Digest>Archives> October 1997


By Peter Doeleman


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The Noord Hinder Lightship 12 at Hellevoetsluis, ...
Photo by: Peter Doeleman

In July 1997, the Lightship nr.12 Noord Hinder was officially given to the "Lightship 12 Noord Hinder Association" at Hellevoetsluis, Netherlands to be used as museum. Since March 21, 1994, the ship has been out of service from its duty on the North Sea between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (southwest of the town of Vlissingen). The lightship has been replaced by a huge sunpowered lanby (large automatic navigational buoy). The town of Hellevoetsluis, with a very long marine history, (as you read in the February, 1997 issue of Lighthouse Digest) now has two lights of historical importance! The oldest lighthouse of the Netherlands and the last lightship of this country are together in the harbor of this city. Both of them are a short distance from the former naval dockyard with the first Dutch stone dry dock equipped with steam-driven pumps.

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The lantern room and tower of the Noord Hinder ...
Photo by: Peter Doeleman

The Lightship nr.12, was built in 1963, at the shipyard "De Waal" in the Dutch town, Zaltbommel, along the river Waal. From the top to the bottom, the vessel was painted red. In the middle of the lightship there was a skeleton framework of wrought iron piles making a tower on which a glass lantern room had been fixed. The name of the lightship was painted in black on a white ground on both sides.

The light was fixed at 52 feet above sea level. The lenses turned around together with the lamp. In the List of Lights, 1957, we read: 1 double-flash every 10 seconds (flash 3/10 sec., eclipse 2 2/10 sec., flash 3/10 sec., eclipse 7 2/10 sec.). The visibility of the light had to be 12 miles under ordinary states of the atmosphere. Several nautophones were on board (aside the tower) for use in case of severe fog. Lightships used to be at a distance within range of the shipping lanes to be heard by people on ships coming by. As soon as you couldn't see as far as two miles, the nautophones began to work. They gave a lasting and loud sound to be heard at a distance of at least 5 miles. That must have been a terrible sound for the people living and working on their light vessel. There was a radio beacon on board, too.

The Lightship nr.12 Noord Hinder was fixed in its position by an umbrella anchor with a chain about 1000 feet long.

First some more about European lightships. The main task of lighthouses is leading people homeward by accentuating landmarks or by creating marks. The lightships had to warn you in case of less depth (for instance: sandbanks and rocks beneath sea level). The first European aid to navigation by means of a light vessel could be found in 1732, at the entrance of the river Thames in the United Kingdom. Its name was NORE. The first real Dutch lightship had been built in the year 1858, and was fixed near the Noord-Hinderbank (sandbank). In 1864 there were two lightships in the Netherlands, one in Belgium, 39 in the USA and 51 around the UK (source: Nautical Magazine, 1865). In the early twenties of the recent age there were 5 Dutch lightships: TERSCHELLINGERBANK, MAAS, HAAKS,SCHOUWENBANK, and NOORD-HINDER. The duties of these lightships, besides the obvious, were many. They were being used for all kinds of observations; for instance, climatological, hydrographical and meteorological observations. Moreover, the people working on these vessels had to make notice of mayday-messages they heard. Often they interfered in radio contacts between people who were in danger and Scheveningen Radio.

The lightships built since 1881, had numbers from 1 to 12. The names of these vessels change depending on the place where they were anchored. For more details of the history of the Dutch light vessels, you should read Mr. Romke van der Veen's book, Vuurtorens, (editor: De Boer Maritiem, The Hague, 1981).

Let's return to the Lightship nr.12 Noord-Hinder. Because of the boring life on board of the lightships, the increasing danger of collisions (there's very busy traffic in the southern part of the North Sea), the new techniques (for instance, the remote control), and for all the huge costs of manning these vessels, made it possible thinking of automated lightships or during constructions. Thereby the Lightship nr.12 Noord Hinder had to be the last newly built manned Dutch lightship. In 1984, this lightship has been automated on a wharf at the town of Scheveningen. The light did its work till March, 1994. The high degree of positional accuracy available from satellite systems and the enormous costs of having and maintaining a lightship helped to make the decision to demolish the lightships.

The owner of the lightship (DGSM at Scheveningen) stated that there were several people and organizations which wanted to give this vessel a new home. The destinations varied from a practice room for a choir, to a boat for tourists and a restaurant. Even a sex club had been mentioned.

Since 1994, the Lightship nr.12 Noord Hinder, has been in the harbor of Hellevoetsluis, just nearby the Southwest Headquarters of the Dutch Coastwatch. We got familiar with this boat. Some young people used the top of the lantern room to dive from into the Voorne-Canal.

The people of the town of Hellevoetsluis won't lose their lightship. Some 15 volunteers of the "Lightship 12 Noord Hinder" will now restore and preserve this historic vessel. Although automated in the early eighties, the volunteers have traced all the machinery and tools which belong to this lightship originally. Moreover, the lightship is in good condition because it was handed over as a 'warm ship', that means that the ship was not dismantled. This lightship was a stand-in for other lightships that were temporarily out of function. So today you can have your fresh coffee from the original kitchen within a few minutes.

At the outside and inside, the lightship has been derusted by the volunteers. By lots of handicraft, the ship has been repaired where needed. In the last months of 1997, the lightship will be docked in the village of Stellendam. The hull will be sandblasted (if needed) and repainted.

Thereafter the finishing touches will start. Painting the whole superstructure in the original color will be the last part of the restoration. In the meantime interpretation boards will be prepared for the information of the visitors and some volunteers will be trained as guides.

The Lightship nr.12 Noord Hinder is a unique ship in the Netherlands. Nowhere in the Netherlands can you visit an automated lightship in such perfect condition. Maybe some day or another, when you are in the Netherlands, then you can visit this magnificent lightship on any Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday (10:00am - 4:00pm) and on Sunday volunteers will welcome you from 1:00pm -4:00pm. Moreover, you can always visit this wonderful lightship by appointment.

The volunteers of Hellevoetsluis will really keep the light burning!

This story appeared in the October 1997 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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