“Les deux derniers gardiens de phare…”
lay duh dair-neeYAY gaar-deeYAAd faar… Click below to hear this.*
The last two lighthouse keepers…
Have you ever thought about lighthouse keepers? Not a topic that crosses my mind on a daily basis… At least, it wasn’t until I read this article from Le Monde. The last two keepers of a French State lighthouse have retired, and the lighthouse, le phare de Cordouan, has been handed over to an organization that will supervise it, maintain it, and oversee visits by tourists.
It’s not just any phare, either. This one was built 7km off the Atlantic coast of France near Bordeaux. (A kilometer is 6/10 of a mile, for the only country in the world that doesn’t do the metric system.) And it was finished in 1611. That’s a long time for a building battered by the wind and the water to last. They don’t build ’em like they used to.
At first, the light was an actual fire. They burned wood treated with pitch, tar, and oil, and built the fire in a bronze tub. After 1941 it was electrified, then it was automated. And did you know that the headlights on your car are also called des phares? On the first cars, they were actual lanterns, burning kerosene or other fuels.
By the way, the word phare comes from the Greek pharos via the Latin pharus. Pharos was the island on which the phare d’Alexandrie stood, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Here’s more–a lot more–about le phare de Cordouan. Wait till you see the photos of the chapel windows and the description of the King’s Room! Yes, it has all that and then some.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: