Michael’s Comprehensive List of Scottish Lights

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Sealed-Beam Units   Solar Power  

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Technicalities and Selected Statistics

The Highest Lights

THIS TABLE SHOWS the twenty-five lights with focal planes 200 feet (about 60m) or more above the sea.

MT05 A4020 114-3952 Barra Head 683 feet 208m
M085 A3880 114-3576 Cape Wrath 400 feet 122m
MR11 A3869 114-3574 North Rona 374 feet 114m
M081 A3574 114-3040 Dunnet Head 346 feet 105m
MS02 A4028 114-3912 Flannan Isles 330 feet 101m
MK01 A4610 114-4816 Mull of Galloway 325 feet 99m
MW A4746 114-4948 Calf of Man (discontinued) 306 feet 93m
MU01-06 A3905·8 114-3680 South Rona Beacon No 1 300 feet 91m
MQ01 A3766 114-3320 Sumburgh Head 300 feet 91m
M108 A4272 114-4244 Mull of Kintyre 297 feet 91m
MR13 A3756 114-3316 Skroo 262 feet 80m
M211 A3676 114-3228 Copinsay 260 feet 79m
M220 A3736 114-3292 Noup Head 260 feet 79m
MR15 A3870 114-3572 Sula Sgeir 243 feet 74m
M023 A3090 114-2600 Isle of May 240 feet 73m
MQ-- A3823 114-3508 Vats Houllands (discontinued) 240 feet 73m
MQ14-14 A3822·1 114-3480 Gluss Isle rear 226 feet 69m
MU01 A3904 114-3660 South Rona 225 feet 69m
M002 A2850 114-2320 St Abbs Head 224 feet 68m
M080 A3558 114-3016 Duncansby Head 220 feet 68m
M018 A2912 114-2388 Inchkeith 220 feet 67m
MP13 A3832 114-3540 Muckle Flugga 217 feet 66m
MQ19 A3817·5 114-3448 Point of Fethaland 213 feet 65m
MW A4786 114-5036 Maughold Head 212 feet 65m
MS03 A4032 114-3916 Aird Lamishader 207 feet 63m

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The Tallest Towers

THIS TABLE SHOWS the twenty-four towers 100 feet (30m) or more high.

MU17 A4096 114-3996 Skerryvore 158 feet 48m
MW A4748 114-4956 Chicken Rock 143 feet 44m
M218 A3772 114-3280 North Ronaldsay 139 feet 42m
MT01 A4020·5 114-3955 Monach Islands 135 feet 41m
M074 A3506 114-2984 Tarbat Ness 134 feet 41m
MU12 A4076 114-3992 Oigh-skeir 128 feet 39m
M034 A3220 114-2636 Scurdie Ness 127 feet 39m
MU18 A4098 114-4000 Dubh Artach 126 feet 38m
M003-D A2854 114-2328 Barns Ness 121 feet 37m
MS01 A3968 114-3820 Butt of Lewis 120 feet 37m
M038 A3246 114-2696 Girdle Ness 120 feet 37m
M097 A4082 114-4016 Ardnamurchan Point 118 feet 36m
M062 A3414 114-2860 Covesea Skerries 118 feet 36m
M200 A3562 114-3020 Muckle Skerry 118 feet 36m
M033 A3108 114-2616 Bell Rock 117 feet 36m
M043 A3280 114-2740 Buchan Ness 115 feet 35m
M046 A3304 114-2776 Rattray Head 113 feet 34m
MV12 A4236 114-4208 Ruvaal 113 feet 34m
M214 A3680 114-3232 Auskerry 112 feet 34m
ML A4604 114-4796 Corsewall Point 110 feet 34m
M207 A3644·1 114-3200 Hoy Sound rear 108 feet 33m
MQ14-15 A3822 114-3476 Gluss Isle front ( framework tower) 105 feet 32m
M030-D A-- 114-0 Buddon Ness rear 104 feet 30m
MS08 A3990 114-3868 Eilean Glas 100 feet 30m

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The Brightest Lights

THERE ARE now only three lights around the Scottish coast, including, as lighthouse people must do, the Isle of Man, of a million candlepower or more. They are: St Abb's Head and Swilkie Point (each one million), and Mull of Galloway (just over two million). Two of the three other lights that used to feature in this paragraph -- Buchan Ness and the Calf of Man -- have been reduced in intensity, and Strathy Point has been discontinued altogether. Lights of comparable brightness in England and Wales are: The Lizard, Tynemouth North Pier, Bardsey and Strumble Head (each one million), and in Ireland: Rathlin East (one million), and Black Head, Aranmore and the Fastnet Rock (each about one and a half million). The Mull of Galloway is thus the brightest light in the British Isles.

There are a number of lights as bright or brighter on the north coast of France. These are: Dunkirk, Ver-sur-mer and Cap de Carteret (one million); Ile Vierge (one and a half million -- this is also the tallest lighthouse structure known to Michael, 82 metres); the leading lights at St Mathieu (two and three million); Cap Gris-Nez, Cap d'Antifer and Cap Fréhel (three million); Pointe d'Ailly (almost seven million); Créac'h (nine million); and the leading lights at Port d'Antifer (both well over ten million).

Intensities are found by entering the Nominal Range given by the Admiralty into any published table of equivalent intensities, or into the Luminous Range Table in the paper version of Volume A.

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Sectored Lights

SOME LIGHTS DISPLAY different colours in different arcs of visibility: the different arcs are called sectors. The boundaries between the sectors are listed to the nearest degree, sometimes to the nearest half-degree, but may not always be accurate, and may sometimes be blurred by some apparent overlapping of colours. Michael's List indicates the sectors in order round the lantern, starting with the direction of the first boundary met as the viewer works his way round the coast, followed by the colour in the first sector, then the direction of the next boundary, and so on. The first or last boundary is often the shoreline, and is so given even if the sector can be seen inland. Directions (bearings) are given in degrees True towards the light. Bearings expressed in this way are not always intuitive to us landlubbers, so an annotated diagram might be of help.

The Admiralty always gives the actual width of each sector in degrees of arc, but Michael's List remarks on only widths of 10 degrees or less, essentially those acting as leading lights. The Admiralty always lists bearings in increasing order of value, that is, always increasing clockwise, but the arrangement in Michael's List means that some lights are listed clockwise and some anticlockwise. It depends on whether the sea is on the viewer's left or right, and so in most cases the sense will be anti-clockwise.

Some lights show only a single colour and only over a restricted arc. These are not technically sectored lights, but the arc of visibility is treated in Michael's List in much the same way.

This process is ongoing and will be announced in the News paragraph on the Home page as it is implemented in each Section in turn.

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A TUBE-LIGHT IS Michael's unofficial name for a specialist light visible over a restricted arc, whose characteristic varies with the direction from which it is viewed. The characteristics are arranged to mark a leading line and to show unambiguously which side of that line the mariner currently stands. The limits of the visible arc are fixed by a long tube mounted in front of the lamp. These lights were originally used for marking submarine paths in the Firth of Clyde, but are becoming more common to mark leading lines and lights in line in all kinds of situation.

Coloured sectors within the arc of visibility are formed by the use of a filter in front of the lamp. In most cases the filter is fixed, and the sectors therefore fixed too. But in some cases the filter  rocks back and forth on a circular track in front of the light source. One end of the filter is green, the other red, and there is a blank space in between through which the source appears white. If you stand at the extreme end of the cone of vision, you always see a red (or a green) light; in the middle, always white; and just outside the white sector, an alternating light with the coloured phase of shorter or longer duration depending on your angle of view. Thus the phase of the green light decreases, and that of the red light increases, with increasing bearing. Draw a picture and all will become clear.

There is a passenger ferry from Gourock across the river to Kilcreggan, and then across the mouth of the Gareloch to Helensburgh. You see these directional lights coming into view one after another, with the phase changing as you pass, and you see what submarines must see as they approach their base at the head of the loch. (See also the large-scale plan at Section J, Gareloch.)

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Sealed-Beam Units

THESE NOTES WERE TAKEN AT Ardnamurchan Lighthouse in June 2006. The lantern there consists of two banks of sealed-beam lamp units, one above the other, staggered by 45°. Focusing is entirely achieved by the reflectors in the sealed units: there are no external lenses or other optics at all. The beams are focused to be 9° wide, and the whole assemby rotates once every 20 sec. This gives the desired characteristic: flash 0.5 sec, eclipse 2 sec, flash 0.5 sec, eclipse 17 sec.

Each bank contains four sealed units in a horizontal row, each unit drawing 10 amps at 30 volts through a coiled tungsten filament (these are not halogen units as one might expect from car technology). Thus at full power the lantern consumes 2.4kW. At each end of the horizontal bank are two further, smaller, sealed units, which run on 6V at an unstated wattage. These come on when the light starts up and are replaced by the main units after a minute or so. The attendant on duty at the light could not explain why this is done.

An emergency unit stands on a pedestal inside the lanternhouse, close to the centre of the unobstructed arc of window. It contains a filament lamp that flashes the characteristic if the main units go down.

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The Northern Lighthouse Board
and its Solar Power Programme

THE COMMISSIONERS OF NORTHERN LIGHTHOUSES are vested with the superintendence and management of all lighthouses, buoys and beacons throughout Scotland and the adjacent seas and islands and the Isle of Man under Section 195 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. They are a corporate body, known as the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), constituted by Section 193 of that Act. Their website will be found at www.nlb.org.uk. The rest of the text of this Section is taken from their Notice to Mariners No 1 of 2006. While Notices to Mariners are published for the use and information of anyone, copyright in their texts remains with the Commissioners of Northern Lights operating as the Northern Lighthouse Board.

"The refurbishment programme of the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) has been ongoing since 1998 and will be complete by 2004 for replacement of Acetylene and Propane gas systems with solar electric energy. Eight primary battery-powered lights will be solar-powered by 2005, giving a total of 120 solar-powered lights. Sixteen other diesel-powered sites will be progressively converted to solar-powered operation.

"The characteristics of the gas light will be emulated by the new electric lantern and will, where appropriate, include the retention of coloured sector arrangements. However, during the construction phase it is very often necessary to use temporary lights of lower range and without sector marking, due to power supply restrictions.

"NLB have operated gas-powered systems for more than 100 years and they were the first automatic lights in Scotland. In general they were installed where a low range, eg less than 10 miles, was required. A local attendant ensured that the gas supply was available and illuminated and that the gas mantle was in good condition. The structure or building (not a traditional lighthouse tower but a small brick building or cast iron cylinder) was regularly painted. An annual gas delivery by NLB tender was necessary. Today these structures can be replaced with low-maintenance aluminium towers and eco-friendly solar electric power for the electric lights. Such lights have been operated by NLB since 1985 and have been used in buoys since 1993. There are currently 126 NLB solar-powered land based sites from Holm of Skaw at the north tip of the Shetland Isles to Chicken Rock at the south end of Isle of Man, in addition to some 105 floating solar systems all around the coastline. The range of light varies between 3 miles and 23 miles. Lights of less than 15 miles are normally tungsten lamps exhibiting the advertised character by using electronically-controlled flashers switching the lamp on and off.

"NLB’s first automatic long-range lights were also powered by acetylene gas and were first installed in the early 1960s. Lens systems mounted on a turntable rotated using the gas pressure from the acetylene gas cylinders were installed in traditional lighthouse towers. A sun-sensitive gas valve controlled the supply to the gas mantle, allowing economic use of the available gas. Nevertheless, an annual supply trip by NLB tender was necessary.

"Development of high-efficiency metal-halide lamps has allowed the replacement of the gas mantle to be achieved using solar-electric systems which charge batteries by generating an electric current directly from sunlight. In the northern latitudes of Scotland and Isle of Man, the solar panels can make use of the diffused light through the cloud cover and the battery is of a size to accumulate sufficient energy in the summer and autumn months to ensure winter operation. The power consumption for the typically required light range of 18 miles has decreased in the last decade from over 100 watts to 35 watts, making use of highly efficient lamp drivers operating directly from the 24 volt battery supply. Supplementary power for monitoring purposes is supplied from small wind powered generators.

"To ensure that all Aids to Navigation operate correctly, NLB aim to monitor the performance by using land-line and cellular telephone or radio links connecting the light to the NLB monitor centre in Edinburgh. Any malfunction can be immediately advertised to marine users using the Internet or maritime information systems."

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This page Issue No 3, revised on 02 July 2013

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