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The First Lighthouses

The First Lighthouses image
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Lieutenant John M. Ellicott, U. S. N., writes for St. JSTicholas a paper on lighthouses, entitled, "The Lights ïhat Guide In the Nigbt " Lieutenant Eliicott saya: When ships are sailing upon the ocean the lights of heaven are their guides. Kven in the dark ages, when the oompass and sextant were unknown instruments, the seemingly motionless pole star bung like a beacon light in the northern heavens, and the rising and setting of the gun and stars distinguished the east from the west. When, bowever, sbips come near the land, the lights of heaven are not sufficiently safe to guide them. Rocks lie in their paths, unseen in the night, reefs and ehoals spread under the water, while unsuspeeted currents sweep the frail craft all blindly upon these dangers. Nevertheless, ships were sailed along dangerous coasts for centuries before a plain systeni of marking dangerous places was invented. The early inariners were bold and reckless rovers, more than half pirates, who seldom owned a rood of the coasts along which they sailed, and could not have established lights and landmarks on thera bad they cared to do so. The rude beginning, then, of a system of lighthouses was when the merchants with whom the reckless mariners traded in those dark ages built beacons near the harbor mouths to guide the ships into port by day aud lighted fires for their guidance at night. As such a harbor guide had to be a sure landmark in the daytime and a light by night, it soon took on a settled shape - a tower on which could be built a fire, and such a tower was usually built of stone. This method of guiding ships into the ports which they sought was scarcely established before human wickedness nsed it as a means for their destruction. Bands of robbers, or, as they came to be called, "wreckers, " would hide themselves somewhere near the haven sought by a richly laden vessel, and, after overpowering the fire keepers, would extinguían the beacon fire on the night on which the ship was expected. Then they would light another fire near eome treacherous reef. The mariner, 8ailing boldly toward the false light, ■would dash his vessel to destruction on the reef, whereupon the robber band would plunder the wreek and make off with the booty.


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News