Northern Lighthouse Board Lecture

I happened to attend a lecture today at the RSSA given by Roger Lockwood who the head of the Northern Lighthouse Board. The board manages and maintains lighthouses and other navigational aids around Scotland (and for various reasons the Isle or Man)

It was a brilliant lecture, the speaker was great and the topic was very interesting. It started with a discussion of existing lighthouses; then the switch to automation and the story of the last manned light house at Fair Isle South Lighthouse (only automated in 1998).

Interesting was the fact that they can run lighthouses on solar panels in Scotland with good reliability (although batteries were mentioned too of course for storing the power). Wind power has proved to be less effective, with the windmills tending to get damaged by bad weather. The panels also have no moving parts and require less maintenance.

Moving on to the importance of not relying solely on GPS and the importance of the lights and aids. This included some cautionary tales of vessels that have got into difficulty by assuming that the GPS was right and the beacons, buoys and light houses were wrong.

Then a discussion of the e-loran system which will give much better positioning information for vessels at sea, the progress made and the work still to do. (Apparently more base station beacons needed to improve coverage).

Some very interesting questions at the end including a discussion on jamming of GPS interfering with navigation (which is apparently seen as a real and serious problem), plus several cautionary tales about the importance of checking your navigation systems.

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