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Sultan Shoal lighthouse: Operate on technologies, sustained by aged-globe charm


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SINGAPORE: Using the hour-long boat journey to Sultan Shoal island resembles a rewinding of Singapore’s landscape. To start with, two of the metropolis-state’s gleaming new palatial playthings – Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa Cove – shrink from see. Next come Pasir Panjang port’s gangly ”giraffe” container cranes, and Pulau Bukom’s hulking oil refinery tubs.

Then, neatly poised amongst the stark, reclaimed land patches of Jurong Island and Tuas, standing ground among an odd tanker or two, is the unique white, copper and beige construction which marks out Sultan Shoal.

Anything about the outcrop – .six hectares, smaller than a soccer pitch – is curious. There is a gentleman-built lagoon which fills with seawater at large tide – but swimming is not allowed.

The see of the lagoon at large tide, from up in the lighthouse tower.

A indicator posted in entrance of the lagoon, pictured at lower-tide.

At the other end, two getaway chalets have sat dormant due to the fact 2012, the property of PSA Intercontinental or what was at the time the condition-operate Port of Singapore Authority.

The PSA-owned chalets on Sultan Shoal island.

Sandwiched in amongst is the 122-calendar year-aged lighthouse, a white Victorian column perched atop a two-storey style brick-laid with clashes of colonial and nearby influences.

Sultan Shoal lighthouse is special for remaining constructed atop a two-storey masonry dwelling.

It is a transporting knowledge standing at this western position for vessels coming into and departing Singapore’s waters, explained lighthouse keeper Lee Kwang Liang.

“This is a very exclusive island, beautiful by by itself,” the 64-calendar year-aged additional.

He is one particular of eight guys utilized by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to look just after its five lighthouses.

Lee’s fellow keeper, fifty four-calendar year-aged N Manikaveloo, stated: “At any one particular time, four of us will be on an 11-day shift (at Pulau Pisang and Raffles lighthouses), although the others do unmanned lighthouse servicing.”

Bedok lighthouse, Horsburgh lighthouse on Pedra Branca and Sultan Shoal are unmanned. The latter was only automatic in 1984 at a charge of S$500,000, according to stories then.

The lighthouse was constructed in 1895 and its gentle was initial turned on in 1896.


When Sultan Shoal’s gentle initial shone in 1896, it was a basic cluster of 3 single wick oil lamps. In later on decades, a kerosene burner was applied, ahead of diesel turbines took over.

Even then, the lighthouse experienced to be manned by a crew of four, who manually operated the lantern at sunset and dawn – and held enjoy at night time to guarantee the gentle stayed on, according to Dr Parry Oei, MPA’s main hydrographer and port products and services director.

“With the advent of technologies and the increasing problems in recruiting lightkeepers, we effectively automatic Sultan Shoal lighthouse in 1984 utilizing photo voltaic strength,” he recalled.

“We have now transited to utilizing strength-efficient LED navigational lanterns, due to the fact 1992.”

The automatic LED lantern which performs the lighthouse’s key function.

The current-day lighthouse is effective by emitting two white flashes just about every 15 seconds, over a variety of 15 nautical miles (virtually 28km) and from 18m up.

An aerial see of the lighthouse tower (Photo: Raszman Abdul Rasid and Istifar Zainuddin)

A radar beacon also offers added assistance to ships, but the growing use of technologies has finished minimal to dim the importance of the lighthouse keeper’s occupation in their eyes.

“Yes, we come out to these unmanned lighthouses just at the time a month, and choose up to about one.five hours to do the servicing,” explained Mr Lee, who has 3 decades of knowledge below his belt. “But the keepers are however liable for producing positive the gentle is working and to enable ships enter Singapore’s ports securely.”

A traditional compass attached to the ceiling of the lighthouse tower.

STANDING Continue to Continue to STANDING

The two Mr Lee and Mr Mani have been effusive in comparing their lighthouse maintaining to their earlier deskbound professions.

“This is very special operate, very distinct from a occupation on the mainland,” explained Lee. “For more mature people today like me, this is very very good for maintaining ourselves occupied, lively and in good shape at the very same time.”

“It’s also a great spot for those who are semi-retired and want to and however can proceed working,” he joked.

Lighthouse keepers N. Manikaveloo and Lee Kwang Liang.

Reported Mani, utilized by MPA for eight decades now: “In the metropolis, it’s very frantic and stress filled. When we come out to the lighthouses we get a sea breeze and a very good see.”

Rust-tipped ships in the around distance notwithstanding, Sultan Shoal’s coconut tree-dotted shoreline and very well-preserved greenery however make for an idyllic scene.

Sultan Shoal’s encompassing see from up in the lighthouse.

Mother nature, it appears to be, has identified a way to protect by itself on the island. After 2,300 coral colonies have been relocated to other islands to guard them from ongoing is effective at the Tuas port, the remaining 500 corals have been noticed in February to have a survival price of about 90 for each cent, according to Dr Oei.

And Sultan Shoal lighthouse far too, in all its quaint, charming glory, “will not go”, explained Lee.

“It’s a set construction, a benchmark, a key position. Ought to electronics fail, what do you depend on? Which is why we however retain it just after one hundred over decades.”

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