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Lighthouses and Buoys

Defination: Lighthouse, Buoy, Tenders - History: Lighthouses, Buoys


illuminated lighthouse on cliff at dusk

illuminated lighthouse on cliff at dusk

Getty Images/Grant Faint
By definition, a buoy is an anchored float used for marking a position on the water, to warn about deep or shallow water, or hazards, or for mooring (tieing) a boat.

Tenders are small boats that brings supplies to larger ships in a port. Tenders also take care of the buoys: cleaning, installing, repairing etc.

A lighthouse is a tower with a beacon light that warns boats about shoals or shallow water, rocks, or other dangers. A lighthouse can also guide boats during foggy weather. However, smaller aids like buoys represent the first line of defense against shipwrecks. Lighthouses, buoys, and tenders are referred to as nautical aids

Famous Lighthouses

Historians have studied individual lighthouse structures like the ancient Egyptian lighthouse Pharos, and the modern structure of Eddystone Lighthouse off the coast of Great Britain. Lighthouse towers were constructed along the Mediterranean coast as early as 660 B.C.. To mark the harbor of Alexandria, Sostratus of Cnidus built a 500-foot lighthouse on the island of Pharos between the years of 283 and 277 B.C.

History of Buoys

Floating buoys have existed before the 13th century, the first record of a buoy was mentioned in "La Compasso de Navigare." Located in the Guadalquivir River, this buoy aided mariners approaching Sevilla, Spain.

The first buoys in Northern European waters, were in the Vlie River which empties into the Zuider Zee. They guided ships to the commercial centers of Amsterdam and Kampen. The maintenance of these buoys, mostly hollow wooden casks bound with iron bands and moored with chain and a large stone, was the responsibility of the port authorities.

Trinity House

At first fees collected from sailing mariners and merchants, paid for the maintenance of local lighthouses and buoys. It would be another 200 years before governments would begin maintaining buoys and other nautical aids. In 1514, King Henry VIII of England granted a charter to the Guild of Shipmen and Mariners to maintain aids in response to their petition that inexperienced individuals were endangering English shipping.

The guild was also concerned about the "dangers of allowing foreigners to learn the secrets of the King's streams."

The result of this charter was the creation of Trinity House with the right to establish buoys and beacons - a right granted in 1594 by Queen Elizabeth I.

Continue >> Early American Lighthouses & Buoys

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