Lightships or Floating light house - Their use and history

Light house is a tall tower like formation, used either to guide the maritime transport for navigation or mark hazardous coastlines or indicate presence of reef or shale for the safety of ships. Most of light houses had permanent construct on ground or on sea bed. However sometimes to avoid the costly sea bed structure or for temporary use , light ships or floating light house were also being used. Such light houses are readily deployable and have less initial cost (that is cost of deployment). The first known floating light house or more commonly known as light ship was made in England in 1732 AD. It was placed on the sand bank of Nore, the place where Thames River falls in North Sea. The reason of placing this that sand ban is hazardous for ships and at time it was difficult to construct a traditional light house. So the idea of a lightship was coined by Robert Hamblin, who later also patented the idea.

Nore is the place where first known light ship was used. A lightship is can bee seen on Nore in Saint Katharine Docks, London, UK, to prove its historical importance. Picture was taken in 1988.
Nore is the place where first known light ship was used. A lightship is can bee seen on Nore in Saint Katharine Docks, London, UK, to prove its historical importance. Picture was taken in 1988. | Source
A floating light house
A floating light house | Source

Light house which may be either floating or permanent were placed or built along the sea shores, to help aid the maritime navigation. It is a tower like structure, with height ranging from as low as 10m to as high as 90 or 100m. While the floating light ships have relatively smaller heights. As the name depicts it emits light, which is visible to ships at a certain distance from the light house. And the ship captain is able to measure the angle which an imaginary line etween ship and light house is make with north. And he has certain navigational maps also. So by drawing different lines and with the help of different geometric calculation he can be able to locate its self on map. And thereby can be able to do further preparation ship’s navigational plan. However due to increasing operation and maintenance cost, and invention of modern communication and navigational tools leads to minimised use of light houses. Today a lighthouse is more of a symbolic or cultural use than navigational purposes.

Some interesting things related to light house

Lightship 18 moored at Ha'penny pier in Harwich.

Some old lightships by US Coast Guards

Floating light houses have almost similar function as those of a normal light house. But such ligh houses offer a great advantage of mobility and being easily and rapidly deployed anywhere. These are primarily used for temporary usages. However sometimes these can be taken as a cheaper alternative to their costly sand sea bed structure of a permanent light house.

The idea of having a lightship proved to be so useful that by in the first quarter of 19th century England had nine more lightships. Early lightships were actually fishing vessels converted as light ships. However later in 19th century vessels were built specially for the purpose of being used as light ships. Now a days due cost restrictions, such ships go for automation and nearly all such ships are unattended. Height of such ships is about 30 to 60 feet. Lightships are costly items to operate and to maintain and are therefore prime candidates for automation. The power of their lights and fog signals has been reduced to a more optimized level. The smallest sizes, 30 feet or less, are intended for sheltered waters and are often known as light floats.

Though the light house is now rarely used it is very interesting to know or atleast to see the technology they used. It is really a very useful to find how things worked in past, and this can be adopted as hobby, that to know about old technology. And for some of the things you may be amazed rater surprized to know that people living even 1000 years before were aware of certain things....

Have happy hubbing...:) Enjoy

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Comments 3 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting! Thanks for answering my question with a hub. Voted up, useful and interesting.

miakouna profile image

miakouna 4 years ago

Thank you for sharing this article. I love lighthouses and find everything about them fascinating. I enjoyed reading this article.

ahmed.b profile image

ahmed.b 4 years ago from Sweden Author

Thank you Peggy W for asking a question which compelled me to write and share information which I have in the form of a hub. And Thanks to you also Miakouna for enjoying reading this hub.

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