Lighthouse Facts

A lighthouse is a tall building with a bright light near the top, and it protects ships from crashing into shore by sending a flashing light out towards the sea.

Ships rely on lighthouses to guide them to land or a harbor. Modern lighthouses are operated by remote control or automatically.

Early lighthouses used burning fires. Later versions used lanterns with large candles or oil or gas lamps.

In bad weather, lighthouses use foghorns and radio signals to warn passing ships. They also send out radio and radar signals.

The first true lighthouse may have been built in about 280 BCE in Egypt, but most modern lighthouses were built from interlocking blocks of stone instead of wood.

Lighthouse Facts for Kids

  • Lighthouses have lights near the top. 
  • Lighthouses are built near the sea or lake. 
  • Ships are protected from crashing into the shore by the lighthouse. 
  • Sailors avoid the shore when they see the light. 
  • The light rotates in a circle, so ships see flashing lights.
  • A Fresnel lens usually covers the light. 
  • The lens helps light to travel long distances.

Ancient lighthouses

Before the development of clearly defined ports, fires built on hilltops were used to guide mariners to ports; the lighthouse was used more as an entrance marker to ports than as a warning signal for reefs and promontories.

Lighting improvements

The Argand lamp was invented in 1782 by Swiss scientist Aimé Argand. It replaced wood pyres or burning coal and was lit with whale oil, colza, olive oil, or other vegetable oil.

In 1875, South Foreland Lighthouse was the first tower to successfully use electric lights. John Richardson Wigham invented a gas-burning lighthouse.

Facts for Kids x
Facts for Kids

The Modern Lighthouse

The introduction of electrification and automatic lamp changers began to make lighthouse keepers obsolete.

Solar power is used to light up lighthouses, but where the power requirement is too great, cycle charging by diesel generators is used.

Modern strobe lights concentrate the light from a continuous source so that the light is seen from greater distances and with an identifying light characteristic.

Famous Lighthouses

Portland Head Lighthouse

Portland Head Light, a white conical tower that stands out in the Maine coastline, has guided sailors back to safety since 1791.

Formentor lighthouse

The Formentor lighthouse is a very famous landmark in Majorca. It lies on top of a cliff with steep drops below it and has been warning sailors about the dangerous coastline ever since 1863.

Chania Lighthouse

Chania Lighthouse was built in the 16th century by the Venetians, Egyptians, Ottomans, and later the Greeks. It is a popular tourist attraction.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse, located in a prominent and picturesque spot along the Oregon Coast, is well worth visiting for its commanding views of the Oregon Coast and the Pacific Ocean.

Tower of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules, one of the oldest lighthouses, has been watching over Spain’s North Atlantic coastline for centuries.

Cape Espichel Lighthouse

Cape Espichel Lighthouse, located in Portugal, has been warning ships about the dangerous waters of Cape Espichel since 1430 when monks erected a beacon. In 1790, the first proper lighthouse was built.


Argand hollow wick lamps, whale oil lamps, kerosene lamps, carbide lamps, and electricity were all used for lighting in the late 18th century.

Light source

Many Fresnel lens installations in automated lighthouses have been replaced by rotating aerobeacons, with brief omnidirectional flashes of light.

By 2020, about one-third of lighthouses in the United Kingdom and Ireland were using LED lights. The light sources are designed to copy the character and color of the traditional light and cost about €20,000 each, depending on the configuration.

What Are Lighthouses

Lighthouses are tall buildings with a light at the top. Lighthouse keepers make sure it is working and point the light in the right direction when ships need help.

How Does A Lighthouse Work?

Lighthouses were the first navigational aids for ships. GPS has replaced lighthouses, but many stands in coastal areas as a reminder of the maritime past.

History and Facts about Lighthouses

The first lighthouse was the Pharos of Alexandria in ancient Egypt; 2) the oldest lighthouse still in use today is the Tower of Hercules in Spain.

Before electricity was developed, lighthouses were lit by fire, gas, or coal. During the Victorian era, these early methods were replaced with electric lamps, which are still used in most lighthouses today.

The US state with the most lighthouses is not on the coast but in the mid-west. It is surrounded by four of the five ‘Great Lakes’ of North America.

The southernmost lighthouse in the UK is Lizard Lighthouse. The northernmost lighthouse is Muckle Flugga Lighthouse, which was built by the father and uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The oldest complete lighthouse in Britain is built from chalk and was built in 1669, but lighthouses have been in use for thousands of years.

There are 18,600 lighthouses in the world, many with technology that turns their lights on automatically.

Lighthouses were painted with different colors depending on their location and were often painted with different patterns so sailors could tell them apart.

The Statue of Liberty was originally a lighthouse that was not very useful and became a landmark that continues to attract millions of tourists every year.