Friday, November 25, 2011

Les Phares Des Mamelles

This ones for you Eric!

Next stop after the Renaissance Monument was a walk to the lighthouse - Les Phare Des Mamelles.

A nice quiet stroll up to the top

Until we set our gaze upon this creatures - big mama's and babies - dozens and dozens strung with their big webs between the brush. I found on another blog mentioned as Deadly Senegalese Jumping Spider - thank fully there was no leaping and the thought of it now just gives me the heebies if one had made it's way towards any of us. Their body could fit in the palm of one's hand and as you can see their legs make a farther spread. I'm loving my Nikon for the telephoto.

When we reached the top of the road to the lighthouse a security guard greeted us and in usual fashion we took up a pleasant conversationand then the guard asked us to wait as he retreived something from inside. Moments later he returned with a good writeup about the general history of the lighthouse.  This lead us to ask if there was a way to get a tour, and we had the good fortune of being given a tour by the actual lighthouse keeper who lives adjacent to the structure (and who indicated he had been working here for over 25 years).  I do not have any pictures of the lighthouse keepers face because of his Muslim religion which for some - it is a preference not to be photographed. The lighthouse was was built in 1864 and for quite a long time it used  a system of pendulums  that would go for a two hour stretch that turned the lens  before the weights had to be rewound.  The lighthouse keeper said there was still a time while he worked there when he had to do this, before things became automated. Here he was showing us the mechanism of rope that would wind up. And sadly he also showed us the weight which was now used as a door stop.

Electrical Automation
On the ground floor, an engine room houses a generator and the set of backup batteries. And the 2nd floor there is use of solar panels  as the primary energy source to run the halogen bulb which is housed inside the lens. While the solar panels were nice to see as a glimpse into alternative energy sources here - you've got the backdrop of cell phone antennas as this mountain is high above the plain of Dakar and perfect for the needed reception for a country that relies heavily on mobile phone access.

The Fresnel lens (original still intact!) was manufactured in Paris, by the Barbier, Benard & Turenne Co and gives it a range of 53 km.

Today it is equipped with a small 1000 watt halogen bulb with a lifespan of 3000 hours and operating on alternating current at 220 volts, the light produces a powerful white flash every five seconds.  This is what he is explaining to us in French. <sideways video I could not figure out how to get it clockwise>

This is a lovely view of the peninsula northward from the top. 

And this is a view facing southward with the city of Dakar in the background and the (very controversial) African Renaissance Monument located on the other "mamelle" mountain top. 

I only wish I could tell you that the coast was protected as we know it in parts of California.  What you cannot see much of the time is the trash and pollution taking up real estate all along the way.  I sigh thinking  how easy it could be to have trashcans available which could help reduce what gets left on the road or beach - but it is not only that - it would require encouraging and changing personal behaviors - sadly no different than the crushed cigarette butts I see taking up space in the cracks on sidewalks back home.  One day - some day.

In looking past that - I have to say it surely was "icing on the mamelle" to have seen the lighthouse through the eyes of the lighthouse keeper.

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