field trip

GO TO THE SHELTER even if you have to crawl.

StoryKettle » HEADLAND » field trip

Copyright © 2021, Michael M Wayman

I relocked the gate, crossed the bridge over the Wishing Stream and got back into the driving seat of the mini-bus. “This is the bus that we use for big repairs, we can take out some of the seats to transport big stuff, but today all the seats are in place, you are sitting on them.”

“Welcome to the 19 students from the Treedle-on-Sea College School for today’s visit to the headland and the lighthouse on it. I’m responsible for seven light beacons and this lighthouse. I can monitor all of them remotely from Treedle, where I live. Everything is automatic these days, which means no resident staff, but some regular maintenance and checking is required. I normally visit the light every Tuesday.”

“We’re driving up onto the headland and into the shelter and will park there. I’m sorry that none of your phones work – here on the headland there is no reception.”

“Please do NOT go close to the cliff edge – it is very dangerous. If the wind suddenly starts blowing hard or rain starts GO TO THE SHELTER even if you have to crawl. There is a landline telephone in the shelter. The lighthouse is kept locked – don’t go there. Any questions?”

“Why is the shelter flat and low? The lighthouse is tall and thin.”

“Good question. The shelter is part of the building containing the foghorn and mounted on top are the photovoltaic cells which generate electricity for the light. I can’t demonstrate the foghorn – there are not enough ear protectors.”

“The light is high up – you can see it from 48 kilometres away at night. Four short flashes for H in the Morse Code. LED-lighting was installed ten years ago – they need little maintenance.”

“The foghorn makes four blasts every thirty seconds, when visibility is low.”

“What is being warned about? What is the danger?”

“The headland itself is very hard rock. And out to sea are underwater rocks which you can only see at very low tide. They will rip your bottom off, if you are a ship that is.”

“Now we are going into the lighthouse. The ground floor contains the diesel oil tanks and the rechargeable batteries. It’s dark and it stinks – so we will go immediately up the stairs to the kitchen. Yes, there are a lot of stairs – get use to it.”

“This is where the three-man crew spent most of their time. There was always someone on duty every day and every hour – the equipment was very unreliable those days, there was a lot to check, clockwork motors to be wound up – plenty to do. Today everything is automated – it can run for months all by itself.”

“On this floor are the three bedrooms and a bathroom – all very small, but cosy. I have often eaten my lunch in the kitchen when it’s cold outside; but I’ve never had to sleep overnight. Next is the engine room. I test the diesel engine generators once a year, but they are not really needed.”

“And this is the glory of the lighthouse – the light room itself. Look at the view outside – marvellous. Look at the old filament lamp light and lenses and rotation table. Look at the new LED arrangement – it doesn’t rotate, it flashes electronically.”

“What is that pipe and tank for?”

“Oh, it’s part of the water system – it collects rain water – it still works.”

“The future? The big question. There are no doubts that light­houses, light­ships and beacons have saved thousands of lives at sea in the last three hundred years. But are they needed in the future – modern ship have satellite posi­tioning and automated navi­gation systems – I don’t really know.”

“OK, you now have an hour to eat your pack lunch and look around the headland. Maybe you will find the summer house and the big house and the old gun emplace­ments. Beware of the cliff edge and the strong winds. Then meet me back in the shelter.”

More to come!