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Cape Agulhas:

South African Lighthouse No 1


My quest, as charity should, starts at home, so please allow me to introduce you to our first subject - the Cape Agulhas Ligthouse.

It was commissioned in March 1849, and today it is the second oldest working lighthouse in South Africa, albeit only the third of 23 built down here.

Photo Credit: Leif Sobremonte [South Africa Tours & Travel]
This lighthouse stands VERY close to our country's most southern tip (only about 1.2 km), where the coastline became a graveyard of shipwrecks. The sea off Cape Agulhas was notorious with sailors for winter storms and massive rogue waves, and many large ships perished there* (ref: SafariNow).

On top of the fact that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet here, the coastal terrain did not make things any easier. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias even named this southernmost tip Cabo das Agulhas ("Cape of Needles", or "Cape Agulhas"), and twelve years later Dias and his entire crew was lost at sea near Cabo das Tormentas ("Cape of Storms" or "Cape of Good Hope") in 1500.

Image Credits: Photo Left, Photo Right

The unique design of the lighthouse is based on that of the Pharos (or "Lighthouse") of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. According to SouthAfrica.net, the lighthouse was even partly financed by traders from as far away as India, because back then the trade route between India and the West ran around South Africa's treacherous coast and their shipping business was badly affected by this formerly unprotected part of it.

From what I could gather, the original structure held fore more than a hundred years, until 1966, when it was declared unsafe. In 1968 they replaced it with a lattice structure, but it remained out of service for 20 years.

A national monument inside the Agulhas National Park since 1973, it was luckily not destroyed and all Lighthouse Lovers around the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that the entire community held it in such high regard that they worked together to restore it.

After the restorative work was completed, it was reinaugurated in March 1988, and tourists are welcomed by the Transnet National Ports Authority to pay it a visit - Visiting Hours here.

Captain TW McAllen, Cape Agulhas centenary celebration speech, 1949.

* The Arniston (1815), Geortyrder (1849), European (1877), Elise (1879), Cooranga (1964), Gwendola (1968), Federal Lakes (1975), and Gouritz (1981) are just a few [Showpieces from some of them are on display at the Bredasdorp Shipwreck museum.]

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