oa Civil Engineering = Siviele Ingenieurswese - The Cockburn Lighthouse, Mozambique : history and heritage

Volume 24, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1021-2000



The construction of the Cockburn Lighthouse towards the end of the nineteenth century contributed hugely to the safe passage of ships visiting the harbour of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. At the time, the construction of this lighthouse seemed virtually impossible,due to the relative scarcity of appropriate engineering equipment locally, combined with notoriously rough seas and the frequent exposure of the proposed lighthouse location to severe storms. A lighthouse was direly needed at the dangerous entrance to the Lourenço Marques bay (between 1894 and 1900 ten ships and their crews had been wrecked in this stretch of sea). The British Admiralty had started surveying the east coast of Africa in 1822 already, and this survey included the entrance to the bay of Lourenço Marques (later complemented by a Portuguese Navy survey). Various sandbanks were identified at the entrance to the bay, and these were named after British Navy officers who had taken part in the survey. The largest of these sandbanks was named Cockburn. It was approximately triangularly shaped, with two south vertices on the islands of Inhaca and Elephants, and a very dangerous north vertex marked by a seven-ton buoy. Between these dangerous sandbanks a number of channels, varying in depths between 6.4 m and 7.3 m, allowed access to the 37 km long bay of Lourenço Marques which, if properly buoyed, would allow ships to navigate in safety without the risk of running aground on sandbanks during low tides.

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