Eagle Island is located close to the edge of the Continental Shelf and is constantly pounded by powerful waves from the Atlantic. According to the 1841 census, when the lighthouses were first built in the 19th century there were two lighthouses and seven dwelling houses on the Island. By the 1911 census only one dwelling house remained. Even during construction, the ferocity of the ocean was apparent when a giant wave swept the partly built west tower and all the construction materials into the sea. Eventually the structures were completed and a massive storm wall was built to protect them. The East and West towers were 20 and 26 metres tall and 120 metres apart with both their lanterns at the same level of 67 metres above high water and in 1835 the two lights were eventually established.
It all sounds very impressive and very permanent, but the seas around this part of the western coast are relentless and a year later the western lantern was struck by rock hurled from the waves and knocked out. Quickly repaired, it was again assailed in 1850 when the lanterns were out of commission for a week because the repair crew couldn’t reach the island. A decade later in 1861 a gigantic wave cleared not only the island, but the eastern lantern too, smashing the windows and flooding the interior of the tower to the extent that the keepers couldn’t open the doors and had to drill holes in them to let the water out.
Just over thirty years later, a gigantic storm at the tail end of 1894 spelled the end for families living on the island, when the dwellings at the east tower were destroyed and the storm wall damaged almost beyond repair. By 1900 all the families had moved ashore to new houses at Corclough.
Shortly after that storm, the East tower was discontinued and shortened by 6 metres so it didn’t create a shadow within the arc of the new light fitted to the West tower.
The light was converted to electric in 1968 and in 2001 it was replaced by a solar powered light with a range of 35 kilometres. The character was changed to 3 white flashes every 15 seconds.
In March 1988, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation and the Keepers were withdrawn from the station.
Location: 54°17.022′ North, 10°05.564′ West.
Elevation: 67 m
Character: Fl (3) W 20s
Range: 34 km
Eagle Island sits on the edge of the continental shelf, so it’s basically storm central as far as the ocean waves are concerned. Its history is one of an ongoing battle with the sea and has been almost flattened on more than one occasion. This was one lighthouse I wasn’t going to illustrate in the setting of a balmy June afternoon!
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