Durness Beach

Light's of the North Coast of Scotland

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Durness - North Coast
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© Composted by:
Bob Schrage
updated: 30-12-2018

Swilkie Point (Stroma)



Stroma is an island off the northern coast of the mainland of Scotland. It is the most southerly of the islands in the Pentland Firth between the Orkney islands and Caithness, the northeasternmost part of the mainland. The name is from the Old Norse Straumr-øy meaning "island in the [tidal] stream".

Off the Northern-most point of Stroma, is the Swilkie, the most dangerous whirlpool in the Pentland Firth, occasioned by the meeting of four or five contrary tides. According to Icelandic legend, the Swilkie is the place where the salt which maintains the saltiness of the oceans is ground in a giant quern, stolen from King Frodi by a sea-king named Mysing. When Mysing's longvessel sank off Stroma under the weight of it, he still continued to grind away with it 15 fathoms down and to this day the sea can still be heard roaring through it.

In 1890, a lighthouse was built at Stroma's northern tip, Langaton Point. It was only operational for six years before being replaced, and very little is now known about the structure. The unmanned lighthouse originally housed a Trotter-Lindberg lamp which burned petroleum spirit or lythene. The fuel supply was stored in cisterns near the lantern, which was regularly recharged at least fortnightly by the local fishermen or crofters. It was one of the first lighthouses in Scotland to use this type of "scintillating" light.

It was replaced in 1896, possibly on the same site, by a new lighthouse built to a design by David Stevenson as part of a major programme of construction works around northern Scotland. A fog warning system was installed the following year. Stevenson's lighthouse consists of a circular white-painted stone tower standing 23 meters high at an elevation of 32 meters above Mean High Water with a number of buildings nearby to house generators and the lighthouse keepers. The light was converted to a paraffin lamp when the former lythene lamp was found to be unsuitable. An oil store was installed in the lighthouse tower, ending the need for a separate building to hold the fuel. The lighthouse was subjected to a machine-gun attack by a German aircraft on 22 February 1941. It caused little damage and no injuries, and the keepers were soon able to make repairs.

In 1896, Stroma was established as a major light. It was a Trotter-Lindberg light which used petroleum spirit or lythene, contained in cisterns placed outside the lantern, which had to be recharged at least once a fortnight and it was regularly observed and visited by a local crofter or fisherman appointed for the purpose. Stroma was soon found to be an unsuitable location for a minor light and a paraffin lamp was substituted for the former lythene lamp - enabling the small tower which carried the lantern also to serve as an oil store instead of requiring a separate building.

Stroma lighthouse

Until 1961 the lighthouse was administered as a shore station, and subsequently (after the resident population of Stroma had left) as a rock station. An electric lamp with a maximum power of 1.1 million cd was installed in 1972, utilising a sealed beam optic mounted on a gearless revolving pedestal. By this time the keepers and their families were the only people living on Stroma. A helicopter pad was installed to enable supplies and personnel to be flown in. In 1997 the station was converted to automatic operation, utilising a 250 watt metal halide lamp which rotates on a gearless pedestal. A lens system from Sule Skerry lighthouse, 4th oorderlens system, was refitted in the Stroma lighthouse.

The old air-driven fog horn was removed and replaced by an electric fog signal which is installed on the balcony of the lighthouse. The lighthouse station's power, which was formerly obtained from generators, is now provided by batteries which are charged at regular intervals. The current light flashes white every 20 seconds and can be seen from a nominal range of 48 km / 26 nautical miles

Work commenced in April 1994 to convert the station to automatic operation, this was complete in March 1997. The former sealed beam lamp array optic was removed and replaced by the ex Sule Skerry 4th Order lens system. This rotates using a gearless pedestal and the light source is a 250 watt metal Halide lamp. The air driven fog signal has been removed and replaced by an electric emitter type located on the lighthouse balcony.

The island's population fell from 375 people in 1901 to just 12 by 1961. The last native islanders left at the end of the following year, while Stroma's final abandonment came in 1997 when the lighthouse keepers and their families departed. Ancient stone structures testify to the presence of Stroma's earliest residents, while a Norse presence around 900–1,000 years ago is recorded in the Orkneyinga Saga. It has been politically united with Caithness since at least the 15th century. Although Stroma lies only a few miles off the Scottish coast, the savage weather and ferociously strong tides of the Pentland Firth meant that the island's inhabitants were very isolated, causing them to be largely self-sufficient, trading agricultural produce and fish with the mainlanders.

Stroma lighthouse

Most of the islanders were fishermen and crofters; some also worked as maritime pilots to guide vessels through the treacherous waters of the Pentland Firth. The tides and currents meant that vesselwrecks were frequent—the most recent occurring in 1993—and salvage provided an additional though often illegal supplement to the islanders' incomes. A lighthouse was built on Stroma in 1890 and still operates under automation.

Stroma is now abandoned, with the houses of its former inhabitants unoccupied and falling into ruin. Its population fell gradually through the first half of the 20th century as inhabitants drifted away to seek opportunities elsewhere, as economic problems and Stroma's isolation made life on the island increasingly unsupportable. The island is now owned by one of its former inhabitants, who uses it to graze cattle and sheep.

Off the Northern-most point of Stroma, is the Swilkie, the most dangerous whirlpool in the Pentland Firth, occasioned by the meeting of four or five contrary tides. According to Icelandic legend, the Swilkie is the place where the salt which maintains the saltiness of the oceans is ground in a giant quern, stolen from King Frodi by a sea-king named Mysing. When Mysing's longvessel sank off Stroma under the weight of it, he still continued to grind away with it 15 fathoms down and to this day the sea can still be heard roaring through it. In 1896, Stroma was established as a major light. It was a Trotter-Lindberg light which used petroleum spirit or lythene, contained in cisterns placed outside the lantern, which had to be recharged at least once a fortnight and it was regularly observed and visited by a local crofter or fisherman appointed for the purpose. Stroma was soon found to be an unsuitable location for a minor light and a paraffin lamp was substituted for the former lythene lamp - enabling the small tower which carried the lantern also to serve as an oil store instead of requiring a separate building. On 22 February 1941, the lighthouse buildings were machine-gunned by an enemy plane. No-one was injured, and what little damage that had been done was repaired by the lightkeepers. In 1972, Stroma was converted to electric operation, using a sealed beam optic mounted on a gearless revolving pedestal; At the same time, a helicopter landing pad was built near the station, and the relief or changeover of Keepers was effected by helicopter. Work commenced in April 1994 to convert the station to automatic operation, this was complete in March 1997. The former sealed beam lamp array optic was removed and replaced by the ex Sule Skerry 4th Order lens system. This rotates using a gearless pedestal and the light source is a 250 watt metal Halide lamp. The air driven fog signal has been removed and replaced by an electric emitter type located on the lighthouse balcony. When manned, power for the station was obtained from constant running generators. In the automatic mode, power is provided from batteries 'cycle' charged at regular intervals.

A3568

Character: Fl(2) W 20s 32m 20M
(fl. 0.3s - ec. 3.6s)

EngineerDavid Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)
Charles Stevenson (1855-1950)

Lat, Lon58°41.754' N, 03°07.000' W

Established1896
AutomatedMarch 1997
Character Flashing(2) White every 20 secs.
Range37 km / 20 nM
Tower23 meters, 80 steps to top of the tower
Elevation32 meters above sealevel
Fog hornYes
AISMMSI No 992351092

StatusOperationel
AuthorityNorthern Lighthouse Board
Remarks.....

Stroma lighthouse
Stroma lighthouse
Penland Skerries lighthouse
Stroma map
References:

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