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Jorge Lacuesta, a technician with Spain's navigation aid service, poses with the lighthouse lantern. Clara Cerezo
The lighthouse in the south of Spain that's celebrating its 160th anniversary with restoration plans in the pipeline
History

The lighthouse in the south of Spain that's celebrating its 160th anniversary with restoration plans in the pipeline

The Sacratif lighthouse in Torrenueva was built on top of an earlier watchtower and it can be seen 46 kilometres from the shore, or some 90 nautical miles away

Pilar García-Trevijano

Granada

Monday, 3 June 2024, 16:32

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The Sacratif lighthouse in Torrenueva in Andalucía's Granada province is celebrating its 160th birthday as 'guardian' of the province's Costa Tropical. It stands at the top of the cape with which it shares its name, on the cliffs of Cerro del Chucho de Torrenueva. At 19 metres it has guided sailors safely to their destination since the late 19th century.

The light, which was built on top of an earlier watchtower, can be seen 46 kilometres from the shore, or 90 nautical miles away. It was installed to facilitate the passage of boats through the complicated terrain of Calahonda. The white stone tower, which is closed to the public as it is also a military area, belongs to the Port Authority of Motril and has undergone many transformations over its years. The last one was seven years ago, when the systematisation was completed, which 'freed' the lighthouse keepers from their perennial custody.

Jorge Lacuesta, lighthouse keeper, opened up the facilities to Ideal, SUR's sister newspaper in Granada. The ground floor houses the former dwellings of the lighthouse keepers. Before reaching the stairs is the operating room with the machinery and generators that run the lantern all day long. On the control screen, the silhouette of the lighthouse is drawn with numerous buttons that all serve to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

Sacratif lighthouse.
Sacratif lighthouse. C. Cerezo

And if there is a problem the port has several "plan B's" so that ships will always have a light to guide them. Generators and engines are activated in the event of a breakdown. In addition, it also has a small emergency beacon which emits light with the same intensity as the 'official' lantern.

The keepers no longer live in the lighthouse, although they visit it frequently. With a mobile device they can deal with incidents. "It can be controlled remotely from anywhere", explained the technician. Unlike the other lighthouses on the coast (Punta de la Mona, Castell de Ferro and the Calahonda lighthouse), Sacratif is constantly rotating. It has two immediate flashes and seconds later it produces two more. One of the lenses has an imperceptible defect caused by a knock in the 1950s. The lenses are unique parts and a replacement has not yet been found.

Magnifying effect

The rotation of the headlamp lens must never be stopped to avoid the magnifying effect it would have in the sun. If the concentration of sunlight on the lens is focused on a device it can explode or burn out within a few minutes.

The light was powered by oil until 1916, when a steam lamp powered by oil was installed. This system was replaced in 1956 by a new optic and electric lantern. At the top of the lighthouse (up 67 steps) the installations conserve part of the old machinery, including a mercury vat, now empty due to the poisonous gas it gave off.

"People are very attentive if it goes out for any reason, they bombard you on the phone", reflected the person in charge of the installation, one of the two lighthouse keepers in Granada province.

Navigation essentials

Lighthouses, as well as being a symbol of the coastline, are still fundamental today despite the existence of GPS. "From the boats they say that the first thing they look at are the lighthouses because navigation is intuitive," said Lacuesta. The team that makes up the navigational aid service of the port of Motril is drawing up a plan to update the lighthouse, which will include restoring the original bronze frame of the lantern which was painted black in the past.

The President of the port authority, José García Fuentes, has highlighted the importance of the three lighthouses whose operation and control corresponds to the Port of Motril, (Castell de Ferro, Sacratif and Punta de la Mona-La Herradura). He says that they represent the essence of traditional maritime navigation, which are also part of our historical and cultural heritage. The team of lighthouse keepers "are entrusted with the mission of their maintenance, so that every night they can offer their service and assistance to all the vessels that sail along our coasts".

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