Historic rock-mounted lighthouses play a vital role in the safe navigation around perilous reefs. However their longevity is threatened by the battering of waves which may be set to increase with climate change. Virtual navigational aids such as GPS are fallible, and reliance on them can be disastrous. Mariners will therefore continue to need the physical visual aids of these strategic structures. The loss of any reef lighthouse will be incalculable in terms of safety, trade and heritage.
Plymouth University has trialled the use of recording instruments to capture limited information on the loading and response of Eddystone Lighthouse. The study evaluated the extreme logistical constraints of lighthouse operations and the feasibility of using instrumentation to understand the response of the lighthouse to wave loads, with results strongly encouraging a comprehensive study of the load and response environment.
Six lighthouses have been selected for close investigation following the Eddystone pilot project. They are spread across the British Isles, under their respective UK General Lighthouse Authorities: Trinity House, the Commissioners of Irish Lights and the Northern Lighthouse Board. The basis of the tower selections included consideration of particularly extreme wave environments, unique structural aspects and interesting anecdotal observations. The choice of towers changed slightly during the initial stages of the project as we were made aware of even more interesting towers and previously unknown operational issues.