Loyal Sentinels at Lighthouse
March 20, 2013 12:44 PM
By Kurniawati Kamarudin
This is the first of two articles on the Marine Department of Malaysia (JLM).
PORT KLANG, March 20 (Bernama) -- The Marine Department of Malaysia's (JLM) workers need to reach the One Fathom Bank Lighthouse located some 23 nautical miles from here, regardless of weather conditions.
This is to ensure that the change of duty at the lighthouse is according to schedule. The task is routine for the JLM in ensuring the safety of ships moving in the Malaysian waters.
From Port Klang, 10 JLM workers boarded a catamaran named 'Spica', which is a type of multi-hulled boat, led by Kapten Mohd Ali Mohd Ram.
With them were two JLM's marine assistants, who will replace the duo already at the lighthouse.
For these JLM workers, rough seas and strong winds are no obstacles preventing them from carrying out their work.
"Whether there are rough seas and strong winds, we will still send the replacement marine assistants and fetch that already on duty, according to schedule," Second Officer Suhaizam Hassan told Bernama on board the Spica.
According to Suhaizam, who has been working for 13 years with JLM, marine assistants work on a 10-day shift at the lighthouse.
"To us, 10 days may not be a long time, but for the two workers at the lighthouse, in the middle of the sea, the 10-day stretch is long.
"Just imagine, if there is no lighthouse or no power supply at the lighthouse, how can ships and seafarers get the guidance for their journey?" he asked, adding that the sacrifices and hard work by JLM marine assistants should not be taken lightly.
When the 'Spica' was on its way to the lighthouse, the catamaran passed seven buoys, with each buoy having its own name like - Terusan, Buas-buas, Tenteram, Tengah, and Pintu Gedung.
Apart from the lighthouse, buoys are instruments that provide warning to ships in shallow waters or ships approaching the coast. There are 220 buoys in the coastal waters of Peninsular Malaysia.
After two hours of leaving Port Klang, the catamaran reached two lighthouses of different designs and heights.
One of the two lighthouses looked new, but the other, which was the smaller structure, appeared weather-beaten.
JLM's assistant engineer, Md Rizal Yusof, said the old lighthouse began operations in 1907 while the new lighthouse was opened in 1999.
He said the history of One Fathom Bank Lighthouse began in 1852 when a hydrographic surveyor by the name of General Thomson discovered a sandbar that is only visible during low tide.
The depth of water at the sandbar during low tide is only about three to seven metres.
"Now, we use the new lighthouse," he said.
The new lighthouse, which is 43 metres tall, has a jetty as well as a building.
ONE FATHOM BANK LIGHTHOUSE
The purpose of a lighthouse is to steer mariners, in the event of dense fog or dark nights, away from cliffs, land and shorelines, coral reefs, and other potentially hazardous areas.
The lighthouse provides signals in the form of light flashes to ships, informing the vessels that they are close to potentially dangerous areas in the sea.
A lighthouse also needs to be visible during the day, as it performs a similar function of warning ships about reefs and underwater hazards such as rocks.
The light flashes or signals emitted from a lighthouse depict the identity of that particular lighthouse.
"At the One Fathom Bank Lighthouse, there are four flashes for each 20 seconds (a flash for every five seconds) and can be seen from 23 nautical miles away," said Md Rizal.
The light signals begin operating at 7.40pm daily or earlier, depending on the visibility. When compared to the old lighthouse, which was manually operated, the new One Fathom Bank lighthouse operates automatically and is monitored by the JLM at its headquarters here.
It is diesel-powered, where the fuel is delivered to the lighthouse once a month.
"Years back, seven JLM workers were needed to be at the lighthouse for one month as all of the operations were done manually and more manpower was needed.
"Now, only two men are rostered at the lighthouse for 10 days," said Md Rizal.
The lighthouse made its appearance in the Federated Malay States from 1826.
There are 15 still operating nationwide, including in Tanjung Tuan (formerly known as Cape Rachado) in Port Dickson, Pulau Undan (Melaka), Kuala Selangor (Selangor), Fort Cornwallis (Pulau Pinang), and Bukit Jugra (Selangor).
From 1948, the JLM took over the management of the lighthouses.