Once upon a time, there were no lighthouses. This was very bad for the shipping trade but very good for plunder-the-wrecked-ship trade, because there are always tradeoffs.
Americans: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.”
Canadians: “Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.”
Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.”
Canadians: “No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.”
Americans: “THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH. THAT’S ONE-FIVE DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.”
Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”**
Not only were there no lighthouses, there was no GPS (can you imagine!?) so people built fires on top of hills to guide ships. Unfortunately, it can be hard to distinguish ship-guiding-fires from s’more-making-fires, and more than one Girl Scout Troop inadvertently caused ships to take a wrong turn.
Then people decided maybe fires could be used to warn ships of dangerous areas and lighthouses were invented. To make sure there were no problems, the Girl Scouts were sent off to sell cookies.
The Egyptians—who were generally first to the engineering party—built Pharos of Alexandria in 280 BCE. This First of All Lighthouses stood until an earthquake destroyed it in the 1300s. Which just goes to show that the Egyptians could have benefited from following the California building codes.
The most important person in the lighthouse was the lighthouse keeper whose job it was to keep the lighthouse. He generally had assistants whose job it was to help keep the lighthouse. The assistants were often paid in Girl Scout cookies and glasses of milk. When they weren’t busy having cookies and milk the keeper and his assistants made sure the light shone out into the night. This worked best when there was night to shine the light into. (See tomorrow’s blog for more information about this.)
Most of the early lighthouses in the US were made of wood. Most of the early lights were made of fire. This made for a somewhat unstable relationship. It was considered “job security” for lighthouse builders.
Eventually someone got the bright idea to build lighthouses out of stone and brick. The rebuilding industry slowed down considerably. This is generally known as the Great Lighthouse Recession of Sometime in the Past.
The world’s most famous lighthouse is (wait. This requires A Moment. It requires A Moment for you to think about what the World’s Most Famous Lighthouse might be. It requires A Moment for you to appreciate the gravity of “World’s Most Famous Lighthouse.” It requires A Moment for us to pause and respect the palpable awe that “World’s Most Famous” inspires. It requires—fine, fine, I’m getting to it.). The World’s Most Famous Lighthouse is the Statue of Liberty. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
The Statue of Liberty was illuminated in 1886 and was an active lighthouse until 1902 when tourism and huddled masses yearning to breathe free took precedence. TSoL’s light was its torch which used an electric light that was visible for 24 miles.
Hope today lights up your world.
**Some people claim this exchange really happened. Not so. It is a joke. A very old joke.
PS. Pharos of Alexandria is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This is important in case you are asked about Wonders of the World.