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Hope Town Lighthouse  

Hope Town Lighthouse

Hope Town is the home to the famous Elbow Reef Lighthouse.  Probably the most recognizable landmark in Abaco, the lighthouse is one of the last manual lighthouses in the world.  The lamp burns pressurized Kerosene oil with a wick and mantle.  The Fresnel lenses concentrate the mantle’s light into a beam directed straight towards the horizon.  The lenses and burner equipment, weighing 8,000lbs, float in a circular lubricated tub.  This reduces friction so that the 700lbs of weight, when wound up to the top of the tower by hand, smoothly rotates the 4-ton apparatus once every 15 seconds.  The lighthouse keeper on duty must wind up the weights every 2 hours in order for the red and white candy-striped lighthouse to be seen from 17 miles away.

 

History of the Lighthouse

In 1836, 2 lighthouses were built in the Bahamas in order to improve navigation and decrease the amount of shipwrecks.  One of the lighthouses was stationed at the southernmost tip of Abaco called Hole-in-the-Wall, and the other just south of Bimini.  Even with the lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall, wrecks were still building up around Abaco.  As a result, in 1863, England decided, to build a lighthouse at Hope Town to steer ships clear of the extensive “Elbow Reef”.  Despite protests made by wrackers (salvagers), the lighthouse was completed in 1864.  At this time, the lighthouse was equipped with a non-rotating, first-order light.  In 1936, approximately 73 years later, the Imperial Lighthouse Service closed the Lighthouse at Gun Cay (south of Bimini), and realized that the lighthouse at Hope Town was in need of a beacon for easier identification by ships.  The Gun Cay lighthouse was then decapitated, and the iron lantern room with its dome, petroleum burner equipment, turning mechanism, and the rotating Fresnel lenticular panels were brought to Hope Town to replace its standing wick-type light.  In 1996, for economic reasons, the Port Department was prompted to automate the hand-wound kerosene–burning lighthouse in the Bahamas.  The Lighthouse Preservation Society (the non-profit historical and educational society dedicated to the preservation of Bahamian lighthouses) convinced the government to reconsider, as long as the Society would provide the Port Department with the parts they needed that were longer available through their previous supplier.  Since then, the Society has been using mantles from the Coleman Company (manufacturer of Outdoor Equipment).  Today, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse is still sending out light, rated at 325,000 candlepower, with the same light source it acquired in 1936.  

Source:  "Lighthouses" by Hannah Solo and Neil Aberle

 

TIP To get an uninterrupted view of the surrounding area, climb 100+ steps to the top of the lighthouse.  Most importantly, make sure you leave your fear of heights at home -- just don’t forget your camera.

 

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