Interesting snippets about the Aguada Lighthouse

At the turn of the 20th century, sailors on the waters of the Arabian sea, up to 26 miles off the coast of Goa, would see a bright flash of light. It was a signal that there was a safe harbour available if they changed course and followed the light.That flash of light came from the Aguada plateau, from the lighthouse that has been a reliable lifeguard to seamen over the centuries. To tourists who throng the Aguada fort, the lighthouse is just another background for a photo. It stands, rising to a height of 4 storeys, surveying the land and water for miles around, flashing its warning to ships navigating into the Mandovi from the waters of the Arabian sea.If the Aguada fort has a long and interesting history, then this lighthouse, that has stood overlooking the capital city Panaji for centuries could have even longer and more fascinating tales to recount.It has been there and gone through a cycle of giving warnings through fire, ringing a bell and electricity — telling sailors of the sandbar that nestles under the waters.History makes references to the existence of such a service as early as the 15th century. On the hillock behind where today stands the accounts building at Panaji, there used to be a signal tower, from which trading ships wanting to enter the river Mandovi had to obtain the required permission.On the other side of the river there was another tower which would signal the Panaji station of approaching ships by way of lighting fires.During the 1790s a proper lighthouse was ordered from the French lighthouse dealers ‘Casa Ailoud’. “It was ordered in 1797, but remained unused till 1812 because of the French-British war. It was only after the Treaty of Amiens that the lighthouse was put to use in 1813,” says Percival Noronha, researcher and heritage buff.According to the book, “Historia de Goa” by Fr Gabriel Saldanha, this lighthouse used spears doused with oil procured from Bardez which were lit to send signals out to sea. The lighthouse did not run its service during the monsoons as there was no ship movement during that season.In 1841, a better lantern, regulated by a watch mechanism was set up at the lighthouse. It was slow and the flashes came every 15 minutes. Around this time, the bell from the ruined church of Our Lady of Grace at Old Goa, part of the complex of St Agustine was shifted to the lighthouse and the rang the hours. In 1864, the Conde de Torres Novas obtained a new lantern and the Argand lighting mechanism, that was in vogue in Europe at that time. This warning light came every 30 seconds, the light intensity growing brighter till it reached its brightest and then, gradually diminishing. An entire cycle lasted about half an hour, according to Saldanha.In 1906 the mechanism was changed once again and the light came with 3 flashes of 10 second each. It was this light that was visible 26 nautical miles away. Today, the lighthouse is a tourist attraction. Locals use it is also as a landmark to set up a meeting point, as situated in the centre of the fort it is an easy to spot monument.From ground level, one gets to appreciate an old heritage piece. But if you climb the steps, you can see the Raj Bhavan, the Mormugao port and even ships, Miramar beach and Panaji.

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