Monday, June 05, 2006

South Stack Lighthouse, Anglesey

click photo to enlarge
Who would be a lighthouse keeper? On a clear, calm and sunny June day, with sea pinks lighting up the cliffs, and the white painted lighthouse standing proud and tall over a blue sea, the job seems to have its attractions. But, sitting in a basket suspended from a hemp cable, in a January gale, above a boiling sea, as you make the 100 feet crossing over to the lighthouse? Well, then the job wouldn't seem quite so appealing! And that was the original means of access to South Stack island until 1828 when a suspension bridge was built.

South Stack Rock is at the westernmost tip of the island of Anglesey, Wales. One hundred feet of turbulent sea and strong currents separate it from Holyhead Island. Its position among the rugged granite cliffs of this coast meant that it was identified as a suitable location for a lighthouse as early as 1665. However, it was not until 1809 that the present 91 feet tall building was completed to the design of Daniel Alexander. The light is visible for 28 miles and is a beacon for ships on the Liverpool-Holyhead-Dublin route.

The first lights at South Stack were oil lamps. In 1909 an incandescent mantle lamp was installed, and these continued until 1938 when the light converted to electric power. The last lighthouse keeper stood down in 1984, and today the light and fog signals are remotely controlled from Trinity House's control centre 270 miles away at Harwich. Interestingly, the present 1000w halogen bulb is magnified to 1,370,000 candela by the original array of rotating glass prisms, and the whole light still floats in a bath of mercury.

South Stack is probably the most attractively sited lighthouse in Wales, and a magnet to any passing photographer whatever the weather. It can be reached by a new bridge (just visible in the photograph) erected in 1997, and is open to the public. I was fortunate to be there on a beautiful day when the cliffs were alive with nesting seabirds and wild flowers, and the lighthouse was the perfect destination of a perfect walk. The natural beauty of the location made composing and securing a satisfactory photograph the very easy matter of putting the lighthouse to the left of the frame, the clumps of flowers to the right, and ensuring that I had enough depth of field.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen