A new kind of lens was invested by Augustin Frensel in the 1820s and it was first installed in France’s Cordouan lighthouse. This magic lens, illuminated by an oil lamp, enabled the ships to find safe passage on the sea.
Since the very early days, lighted beacons have shown the ships a safe path to reach the destinations. At the beginning of the history of the lighthouse, a fire was set up on a hilltop, which was a warning for ships that they were about to teach a Land.
Over time, a mechanism was developed using a set of mirrors and burning coal or oil lamp to power the signals, these signals were able to reach the ships that travelled further out in the sea. Despite the increased usability of these lighthouses, they had some drawbacks, the lighting power of oil lamps were not able to save the ships in dark, stormy weather conditions; over centuries thousands of ships perished in the ocean off West and Southern coastal region of Sri Lanka.
The international sera route off south and west coast of Sri Lanka were frequented by large ships, wind-whipped sails and broken hulls of some of those merchants ships were grounded because they were not able to spot the coastline before it was too late. Therefore captains and crews were demanding for more advanced warning systems near the sea routes of Sri Lanka. It is believed around 100 shipwrecks lying in the sea off Sri Lanka.
The invention of the new way reflection of light in the 1920s with a ring of a crystalline prism, which arranged in a faceted dome, was able to address the shortcoming of the previous system. It was invented by Augustin Fresnel and installed in the Phare de Cordouan, situated in France Gironde estuary, roughly around 100km from north of Bordeaux. With the newly invented system, one lamp was sufficient to illuminate the way for ships that sailing many miles out to the sea.
Galle lighthouse of southern Sri Lanka considered as the oldest lighthouse in the island that still serves the ships until today. This is the first lighthouse of built in Sri Lanka in 1848 under the British administration. The lighthouse was 24.5 meters in height and located about 100 from the current lighthouse. This lighthouse was burnt down in 1936.
This beacon existed in its original form for about a century, until it was destroyed by a fire. Thereafter a new lighthouse was erected by the British administration in 1839, which functions with a prism lens of glass giving wider coverage to the ships in the sea. The height of the present lighthouse is 26.5 meters.
This gigantic sentinel of granite stone, bricks and cement is a renaissance masterpiece on par with other architectural inventions in the fort such as cathedrals, museums, bungalows, guard rooms, prisons, and “this Versailles of Sri Lanka southern coast” is a valuable monument to maritime engineering and Sri Lankan history. The spot was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site by UNESCO making it a place not to be missed to the visitors of Sri Lanka.
The lighthouse is located towards the southern border of Galle fortress and clearly visible as you enter the fort. The lighthouse offers a fantastic and breathtaking view over the Indian Ocean as well as the city of Galle. However, the opportunity of reaching the summit of the lighthouse is not possible for visitors anymore, the wooden door is locked all the time.
Southern Sri Lankan city of Galle harbours a beautiful stretch of sandy beaches famous for sea bath, sunbath, diving, snorkelling and various other water sports. Its bays, coves and diving sites are heavens for underwater explorers. A large number of tourists anchoring at the fort of Galle for holidays, from this vantage you can’t miss the sight of lighthouse that lies on a solitary promontory. Cafes and galleries touting fresh seafood salads and rice curry are popular with foreigners, and many foreign, as well as foreign visitors, take a stroll along the rampart while enjoying the cool sea breeze, to explore the various parts of the historical monument.
Fishing is thriving industry in Galle and hundreds of fishing crafts depart from Galle fishing harbour (net to the fort) daily into the open water. As the view of Galle fortress diminishes and sails into the deep water, the lighthouse shows up, through the horizon like a gigantic pillar.