The Lighthouse of Swinemünde

In the era of satellite navigation, lighthouses have almost become defunct. But they are still beautiful!
 There is an approx. 500 year-old oak tree in the former eastern refuge port, which the inhabitants called the "lighthouse-keeper oak". This tree is said to be the spot where the lighthouse keepers went to find shade on hot days. The "lighthouse" of those days was only a fire on a hill providing orientation for the ships at night. In order to improve the safety of the new harbour, a "light hut" consisting of boards and mirrors was erected on the east bank in spring 1805. In spite of this navigational aid, 10 sailing ships ran aground during a heavy storm in the Pomeranian bay in 1814.  In 1828, 25 years later, a 12.5 m-high steel light beacon designed by Schinkel was erected at the head of the eastern mole. The lighthouse itself was built between 1854 and 1857 according to the plans of Severin, who had the rank of a Geheimer Oberbaurat. The 68m-high lighthouse, with a Fresnel lens and four concentrically arranged wicks fuelled by rape oil, was a masterpiece of architecture at that time. It is the highest lighthouse on the Baltic Sea and one of the highest in the world. Its light range covers 24 nautical miles. In the 1920s, the lighthouse was equipped with electric light. The identification signal was: short - short - long. These light signals were generated by large plates rotating around the light head and driven by a clock -work mechanism. The energy for the plates' movement was supplied by a large weight which was suspended inside the lighthouse with a long rope. Today, this mechanism has been replaced by an electric motor. Light is generated by a 4200 W lamp.
 A contemporary chronicler of those days wrote: „"The lighthouse has no equal along the entire Baltic Sea, and its soaring and slim design as well as its solid construction arouse admiration... This lighthouse is so useful and important for the permanently increasing shipping movements that the construction costs of 60,000 talers spent on this building can be disregarded“.
 
Over decades, the brickwork of the lighthouse corroded, in particular on the weather side, so that corroded bricks had to be replaced and, finally, the whole lighthouse got a new clinker brick mantling between 1901 and 1903. Yellow clinker bricks from Skromberg (Sweden) and red ones from the brick factory in Zastrow were selected for the building. Thus, the originally octagonal tower design was converted to circular.
During both wars, an explosive charge was fitted to the lighthouse. In case of invasion, the lighthouse was to be blown into the entrance to the harbour to make it inaccessible. Under no circumstances was it to fall to the hands of the enemy. Fortunately, it was never destroyed although the lighthouse was damaged by bombs during the air raid in 1945. This damage was provisionally repaired in 1959, when cement was injected in the walls to reinforce them. The reloading station for chemicals, which was built by the Szczecin – Swinoujcie harbour administration in the 1960s, caused heavy damage to the lighthouse structure. The lighthouse was reconstructed between 1997 and 2000 and has been open to visitors since autumn 2002. Now as before, more than 300 steps in the spiral staircase lead to the upper gallery. Given good visibility, from the lighthouse you can see Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf, Bansin, Zinnowitz, the island of Greifswalder Oie, the chalk rocks of Rügen island, and the steep coast of Wollin island in the north-east.
You can get to the lighthouse by ship or by taking the bus from Swinemünde main station.
Dr..Józef Pluciński,Świnoujście


 

A popular joke in Usedom's pubs when people were sitting round the table having a beer, corn schnapps or rum was to ask the question: 'What's the name of Swinemünde's lighthouse keeper?' The answer was always: 'Prost' (cheers).