Les Casquets when all three lighthouses were the same height
The Casquets are a tiny group of rocks 13 kilometres west of Alderney in the far north-west of the Channel Islands
The Casquets have been uninhabited since 1990 when the lighthouse which marks a major turning point in the English Channel was automated. The first lighthouses started operation on 30 October 1724, and there were three towers lit by coal fires called St Peter, St Thomas and Dungeon. Three stone towers were built to give the lights a distinctive appearance which would not be confused with lighthouses on nearby France. They were built by Thomas Le Cocq, owner of the rocks, under licence from Trinity House and who was paid a halfpenny per ton of ship when vessels passed the rocks and in turn he paid Trinity House 50 pounds per year for the right to run the lighthouses. The lighthouses reverted back to Trinity House in 1785. They were converted to oil lamps with metal reflectors, first used on 25 November 1790; and upgraded again with apparatus to rotate a beam of light in 1818. This had a clockwork mechanism which was wound up every hour and a half and gave one flash every 15 seconds. The lighthouses were badly damaged and the lanterns smashed in a severe storm on 31 October 1823. The towers were raised by a further 30 feet in 1854, and equipped with 184,000 candlepower lamps which gave three slow flashes every half minute. In 1877 the north west tower was raised again and the lights in the other two towers discontinued. Conversion to electric light took place in 1954, with the installation of a 2,830,000 candle-power lamp. The lamp is unusual in that it rotates counter-clockwise. At the same time, the other two towers were reduced in height. The current light in the 23 metre north West tower is 37 metres above mean sea level and can be seen for around 24 sea miles in clear weather. There is also a fog signal which has a nominal range of three miles. The lighthouse complex was automated in 1990 and is monitored and controlled from the Trinity House Operations Control Centre in Harwich. The east tower has a fog signal and the south west tower has a helipad.
A satellite view of Les Casquets, courtesy of Google Maps
The Alderney Race, with Alderney on the horizon, viewed from Les Casquets