Our concern with this topic was first to show the
history of lightships. The pictures are chosen freely
and include different countries. But there are many
exceptional shapes and kinds of lightships, which we
will deal with in another overview.
The first original lightship could have
been a particular version of the Roman galley ships. These ships, rowed
by slaves, had a mast stump with an iron basket , in which possibly
a fire burned at night. These "lightships" were meant to deter pirates
and guide trading ships into the harbour.
Moving to Station
The first light ships sailed to their positions. Only later did they get towed to their positions by steam tugs. Now most of them received sparse rigging or no sails at all. The first engines were less for moving, but for preventing the ships drifting off station in heavy seas and for relieving the tension on the anchor chains. Not until the 20th century were ships equipped with strong engines, so they can move under their own power.
Differences at night
In the middle of the 19th century the number
of lightships grew to such an extent that differences needed to be instated.
The highest number was reached at the beginning of the 20th century
when there were over 350 light ships world wide.
Hulls made from steel
Weser III built in 1888 started the iron age finally. The ship was redesigned several times and served until 1977 on several stations. Most of the new builds from 1906 received steam driven propulsion. From 1912 diesel engines with 300 to 500 horse power with 9 knots. Several ships were built with this spec. Only after WWII two further remarkable new ships were built. First the largest light ship in the world "Elbe 1" with 1000t and second the light ship "Borkumriff". The special thing about "Borkumriff" was that the deck housings were made from light metal.
The actual size and shape of the ships depended on the area in which they served and the advancements of technical development. The largest and most stable ships were stationed at the Elbe 1 and Nantucket (USA) stations. These stations were troubled by particular formations of nature.
The light ship days are numbered
The light vessel "Borkumriff"
was the last manned light vessel in Germany to be withdrawn from her
station on the 15th of July 1988. This station too was now served by
an unmanned lightship (UFS). The development of UFS goes back to the
year 1901. In a German-Scottish co-operation a UFS by the name of Otter
Rock (station name) was developed. This ship was so successful that
for decades many examples were built. Here too different hull shapes
and forms were developed, depending on currents and wave conditions.
For the long ocean swells round types were preferred, for the steeper
harder North Sea swells only oval or hull shaped UFS were suitable.
A word to finish
The record for durability belongs to the Danish copper clad ships of over 100 years of age. Future generations will see how durable the metal and electronics of UFS turns out.