SYSK Selects: How Lighthouses WorkStuff You Should Know
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- 20 Mar 2021
People have been burning fires on cliffs as long as other people have used boats, but after the Age of Exploration, lighthouses took their unmistakable form and the great stories of the people who kept the lights around the world began. Learn all about them in this classic episode.
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Twenty sixteen. And we're talking about how lighthouses work. This is a really cool podcast. I remember really enjoying this one because I had done some research on LightHouse's for a movie script I was writing. So this one was really pretty key for that. So here we go with how LightHouse's work.
Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of I Heart Radio. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles to be Chuck Bright and Gerri over there. And this is the White House. So take one. Can I just go ahead and say I love White House. See love, love already before like you fell in love with them in researching both. Like, if I'm I grew up going to Hunting Island, South Carolina.
Right. Not every year, but we went quite a few times here, Buford, and they had the White House. And it was one of my favorite things to do as a kid was climb the White House. And I would if I'm near a White House now, ever, I will go climate.
The outside, I will seek it out and then shimmy up the outside like Spider-Man. No, I will seek it out and go look at it and then climate. And this article just made me love it even more.
I have a precious memories lighthouse, too. Let's hear Marblehead Lighthouse near Catawba Island, which is where what state? By Sandusky in Ohio. OK, on Lake Erie. Yeah. And it was same thing when I was a kid. We used to go vacation on the island and we would go to that house every. Well, I don't remember ever going inside, though, really. It may not have been open because there's no reason why you would go to a lighthouse more than once and not go inside, climb it up.
Yeah, but I don't remember ever going in, but or maybe you were just like it looks nice from down here.
Yeah, I would have climbed it. I was a climber.
Yeah, me too. Yeah. Um, but I think the other thing that factors in for me is I found I really love antiquated systems that could still be viable. Yeah, like post apocalypse, you could fire up LightHouse's again. Sure, fire, yeah. And it would work. Yeah, would. And I think that's a weird thing with me that I love, I love stuff that's still around that you could use if need be.
Right. You know, I've never really looked at my environment that way here, like to see what was going to be standing after an apocalypse.
Maybe I should. Well, I don't know about standing, but let's just let's say there was some weird domino effect type thing like that movie where electricity and Internet and everything went out right. And people turned on each other. You could still light a lighthouse and voters could find their safe harbor.
What movie are you talking about? The domino effect. Oh, really, there's a movie like that called That. Yeah, I didn't think it was called with Elizabeth Shue and Agent. Mulder, Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks. Kyle, what's his face, McGlocklin? Yeah, and he is so great as the mayor of Portlandia. Yeah, he is good. I love that guy. I think it's called the domino effect. If not, that was the you know, essentially what happened.
There was a domino effect, like a blackout, right? Yeah. That just like and it created a domino effect to things kind of spun out of control.
You're talking about Fury Road. Oh, right. Sorry.
So, Chuck, I love lighthouses, too, but I knew virtually nothing about them until researching this. Yeah. And if you think about them, though, it's like you were saying after the apocalypse, you'll still they'll still be standing. You just need to replace the electricity with the fire. And then you'd have basically what lighthouses have always been, which is some sort of highly visible signal. For most of the time, it was a fire, either a wood fired, coal fired tar fire.
Yeah. That you could see that was meant to signal to ships that came in. There's some treacherous waters around here.
Yeah, it's one of the main things that they did. And as the light got better and better, one of the roles that lighthouses played was not just to stay careful in this area. We went to the trouble building a lighthouse here because it's so treacherous. But also check out these rocks. Yeah, see this with this light, huh? There's some rocks there. Yeah. Like literally lighting up a harbor. Yeah. Um, well, because there was no light otherwise.
And then the other role that they play is in the daytime. Right.
Because lighthouses I don't think that they actually keep them on 24 hours a day. Highly inefficient on a cloudy day. Yeah. If it's foggy they'll turn it on and start sounding the foghorns, which we'll talk about.
But for the most part in the daytime, it's off. But a lighthouse still serves a purpose during the day because they don't decorate them the way that they decorate them just for looks. Right. They do it so you can differentiate one lighthouse from another.
Yeah, like this one. Looks like a barber pole. So right now I'm near North Carolina's Cape Hatteras. Exactly right. Yeah.
And there's like a whole book called The Light List where it has pictures of them and you get your hands on that. No, I meant to look it up, but I ran out of time. I bet it's neat. I bet it's neat, too. By the way, that movie is called The Trigger Effect. I have heard of that one. There was a movie called The Domino Effect, but it's not the same one.
What about the butterfly effect?
Remember that garbage? That was the couch, right? Yeah. And why does he haunt us?
Oh, yeah. He comes up a lot. All right. Where were we? Were we in the lighthouse? We were talking about the day Mark. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pretty neat.
But there's also what's called the light signature, right? Yes. Where that's that's we're going back to nighttime again.
Yeah. Yeah. Sorry, it's reversing. The sun's going up and you turn the lights off. It got weird. It is a little weird.
Yeah. It's all right. Jerry, are you still here. She's here. So at night, the light has its own flashing signature light signature, and that's also in the book, too. And there's actually a number of different ways that a light can flash, right? Who knew? I didn't know. You've got the fixed.
And that is, of course, if you just have a light on saying we're open, it shines continuously. Come on in. It's the Waffle House. You have the accounting light. I love this one. The creepiest of all lights. It has longer periods of light than dark. And then it flashes six, six, six.
And a flashing light has longer periods of dark than light. So accounting and flashing are just sort of inverse of one another.
There are two sides of the same coin. That's right. You can't have light without the dark is the whole premise.
And then you have the ISO face light that's equal light and dark with its signature blips. Yeah. And then a group flashing light super seventies. Yeah. Has a regular repeating number of flashing lights. The same pattern. Right.
Yeah. And there's actually a really famous one of those, the Menos LEDs light in Boston. It was very famously known as I think it still is that I love you light because it would flash one, then it would flash four and then flash three. So I Elvy why are you. So it was like a very romantic light. That's how people took it. I didn't make that up.
Oh. See, I thought it was I hate Carl. It could.
That's the secondary way that it's known. The people are known for their soft side. I know. So that's why they call it that. I love you. Yeah.
They're prone to break into sobs in public on the street frequently just walking around thinking about the beauty of life.
And then finally, we have our alternating I'm sorry, we had the Morse code, um, which is what it sounds like.
It mimics Morse code with that and dashes that's and dashes that code dots and dashes, man, um, to spell out, you know, things like I love you for this hour.
Windows Ledge does know, but that's not Morse code. It's just it's just one four and three. Yeah. Yeah.
And people took it that way. I go and Windows LEDs actually is pretty awesome to begin with. It's it's under ten feet of water at high tide. Well they had to build it I think in the nineteenth century whenever the tide was out. So they only had like X amount of hours that day during low tide when the ledge was exposed. I think it's still there. It's tough Cookie. Wow.
But Josh, these are all sort of modern, modern ish, modern ish. But although old, they can go back to, what, twelve hundred B.C, Homer's Iliad.
They mention a lighthouse. Yeah, crazy.
And I mean, like we're talking basically a huge bonfire on a cliff or. Exactly, you know, not like a.
Well, not like minnows ledge or anything, but that still qualifies as a lighthouse. It was the premise behind it. Yeah, exactly. I found it weirdly defensive just about that.
Yeah, it's still a lighthouse. Yeah.
Uh, like you said, you would have, like, either wood or coal burning on a long pole. And then finally, in the 18th century, um, they started using lanterns. Which is a little more probably controllable. Yeah, the problem was they kept running into was that the oil or coal would smudge the lantern, the glass around the lantern, and so the glass top, the whole thing where the light is that you can walk around.
And that's the lantern of the light house. Yeah.
And if you're burning a coal fire in there, it's going to get sooty pretty quick.
Yeah, that's one of the main jobs of the lighthouse keepers to wash windows. Right.
The problem is, is in between washings, which they did at least once a day normally. Yeah. The the light would degrade as the soot built up. Right. So they figured out, oh, we need better, better fuel than coal or tar. We thought to use tar, let's burn the dirtiest thing on the planet. Inside there, we're working with what they had at the time. So they figured out, especially in New England, that they could use things like blubber and lard, which they did.
Yeah, from Wales, burns a lot cleaner. And then they also figured out, hey, you know what, this flame is OK? But wouldn't it be great electricity if we had something like electricity to beam this thing out there for miles and miles? Yeah, and a very smart physicist from France named Augustine Fresnel. For now, I like Fresnel. That's cool.
For now. Said, All right, take my and do with it what you will. And he invented the first Ellins he did in nineteen I'm sorry, 1822.
And it's like what you would think it would be. It's a bunch of prisms that through magic can cast a beam like 20 something miles out to the ocean. Yeah, it's amazing. They concentrate and they gather light from the top and the bottom and in the middle and basically just shoot it all back to a single magnifying point.
Amazing. That just goes 28 miles. Yeah, that's a lot of miles. Yeah. Yeah.
And that really that changed everything and did a great job of handling the load until electricity would come around. And that's when everyone was like, you know what, we don't need these silly flames anymore. Let's just plug in a light.
But you can still use a front lens with the light and it's even brighter. That's true. Like today's modern lighthouses use or have produced lights between 10000 candelas and a million candelas. What's a candela?
Did you see this reference like this is the worst analogy I've ever run across.
What? What it say, Candela, is one 200, the brightness of a 50 watt light bulb. Oh, OK. Yeah, I know exactly how much a candle is. I also saw that it's roughly the brightness of a candle, which makes sense, and there's a much better frame of reference. So the brightness of a million candles burning in the same place. Right. That's how bright modern lighthouses are. OK, not one two hundred fifty four.
Let's take a break. Yeah, seriously, let's go find out who wrote that and write a strongly worded letter. OK. Look hard seltzer is all the rage, and a lot of times you end up drinking some fruity drink, the taste is artificial as any other juice you'd find at the grocery store shelf.
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So. Well, that got ugly. So I feel like we're still talking about the history of lighthouses, right? Yeah, sure. Um. Well, what were they they were made of wood early on, but the problem with a wooden lighthouse and a massive burning fire of tar is that they can burn down and be washed out to sea or in rough weather. It can just be knocked plumb over by waves. And, uh, but like I said, they use what they had at the time.
And over the years, they got sturdier and sturdier with steel and concrete and stuff like that.
Well, even over even before. Over the years. Before over the years. Yeah. The Ferris Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was this lighthouse at the mouth of the harbor to Alexandria, Egypt. Yeah. And it was around I'm not quite sure when it was around. I think the which one? The Pharaohs of Alexandria, 270 BC, my friend.
The thing was pretty sturdy.
It took a massive earthquake to bring it down. Yeah, it was made of masonry. It wasn't made of wood, you know. Yeah. So it looks like lighthouse construction got dumber as the years went on and then it got smart again. Then it gets more and again it just dipped down in the wood era and then came back up.
Well what you normally have is the lighthouse, which can be just a lighthouse or there might be a fog signal building, there might be a boat house. You might have a little house or apartment attached to it. Right. And you might live there with your family on in a very remote part of the world, um, all by yourself or with a couple of other dudes. Yeah. And take turns and take shifts. That's called a stag station.
And I think the other thing that appeals to me about lighthouses is I could have lived that life.
Oh yeah. Yeah. I could have seen myself dropping out. And you got a neck beard. Yeah.
All you need is like a cable knit sweater and living up there all by myself. Corncob pipe. Really. Yeah. Grow my own crops and just. Sit up there and be quiet. No one bugging me. It's like that appeals. Well, I did not know that I did not picture you as a lighthouse keeper. I could totally do it. Or lightkeeper for short and. This is another thing that I thought was remarkable in this article, we might as well mention it, is that if there is a lighthouse near you that nobody operates.
It is possible that you could. Own that White House. Yeah. Uh, one dollar, the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, it got a process together where the Coast Guard, which is what runs the lighthouse, is now right. The lighthouse racket. They you can basically start a non-profit or have a non-profit and at no cost. They will give you a decommissioned lighthouse if you maintain it and keep it open to the public. Yeah, for the most part, it's like preservation societies for insurance.
But if nobody wants it, they put it up for auction. Yeah. And then you can do what you want to. It can live out my dream. Yeah. And I wouldn't have to do the windows either. I could just live up there and be a crusty old hermit.
You know, we could do a Kickstarter to help you live out your dream job.
Well, I have a family now. Let's do a few more years of stuff we should know first, though, before you go. Okay. Okay. Yeah.
Um, all right. So back to more modern times. We're building them out of concrete and steel. At this point, they're a little more sturdy. You got your little keeper's house. You're not getting paid much money. How much money do it? Not much. So this article says that they earned about two hundred dollars annually in the late 19th century and went on to the gee whiz Westerburg inflation calculator for eight in 1890. That was five grand today.
Your provisions are covered, though, right? Yeah. At the very least, your room is I don't know about board. I bet you they they all the way a large you can eat.
Now imagine they take care of stuff because you can't like leave and go shopping. Like imagine you have everything shipped to you. Yeah. And. Again, ideal. I love that don't have to go out, you don't have to spend any money. It's like Web van. Yeah.
Coming to you, your bank in that five five grand a year, essentially. Wow, man. When you get into, like, lighthouse mode, you're lowering the standards like germaneness, like like making five grand. People are bringing me food. I don't have to talk to anybody. Yeah, that's awesome. It's like your fantasy. That's hilarious.
Um, so that lens we were talking about, we didn't use that in the United States for a while, because the way I read this is we kind of cheap out. Yeah. When it was being run by this guy, Stephen Pleasant from for 30 years, 1820 to 1850 to 32 years, he ran an efficient, some might say, chintzy program to where he was like, you know, we don't need those fancy French lenses, take these cruddy versions.
They probably won't even Ellins. This is like a mirror reflector or something, if that yeah, maybe a piece of metal that somebody had to just stand behind the light with the reflected. You're my assistant, right? Be quiet, but then finally, the US government got involved and said, you know what, we need to regulate this.
Well, no, the U.S., they were involved. That's. Well, that's right. Chintzy. Yes, from. 1716 to 1789, that was not run by the U.S. government. It wasn't until Alexander Hamilton almost got in a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina and he went back and said, hey, I think we need some lighthouses. The federal government needs to get involved. Yeah.
And so I think the 19th piece of legislation the US Congress ever passed was to establish the lighthouse board.
The US lighthouse establishment initially is what it was called. OK, and, you know, socialist program, he said that the federal the federal is going to run this thing right in charge now.
And you know what?
Things went downhill. Yeah, improved. Proved everyone who's critical of big government, right?
Yeah, but there were a lot of White Houses at the time. By nineteen hundred, we had about a thousand lighthouses. Well, and by 1900 the government had reformed its reputation like seriously the world round for the mid 19th century, the US, the U.S. lighthouse system was second rate at best. Yes, they just had a terrible reputation and I guess sounds like they got rid of Stephen Pleasant, whose name is basically mud these days. And the quality went up.
Yeah. And that's when they established the Lighthouse Board, which is, I think, what you were thinking. Yeah. To to shape things up. In 1852, they said let's get some frenette lenses for all these lighthouses. Right. Finally. Yeah. We can be like the rest of the world isn't dead.
Uh, did you know the Statue of Liberty was a lighthouse?
I don't know if I knew it, but when I read it, I'm like, well yeah but I don't know if it unlocked. Right. Some memory or if I'm just like, that's just too obvious.
Same thing kind of had to do with me. And I didn't know. Yeah. I was like I surely I knew that. Right. Right. Yeah.
I thought that was it for 15 years. It was a lighthouse in New York Harbor. Yeah. And which is pretty neat.
And then by 1930, when electricity was effective and rampant, you didn't need these fires burning or candles burning or whale blubber.
No, but there were a lot of lighthouses where that were on like islands or on offshore like ledges like Minnows Ledge or Eddystone in England. Uh, they were just like the technology to run electricity out there just was not around. Yeah, of course. So they were still using oil of various types to to fuel these things well into the 20th century, into the 60s. Um, easily.
Yeah. And they were still had people working there living in the lighthouse or on the property. Yeah. Uh, into the 1960s. It was definitely more rare, but and that's when the Coast Guard brought about their lighthouse automation and modernization program and that pretty much dwindled by the end of that decade. It dwindled down to 60. That still had people working there. Oh, really? Yeah. 060 out of a thousand today. There's one in Boston, the Brewster Island, one little bestride little Brewster Island.
I was there using a big booster. Well, there might be one Brewsters millions island.
Little Brewster. That's right. It was the first one in the United States. Uh, 1716 was when it was built. And then that one was replaced in 1783. And it's the second oldest working one behind Sandy Hook, New Jersey, is that right? Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And the person that lives there is basically living there as a tour guide, not necessarily like guiding boats in the harbor, although they may do both.
No, I think it's still working. Yeah. Yeah. Well, then I guess they do both double duty.
I saw modern marvels on lighthouses and they interviewed one of the light keepers on Brewster Island, Little Brewster Island. And he he was they showed him like polishing the glass and everything.
Yeah, but it's automated. I got the light itself. I see. I see. So the upkeep in tourguide it. Right, OK.
But yeah, it's still I mean he's providing a function there. Yeah. It's not just show.
Maybe that's what I could do that uh you should have heard that guy. He's like I can't even begin to do it. But he was like a hard core like really in Boston. Yeah.
I can imagine although I wouldn't be the best person because Chuck Silent Lighthouse Tour isn't really. Yeah.
It's just like you just sweep your arm and just quietly leave.
People ask questions, I just wrap them on the knuckles out. All right. I'm getting all excited thinking about the prospects of living in a lighthouse. So I'm going to go do some push ups, OK?
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So, Chuck, say that you did live your life as a lightkeeper, what would you what would it be like?
Hmm? First of all, what was your family background? Well, my dad was a fisherman, probably. Actually, my my great great grandfather was a fisherman. My grandfather was a lightkeeper. My dad was a son of a lightkeeper. And the mom was a keeper. Pirate captain. Pirate captain. Like Geena Davis? Yeah, that was a good movie. She's awesome. Yeah, she. Jesse Thorn interviewed her recently on his Bullseye show. She's just like the best.
And they were all excited in the office. Everyone was like, oh, man. Geena Davis is the coolest.
She supposedly was known for bringing cookies that she baked herself to interviews. Really? Yeah, she's a Mensa member. Yeah. Got a lot going on there.
Julia Smith, who works at the MacSween HQ and produces Judge John Hodgman, said on her Facebook she was like, Gina Davis is like the coolest aunt of all cool aunts all the time that she was in Beetlejuice. I mean, like, yeah, it doesn't get much cooler than that. She could she could just be a total jerk. And she was still awesome in Beetlejuice. Yeah. Um, so anyway, hats off to you, Gina Davis.
How that come up? I don't even remember.
Now, your mom was a pirate captain. All right. Gina Davis, was that a shout out to Cut-throat Island? I guess the movie you're the one that said it, I guess. Yeah, that cutthroat island, huh? Is it the name of it? Yeah, it was a bad pirate movie. I loved it. It wasn't bad. It got bad press. It wasn't bad. It's funny you like some of the most legendarily bad movies of all time.
It wasn't that bad as far as just like critics. And you're like, yeah, I mean, Ishtar.
I never saw this terrible movie. I've actually stayed away from his star. I also stayed away from Rock the Kasbah because I saw that it was basically an updated Ishtar. Did I even see that? I can't remember if I watched it one night, Rock the Casbah. Yeah, or if I wanted to and didn't like, that's how little of an impact it made its on Netflix. I think I actually did watch it and it was just sort of like.
Yeah, not very good. Yeah. No, Ishtar is a pretty good code word to stay away from.
I never saw it. So what else do I like. That was bad. Supposedly bad. I mean like I'll just have you. Have you seen Cutthroat Island. Sure. It's terrible, it's terrible. Okay, um, all right, so we were talking about the lineage, what might get you into the light keeping business? We were being coy and role playing. But that is true, people. It's a family business for the most part. Yeah.
Your parents or your father might have done it. Or you come from a long line of seafaring types. Yeah, at the very least, yeah. You feel close to the sea. Yeah.
Like if you want to spend your time out there on a rocky point. Overlooking the waves all day long, like you probably didn't come from Kansas to do so, you know. Yeah. They have. Weight Watchers, they just sit in the tower and watch the wheat, yeah, and the flatness. The stand up all of a sudden they're like, oh, my God, there's a missing, there's a wheat. Um, one thing we keep saying is men.
Yeah, that's because most of the lighthouse keepers were men, but not all. No, not at all.
And not all of them were necessarily white men either.
There were some very famous legendary African-American like keepers and light lifesavers as well.
SIRF men is what they were called to, you know, because supposedly you're just there to provide light, right. And signal. But when the S hits the F right, I think you can say Fanfan right. When the S hits the fan behave like keepers were known to go out there and provide rescue. Yeah.
And one of them was a woman named Ida Lewis, actually American hero. She grew up on Lime Rock Island and near Newport, Rhode Island, in Newport Harbor. And her dad was a lightkeeper. So she followed that tradition and she actually started taking over the duties after her father had a stroke and she just became a lightkeeper, but a very famous one for her life saving skills. Yeah. Rescued a dozen men over the years.
No, actually, 18 really affirmed. They think it's as high as 25.
Then I'm going to say dozens. She she rescued her last person at age 63.
Wow. Yeah. She was quite a lady. Yeah, that's spunk. But for the most part, and she's not the only one who saved lives. Like, there were plenty out there that did. But it was not an expected role of a lightkeeper. Right. Because the Coast Guard had a lifesaver house, usually nearby a lighthouse, because the lighthouse is there in the first place, too, because there was a treacherous area. So it just makes sense to also put a lifesaving house there, because even with the light, the lighthouse itself may still run aground and there may be rescuing.
And if you want to be thrilled, there's a really neat article that's posted on this podcast page about the Island Life Saving House. It was the book, by the way, that Coast Guard, we had the US life saving service. Right. Which is what that term comes from. Yeah.
And then they merged everything together under Roosevelt. Yeah. 1939. And the the lighthouses and the life saving service all came under the purview of the Coast Guard.
Right. Right. Yeah. We should do it on the Coast Guard, sure. Remember that married couple that were both Coast Guards? Oh, yeah, that lobbied us for many years until they gave up. Yeah. We're still thinking about you guys and we're still going to do a Coast Guard podcast. Don't worry.
Eventually, years and years later, um, so pre 1939 when they made the Coast Guard is where you really can't find a whole lot of written history. Yeah. Wow. That has been lost to time. And they say here in this article that what we have now are stories from families that remain lower. Yeah, Laura, it's pretty neat. Yeah. And Chuck, so if you're in a lighthouse. Yeah. Even as remote and cut off as they are, you hated it.
You would still be like at least I'm not working on a light ship.
Yes, so before they had boys like modern boys, today there's boys out there, they're basically like floating lighthouses in areas that require some sort of warning but are just too far off land to build the lighthouse. They put buoys out there. And today, the boys are like sometimes something like 40 feet in diameter. They're huge, massive things. Yeah, but before boys even they would use something called light ships. And it's exactly what it sounds like.
It's a lighthouse on a ship and it's in a very remote area. You are out there for months at a time.
Yeah. You just sail out and anchor down and live there. Right.
And the boat's anchored all the time. You would have to like go to and from the boat to the shore. But while you're working there, it's just mind bogglingly awful. Yeah, I bet there was a lot of, like, insanity. Yeah. That would happen. Like when the fog rolled in before the advent of foghorns, you would have to yank the the bells rope, the fog bell rope every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day for as long as the fog was around crazy.
Every 10 seconds you had to ring a bell that was your job. And if you didn't, then you were risking the lives of anybody passing by in the area. So not cool, man. Not cool at all. No, but the light ships apparently were just about as bad as it got as far as boredom, loneliness, isolation, hatred of Bel's. The Lightship had it all. You hate bells. I didn't I never worked on a white ship.
All right. But I'll bet they hated Bell. Yeah, it's like I would hear that in your sleep if you rang a bell every ten seconds for hours at a stretch. Yeah. You're not going to get that out of your head. And even if you did when you tried to go to sleep, one of the guys on the next shift would be out there ringing the bell anyway.
So, yeah, drive me nuts.
So let's talk about some famous lighthouses. Uh, well, we already talked about the, uh, the pharaohs of Alexandria. Mm hmm. Which is the oldest known lighthouse and at the time, they contend might have been the tallest thing on the planet. Yeah, 450 feet. That's super tall. Yeah. And it was masonry, too. They found it in nineteen ninety four underwater. The bottom, the ocean. They found pieces of it in Alexandria Harbor.
I guess, uh, you mentioned Eddystone Light already in Plymouth, England, which is I guess that's where the fire engine comes from. Yeah. Still hit Plymouth up if anyone out there works for Plymouth. Oh man.
It's such good. Gin delicious. So is Leopold. Leopold Gin. Yeah, it's American gin. Really good. You're good. It's my go to American Gin. Nice. Although I like most American gin but that's been good. We've had St. George love that stuff.
Yeah. There's three of them. One of them I do not care for at all really. But the other two are like oh but it's the territory where you don't like. It's got a weird taste. Yeah but I love it but I don't appreciate its own thing. It is its own thing.
The fact that it doesn't have its own classification of gin like old Tom or Jennifer or something like that, it should have its own thing. Yeah.
Like foot gin. I love that stuff. It is weird dude. It's really good. You know what it's really good with. Have you ever had a fever tree, bitter lemon. No, it's like a lemony lemon limey citrusy drink but without much sweetness that with the territory war gin and juice. Yeah. You know. But don't you knock your socks off. Yeah.
I don't care for it. You know what, I'll just go and bring you my bottle because OK, I've had like two drinks out of it. I'll try to wrap my head around. I just can't do it. I will email you tonight as a reminder. Say, hey, I'll bring in that St George.
Thanks, man. And also, by the way, I am now on because, you know, I drink the dirty martini, but I don't eat olives, which is a little weird. Um, it's like the juice.
Yeah, the brine. OK, um, with a twist. It's a little different. I know. I've had that and. For years, I would have empty jars of dry olives in my fridge and very little juice, you know, was in there. Oh, I know what you're talking about now. So now about Dirty Sue. Yeah, olive juice. And you can buy it in a bottle. And I bought a box of it and it just sits in the cabinet, my house.
Nice and so big shout out to dirty Dirceu olive brine that is really dirty up your martini with your gin that you use for this.
Well, I mean, I love Plymouth.
I love Hendriks and our friends at Springford Gin. Dude sent us gin from a they said it's all about the water and they have like the best water on earth. They made some old Tom Gin. Yeah. And it is, it is delicious. Yeah. Like it made. I love Martinez's. No it's old Tom Gin. Maraschino liqueur, not the cherry stuff, but like the real cork. Yeah, and then some sweet vermouth. Yes, it's like probably the most perfect drink anyone's ever made and it's very old.
That made maybe the best Martinez I've ever had. That was good stuff.
Well, for a while lately, I've been stirring I got a little martini pitcher or a cocktail pitcher to stir. Yeah, but I'm back to shaking now because I found out that bruising gin is a total myth. So James Bond wasn't coocoo? No, he can't. BRUSKIN Yeah, it's all just garbage.
Do you use orange bitters in years now? Really brightens it up straight up, Dirceu Gin. I do. Is he's a little vermouth. Like, I know that people don't like vermouth at all anymore. Oh really? Yeah. I see bartenders now don't use any vermouth then it's not a martini. Well agreed. That's a gin chilled gin up with some yellow. So I'm with you use um, just the one in the green Italian bottle with that Dolen Blanc.
Yeah, that's good stuff. But I also found out recently that that vermouth is a wine and you don't just keep it on your shelf for two years to keep it in the fridge for maybe a month. Yeah, I didn't know that. So I've been drinking this old old vermouth.
You still can and certainly you can't. But yeah, for the the best possible impact, you want to just get that small. Yeah. I learned that the hard way. Yeah.
I'm gonna start doing that and we, we should have our own cocktail show. We should because we've just talked, we talk about booze a lot.
We don't need to. Let's drink about it. Has that covered. Yeah that's true. Our good friends. Let's drink about it. Yeah.
And thanks also to Ben who sent us some ambler. Smooth ambler, second contradiction, that stuff is good, too. That's right, man boobs talk on lighthouses. Who knew?
Oh, I betcha there's a lot of booze that goes on in lighthouses to this, but they're not making amazing drinks with St George and Bitter Lemon.
No, they're just drinking this stuff straight out of the deerskin. Yeah, exactly.
Where were we? Eddystone Lighthouse, Plymouth, England.
Oh, yes. All this got started.
Um, this thing is it's a it's a very rough area to have a lighthouse. And it seems like nature doesn't want lighthouse there because over the years it has been knocked down and burned down many, many times.
Yeah. This dude basically went out there by himself. Harry or Henry Winstanley.
Yeah. In sixteen sixty six. Ninety six. Yeah. And just started building this wooden lighthouse out and these rocks off the coast of Plymouth himself got captured by a French pirate. Yeah. Released and lit the thing in sixteen ninety eight and he actually died. He deconstructed it and rebuilt it and died in the second version of it. Oh really. It got swept away with him inside but it a pretty cool cat that was three then another one in.
It was built that burned down in 1755 and then a guy named John Smeaton, he was an engineer and he built one that was built to last for a little while.
He actually came up with what you think of as the modern lighthouses, I really think at the bottom tapers of the top. And then it flares out right below the lantern. Right. And the reason most lighthouses flare out right below the lantern is when a wave comes up in, the waves can get that big. Sure, it won't ride up into the lantern. It will be thrown back out to sea when it hits the flat.
It's a water guard. Pretty much interesting. Yeah, I did not know that he was a smart dude. So that one lasted for one hundred and twenty three years, which was a you know, as far as the Eddystone light is concerned, an eternity. But eventually the Trinity House, which is England's version of the Coast Guard of the lighthouse, the lighthouse, they said, no, let's just tear that thing down.
It's in this long, but we think it might not for much longer. But then they built another one. This one actually, they used almost a jigsaw puzzle for one that's still their nomination.
Yeah. Yeah. So when a wave hits it, it actually compresses together and becomes stronger when a wave smacking into it. So that was it for good.
Yeah. Wonderful. We talked about Boston Light. There's also the Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which is, I believe, the tallest one in the United States. Yeah. Two hundred and eight feet. And it's one of the most famous as well. It's the one with the black and white barber pole. Yeah, it's very because I know that.
Sixty three meters for our friends everywhere else in the world.
Did you know that that one was in trouble? The sea was encroaching upon it and they got some money together. Congress did and moved it moved this lighthouse twenty three hundred twenty nine hundred feet back inland. Yeah. Over the course of twenty three days they slowly moved it on tracks. Wow. It was pretty amazing. It was on that modern marvels one. It's like Fitzcarraldo. Sure.
I got a few more fast facts unless you have something else. No, I'm done. Six hundred and eighty lighthouses remaining. The US estimated out of that original thousand plus thirty seven states of lighthouses.
Just not Kansas.
Michigan has the most, don't they have all the states? Yeah. One hundred and twenty. And Michigan, because of the Great Lakes, I would imagine. Makes sense. Yeah. The East Coast says three hundred ninety one. West Coast only has ninety four I guess, which is a lot more shipping and stuff. I need to step it up. West Coast and worldwide we estimate seven more than 17000 lighthouses in two hundred and fifty countries. Hmm.
And the brightest one, Oak Island in North Carolina, 14 million candle power, you can see it for twenty four miles. Wow, that's great.
Yeah, that's a lot. Fourteen million candles all burning at once. Pretty neat.
Sounds like a new religion can tell us. Really, a million is one lighting their candle. I think he's just established it reciting the the Candelas prayer.
Mm hmm. Nice. See, we just started a religion.
Yeah. That easy. Well, you did. I just bore witness. That's right. You can be my faithful assistant. Thanks. Baptize you. Sure.
OK, if you want to know more about lighthouses, you can type that word into the search bar at HowStuffWorks dot com. And since I talked about baptising Chuuk, it's time for listener.
Since he talked about baptising check.
That must mean it's 1984. Hey guys, I recently discovered your podcast and I immediately fell in love. I'm thirsty for knowledge. I find it quite impressive that you've become quasi expert. Not really. Yeah, but I'm writing in to respond to the controlled burn episode. I used to work for my local county park system doing habitat and wildlife management and controlled burns took up many days and the early spring for us. Our department only consists of about six to seven people, three of which were licensed to burn bosses by the state.
They make the burn plan. They light the fire and basically coordinate and oversee the entire operation. I would make everybody call me Birnbach. The job totally would. Additionally, local fire departments, volunteer personnel and sometimes equipment. So they lend out their stuff, which is nice, and people such as water trucks to assist. We also had quite a large number of park volunteers that go through our training and help on fire line. On the fire line as well.
Would be neat. I would do that. Yeah, I'm like a Saturday afternoon. Sure. I'm sure it's different for each state and agency. But our burn bosses go through training put on by the state in order to get certified. I can't recall if this is mentioned, but another advantage of controlled burns is that the charred earth absorbs light because it's black in color more than it normally would, causing the soil to heat more quickly and thus early germination for the desert species had not considered that.
We didn't mention that good factoid there. Uh, thanks for satisfying my wandering mind. Tracy Company and Cincinnati, Ohio. Thanks a lot, Tracy. We appreciate that. Oh, we always love to hear from people who know what they're talking about. Burn Boscombe. Yeah. If you want to get in touch with us, you can tweet to us as well as KAIP podcast or hang out with us on Instagram as well as a podcast. You can join us on Facebook dot com slash stuff.
You should know you can send us an email to Stuff podcast at HowStuffWorks dot com. As always, join us at our home on the web stuff you should know dot com. Stuff you should know is a production of I Heart Radio for more podcasts, my heart radio visit that I heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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