Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Lighthouse Of Pondicherry

In the early days, the red hills about three kilometers north of the town and more than 30 meters above the sea-level, served as a guide to the sea farers approaching to the port of Pondicherry.

The lighthouse situated on the edge of the sea near “Place de Gouvernement” was lighted for the first time on 1st July 1836. The light was placed upon a masonry tower of 21 meters height, being 29 meters above the sea level. The light was visible to a distance of 29 kilometer. On 12th September 1931, the fixed light was replaced by revolving light of 1,000 watts. This light which turns full circle in 36 seconds could be seen form a distance on 28 miles marine.

The lighthouse started giving trouble and went out of order frequently causing a lot of inconvenience to ships and sea traffic. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the Government of India was requested to declare the Pondicherry Lighthouse as a general lighthouse. The administration also came forward to hand over the lighthouse administration to the Department of Lighthouses and Lightships. About the same time, the Government of India was also convinced of the need to replace the old light with a new one.

In 1970, the Department of Lighthouses and Lightships came forward to construct a new lighthouse at an estimated cost of Rs.14.41 lakhs. A site measuring 39 Ares was acquired for the purpose in the Kirapalaiyam village, a little south of the new post office. The Department of Lighthouses and Lightships also agreed to install an MF radio beacon at Pondicherry as an aid to navigate the site adjacent to the land acquired for the construction of the lighthouse. A site measuring 1 Ha was selected for the purpose and acquisition proceedings were initiated.

According to the Madras Almanac and Compendium of Intelligence, vessels which touched Pondicherry during the north-east monsoon were required to anchor in 10 to 11 fathoms of water, keeping the light fromW/1/4N.W.N.W. (The French fathom is equivalent to 5 feet 5 inches). During the SW monsoon vessels were required to anchor in 6 to 8 fathoms with the light house bearing 282 (T) distance 800 to 1,200 meters in 5 to 6 fathoms of water.

A red signal light was first installed on top of a mast at the terminus of the old pier on 22 May 1881 in order to help sea-farers to locate the anchorage and landing spots. A green signal was put up on the same mast. On 28 May 1915 the red light was replaced by an electric bulb which could be seen from a distance of 2.5 kilometer. Whenever the sea was rough, landing operation used to be suspended. The new pier is also provided with a red signal light.

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