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Shown here is a newly constructed lantern room on the warehouse floor at Chance Brothers in England in 1880 shortly before it was to be shipped to China to be placed atop the Dodd Island Lighthouse, which is also shown here in a 1930 photo. To put the era in perspective, 1880 when the lantern was built was when P.T. Barnum and James A. Bailey joined forces to create the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and it was the year that the first cash register was patented. Built by the British government on the easternmost point of Quemoy Island, it was first lighted on October 18, 1883. The original apparatus was a first order, occulting, with two red and two white sectors, illuminated by a six-wick lamp burning mineral oil. The candle-power was estimated at 10,500 for the white sectors and 3,000 for the red.

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In 1913 a vaporized petroleum lamp fitted for 85-mm incandescent mantles was installed, increasing the candlepower to 35,000 for the white and 10,000 for the red. Of this improvement, the British lighthouse keeper at the time reported, “I also beg to state that this light is a treat to a light-keeper, it is I believe one of the best patents Chance Brothers have constructed so far, the light is good and simple.” In 1921 a new second order revolving optic by Chance Brothers was installed, showing every fifteen seconds two lighting flashes of 400,000 candlepower; the red sectors were discontinued with the new flashing form of light. In 1926 the power was again increased, this time to 690,000 candlepower. The lighthouse grounds were described at the time as having coarse grass, no trees, no shrubs, and mostly exposed rock. However, the island has two kinds of seaweed that are edible and were a source of income for local fishermen. It was the seaweed that caused a local uproar just before the lighthouse construction started. The locals thought the lighthouse would destroy the growth of the seaweed, and it took quite a bit of convincing to change their minds. Dodd Island Lighthouse was selected to serve as a training station for foreign lighthouse keepers, but that idea was abandoned when the British-built lighthouses were turned over to the Chinese. Very little is known about the lighthouse after the Chinese Civil War broke out in 1927, which was followed by World War II, and then the resumption of the civil war, which ended in 1950 with the Republic of China controlling Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China controlling the mainland, and the subsequent closed society created by the Communist Chinese government. Reportedly, the lighthouse is now known as Beiding Dao.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2014 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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