Aidas Jurkštas. THE HISTORY OF LIGHTHOUSE IN KLAIPĖDA
The lighthouse of Memelis was lighted in 1796 on the 1st of September and it was the first lighthouse in the north-eastern Baltic coast. Only Danzig (1757) and Travemunde (1539) lighthouses were older. The coordinates 55o43‘36“N, 21o 4‘36“ E are marked on all charts. The lighthouse was not only low, but also the light source was very weak, the ships saw it just a half mile away (German mile - 7,5km) and only in good weather conditions. It looked like a full moon disk from the sea. Since then, the ships could enter the port during the dark.
The value of the port has changed since 1807 when Memelis became the temporary capital of Prussia and at the same time gained the title of the Royal sea city of trade.
In 1812 there was a ravelin filled next to the lighthouse and the sites were equipped for the cannons. Around the lighthouse there were planted some bushes and grass in order the wind wouldn’t blow the sand off.
In 1819 the lighthouse of Memelis was substantially renovated, it was raised 24 feet up. Stairs were set in tower, although they were in the annex before. A new, modern English lamp was equipped in the upper glazed part. It consisted of 13 cooper reflectors, polished with silver plates and covered with a parabolic reflector of 20 inches diameter, illuminated by 13 burning oil Arganda lamps. The light source was raised to 29.2 m. high (above the sea level). In good weather conditions ships could see it from 16 miles distance (over 30 km). The lighthouse was covered with copper hood roof and on it there was the lightning-conductor mast. Two keepers lived in the annex of lighthouse tower. The junction of stoned and glazed in the tower was surrounded by the gallery, which was based on the consoles. At first the outer walls of the lighthouse were plastered with lime, gravel and the grout of crushed bricks. It was painted in white. But even this plaster did not withstand the sea winds. Therefore in 1827 from the west side of the lighthouse the wall was bound with tin.
In 1874 the tower was started to paint in chequerwise with red and white squares that is why it was called the Red lighthouse. Not only the light kept burning here, but also more optical signals were equipped. For example, when port call was dangerous there was raised a red flag, and when it was safe - yellow. Flags were lit at night. Since 1913 the lighthouse was launched with pulsed light signals. There were also some other important equipments such as pilot tower, semaphore of winds and buoys for the port navigation.
The lighthouse of Memelis was not only a symbol of the city, but also a significant tourist attraction, from the tower you could admire the sea, harbor and city views. On the coastal road towards the lighthouse there were a popular city restaurant and guest house called “Strandvilla”.
In 1909 there were equipped two-story modern light lamps with Fresnel optics in Memelis and Piluva (Pillau-Baltiysk) lighthouses.
In 1923 on the 15th of January the port became a part of the Republic of Lithuania. Memelis was called by the name of Klaipėda
In 1933 there was equipped a radio station in the tower of the lighthouse.
In 1884 during the reconstruction of the port there was finally finished the construction of the northern breakwater and on the 16th of December at the end of the breakwater there was lit a red light in the so called Small or White lighthouse (it was depicted on 200 litas banknote). At the end of the southern breakwater for some time there was also a light signal. In 1927 in its place was built 7.35m high lighthouse (10 m above the sea level) and a green light was lighted.
The Second World War was merciless for Baltic lighthouses.
In 1945 in January Nazis blew up Klaipeda lighthouse. The White lighthouse and northern breakwater disappeared. In 1945 on the 30th of January Red Army soldiers raised a red flag in the southern breakwater lighthouse in Kopgalis.
The old lighthouse of Memelis left only genuine 4 m part of plinth building. In 1952 there was built a new, black-and-white striped tower of reinforced concrete.
Klaipeda lighthouse began to shine in 1953 on the 31st of January. Full high of the tower was 49 m above the sea level (light was in 45 m high). The signal made a 3 seconds break every 3 seconds and it was visible from 33 miles. Optical devices were made in 1950 in Russia's Gorky city. In Soviet times, the optics cost 75 thousand rubles. There was also a radio in the lighthouse, which was changed into the satellite navigation system in 1998.
In 1990 after the restoration of statehood in Republic of Lithuania, the maintenance of the lighthouse from the Russian military was taken over the Lithuanian Maritime Safety Administration.
In 2010 in the lighthouse there was equipped DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) antenna operating at 500 km distance.
For three centuries the lighthouse of Klaipeda faithfully serves for the marines returning to port.
Aidas Jurkštas born in 1966, in the town of Šalčininkai (Lithuania). He grew up and lived in Vilnius. Since 1995, he live in the Baltic seaside resort Palanga. Aidas Jurkštas studied journalism, philosophy, design and law, and graduated the studies of technical drawing, radio equipment, business management (The Open University, 2004). He established and managed Polidizainas advertising firm, and many years spend in the orienteering sports.
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