Expedition of the RGS "Lighthouses Of Russia" Examines Four Historical Locations in 2022

Петропавловский маяк. Фото: Оксана Орлова, участница конкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

The Russian Geographical Society, together with the Center for Contemporary History(CCH), continues to study unique lighthouses within the framework of the historical and cultural project "Lighthouses of Russia". Last year, specialists focused on four navigation towers located on the shores of the Baltic, White, Black Seas, and the Pacific Ocean.

For thousands of years, lighthouses have been lighting the way for seafarers, warning them about dangerous reefs or coastal shallows. Painted in bright colors, horizontal or vertical stripes, they visually stand out against the landscape and help ships to clarify their location at sea. Each lighthouse is unique – there are no two identical lighthouses.

To study the history of lighthouse towers, to assess their technical condition and tourist potential are the main tasks of the joint project of the Russian Geographical Society and the CCH "Lighthouses of Russia", launched in 2021. Specialists carry out technical inspection of locations, use photogrammetry and laser scanning to create detailed three-dimensional models of lighthouses that will allow to develop recommendations for their maintenance or restoration.

“By attracting tourists and photographers, lighthouses become landmarks of Russian cities. Each of these complex and unique architectural structures has its own name, its own character, and its own history,” said Natalia Belyakova, director of the Expeditionary and Tourism Development Department of the Russian Geographical Society. “Our project is about the physical preservation of lighthouses and the creation of their digital counterparts. By doing this, we form the basis for the potential inclusion of lighthouses in the tourism sector. RGS specialists are developing proposals for the inclusion of lighthouses in tourist routes.”

As part of the second season of 2022, the project participants studied four lighthouses: in the north – Kashkarantsy Lighthouse; in the south – Sochi Lighthouse; in the west – Taran Lighthouse; and in the east – Petropavlovsky Lighthouse.


Маяк Кашкаранцы на Терском берегу. Фото: Центр современной истории

Kashkarantsy Lighthouse on the Kola Peninsula

The Kashkarantsy Lighthouse is located in a small village of the same name, on the Tersky Coast of the Kola Peninsula. In ancient times, these places were inhabited by the Sami. According to one version of historians, the name Kashkarantsy comes from the Sami word "koashkrentyey". "Koashk" means a swampy area with small shrubs, "rent" or "rynta" – a bank, and "yey" – a large stream.

Since ancient times, local residents have been fishing here; and in the Soviet years a fishing collective farm was formed. The Kashkarantsy Lighthouse, built on the shore of the White Sea in 1978, provides safe navigation near the Kandalaksha Gulf. One of the most recent lighthouses built in Russia, it is a 24-meter round brick tower painted in red and white with horizontal stripes.

“The Kashkarantsy Lighthouse is one of the few lighthouses of the White Sea, which can be easily reached by car. It can become one of the potential tourist spots of the Tersky Coast,” said the head of the expedition, director of the CCH Ivan Anokhin. “A lonely red and white giant looks mysterious against the background of ancient churches and wooden houses. And 17km from the village there is a beach with bright amethyst inclusions.”

The participants of the expedition, using photogrammetry, recorded the condition of the Kashkarantsy Lighthouse and the coastline, which is gradually being destroyed by the onslaught of waves and rains. Subsequently, the digital model will allow us to understand how best to strengthen the coast and protect a unique architectural and engineering object.

White Lighthouse with Green Light

Two centuries ago, the Dakhovsky Commercial Port was located on the site of the modern city of Sochi. Rocky shores and the Black Sea raging in stormy weather complicated the approach of ships to the pier. The need to provide identification signals from the shore had become an important navigational task. In 1874, on the initiative of a private entrepreneur, the construction of a lighthouse began, and the first signal light was lit in it only six years later.


Сочинский маяк. Фото: Центр современной истории

The lighthouse and the future southern resort city of Russia received their name in honor of the local Sochi River. The Sochi Lighthouse in the form of a white one-story building with a 30-meter tower began its regular work on November 15, 1891. Initially, the beacon signals were white. Today, its electric lamp lights up bright green, which is visible at a distance of almost 32km, or 17 nautical miles.

The RGS and CCH specialists conducted archival research and 3D scanning of the lighthouse with a high-precision geodetic laser scanner. The optical lens of the Sochi Lighthouse attracted much attention of the specialists.

“The Sochi Lighthouse uses a complex composite Fresnel lens, while most lighthouses of the second half of the 19th century used one-piece lenses made of polished glass,” Ivan Anokhin shared. “The Fresnel lens system consists of thin separate annular sections adjacent to each other, which in cross section have the shape of a triangle. Prisms refract parallel light rays and converge at the point of focus. This design allows you to dramatically reduce the thickness and, accordingly, the mass of the lens and is able to focus light even from a weak source, such as an electric bulb.”


Линза Огюста Френеля на Сочинском маяке. Фото: Центр современной истории

Grandfather of the Far Eastern Lighthouses

Since 1897, the black-and-white Petropavlovsky Lighthouse, located on Cape Mayachny, has been showing navigators a safe way to the ice-free Avacha Bay of the Pacific Ocean. But the first mention of the use of the signal light on the eastern coast of Kamchatka is found in the documents of the Great Northern Expedition of Vitus Bering. "A lighthouse in which a light is on at night," read the inscription on the first map of Avacha Bay.

The modern structure with a height of 13.8m is made of high-strength cast-iron blocks. Another feature of the building is that the materials for the Petropavlovsky Lighthouse were delivered from France, Japan, and the USA; and the workers included Russians, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese. Also, the Fresnel lens, manufactured by the French firm Barbier back in 1894, continues to operate in the lighthouse.


Маяк Петропавловский. Фото: Центр современной истории

Located 12km from the capital of the Kamchatka Territory, the Petropavlovsky Lighthouse, in 1854, saved the city from enemy ships. During the Crimean War, members of the lighthouse crew warned the Petropavlovsk Port about the approach of the Anglo-French squadron. After the decisive actions of lighthouse keepers and defenders of the port, the enemy retreated. During the Russo-Japanese War, in order to protect the lighthouse's lighting equipment, it was decided to disassemble the lantern and hide its parts. The Japanese who entered Avacha Bay not only shelled the city, but also burned the documents stored at the lighthouse.

“The Petropavlovsky Lighthouse is in good condition, so our main task was not to make recommendations on its maintenance, but to analyze the tourist potential. At the lighthouse, we conducted technical inspection and photogrammetric work," Ivan Anokhin shared. “Cape Mayachny offers a picturesque panorama of the waves of the Pacific Ocean breaking on rocky reefs where seagulls nest. The Petropavlovsky Lighthouse can really become a tourist highlight of the capital of the Kamchatka Territory. It is very noteworthy that both the Petropavlovsky and Sochi Lighthouses are the creations of a military engineer Konstantin Leopold, who in the 19th century successfully built lighthouses on the Black Sea, Azov and Pacific coasts of Russia. Despite the vast geography of his engineering activities, the biography of this lighthouse builder also deserves attention and a separate archival study.”


Светооптическое устройство Петропавловского маяка. Фото: Центр современной истории

Read about the examination of the Baltic Taran Lighthouse in the article: Experts of the RGS Reveal Secrets of Keeper of Taran Lighthouse

You can learn more about the project "Lighthouses of Russia", find out the detailed history of the lighthouses studied, and see their location on an interactive map on the website маяки-россии.рф.

This year, it is planned to conduct technical inspection and historical survey of five Russian lighthouses. An important direction of the expedition will be the development of proposals for the use of lighthouses as tourist sites.

Read also: Expedition of the RGS "Lighthouses of Russia" Explores Five Historical Objects

Natalia Sadovskikh