In Ericeira, a small fishing village 35 kms northwest of Lisbon, until the mid 90s of the last century the fishermen could count on the help of a signalman at the entry of the harbour. When the sea was rough he stood on a strategic place – the stone wall of the cliff above the Praia dos Pescadores or Fishermen’s Beach, more than 20 meters high – and using a “signal” that could be a cap, a cloth or even his shirt he made signs advising the fishermen on what was the best moment or the best wave to carry the boats into the harbour safely. The signalmen had no specific training, only a lifetime’s experience in the sea, a lifetime looking at the sea.
Life saving human signs
The world’s first known lighthouse is no longer standing, but its grandeur will never be forgotten. It was in the far-off year 280 bC that the Lighthouse of Alexandria was built.
I do like lighthouses and Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse in particular!
It’s a rainy evening. I’m in a bar at Torre beach near Oeiras and I’m waiting for Joaquim Boiça. There he is, a strong handshake, a permanent smile on his face, and an overwhelming want to talk about lighthouses.
Since the early days of mankind that water courses, rivers and lakes have not only attracted man but also caused fear in face of the unknown.
We have talked with Fátima Santos, the daughter of the lighthouse keeper that lived in the lighthouse of Vila Real de Santo António until she was twenty years old. We have also talked with Manuel Seabra e Melo and Mário Silva whose seafaring years add up to more than half a century.
- I served in the Navy and I have always liked the sea. I saw in the lighthouses the chance to go on being near the sea and at the same time to be with my family.
Sandra Santos, the person in charge of the Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum told Itinerante that there is in Portugal a “general lack of knowledge” about lighthouses and lighthouses’ keepers. And adds “the Lighthouse and Museum is an excellent opportunity for visitors to contact with this reality”…
The lighthouses in the Azores islands are fairly recent; the Ponta do Arnel lighthouse, on São Miguel, was the first one to be built, in 1876. The golden age of lighthouse construction occurred between 1908 and 1927.
Many places that thanks to the light of the lighthouses are natural indentations or projections of the coastline, although dangerous when the sea is rough, were sinister places before their existence and fed the most fertile minds.
Many ships and lives were lost in the deep waters along the Portuguese coast.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, the world’s first known lighthouse, was built in 280 B.C. Since then thousand of lighthouses have been built resorting to the most advanced technologies for their time.