From the Arabian Peninsula to Italy, peninsulas around the world extend their fingers into the oceans. But once, it was common to see a shining light at the tip, solid and sturdy, calling sailors home – lighthouses.
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While lighthouses don’t serve much purpose in today’s high-tech age, they once used to be the difference between life and death.
It all started with Pharos of Alexandria, in Egypt – what is widely thought to be the first-ever lighthouse. Built in the third century BC, the 100- to 140-metre-tall monolith became renowned in the ancient world for its innovative design and construction. It was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, and lasted for decades before it succumbed to earthquakes. Today, parts of the lighthouse can still be seen in the citadel built on the same site, in around 1480AD.
But an ancient lighthouse that’s still standing is the Farum Brigantium, more commonly known as the Tower of Hercules. Located on the A Coruna Galicia peninsula in Spain, it was built in the second century AD, during the height of the Roman empire. Rising 55 metres high, it still overlooks the North Atlantic coast of Spain, where it is a national monument and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site.
The idea of a lone lighthouse guarding against the dark has inspired legends and lore across time. But one story – the mystery of the Eilean Mor Lighthouse – still astonishes those who hear its tale.
The story revolves around the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on the remote island of Eilean Mor in Scotland. Their absence was discovered when a relief lighthouse keeper arrived on the island on December 26, 1900. Investigations of the lighthouse keepers’ logs revealed that a terrible storm had overwhelmed the island and lasted for several days. But, occupants on a neighbouring island who had a clear view of the lighthouse, contradicted their accounts and reported that the weather had been perfectly calm.
So, was there ever a storm? What really happened at Eilean Mor Lighthouse? The lighthouse keepers’ bodies were never found, and their fate still remains a mystery. It got the attention of Hollywood filmmakers and even inspired the 2018 film, The Vanishing.