Hopetown Lighthouse, Abaco, Bahamas

The Lighthouse at Hopetown is one of the towns more noticeable features. It was built in 1862, has an elevation of 120 feet, and a 23 mile visibility. It’s one of three remaining manual lighthouses. Rather than being electric as most lighthouses are these days, it’s powered by kerosene. In other words, it’s a giant Coleman vapor lantern that needs to be pumped up, preheated, and ignited.

The light is driven by a winding mechanism, much like a grandfather clock. The mechanism needs to be wound every 2 hours — a fact that has to be really annoying for the lighthouse keepers. The turret that houses the mantle (the bit that generates light) and lenses is heavy — weighing several tons at least. Rather than using an oil-based lubricant or grease, the turret sits in a half donut-shaped mercury bath. Mercury seemed like an odd choice for a lubricant, but when you think about it a bit, mercury would work pretty well. Given that I had access to the turret,  tried to turn it — as expected. It required only a minimal effort to get it moving. Given the weight and how long the light has been in operation, that’s a pretty impressive feat of engineering.

Technically, it’s names the Elbow Cay lighthouse and keeps people off the Elbow Cay Reef. It also offers a great vantage point for surveying the entire area.

Pictures follow.

Looking to the North. Parrot Keys on the left and the top of Elbow Cay on the right.
Looking to the North. Parrot Keys on the left and the top of Elbow Cay on the right.

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