outcast mate behind,
And scudded still before the wind.

No voice divine the storm allay'd,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
We perish'd, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.

by William Cowper (abridged)