30 September 2013

British Lighthouse Gets Post-Apocalyptic Paint Job

The internet is awash with articles about where to flee if (or when) the zombie apocalypse happens.  A popular choice, inevitably, is the lighthouse.  These structures are often off the beaten track and made to withstand everything that the elements can throw at them.  Surely they could hold against the occasional undead caller or even the odd herd of walkers as they reach the coast in their inexorable search for flesh? Yet what happens once the furor dies down (perhaps not quite the right way to put it)? The latest inhabitants of Beachy Head Lighthouse, on the coast of the English county of East Sussex, have the answer. The survivors’ thoughts will, no doubt, inevitably turn to alcohol. The plaintive message to any rescuers reads If any humans still exist, send beer.

It could be argued that the British Empire was founded on beer and, as such, it’s more than likely that any indomitable Brit bunch of still sanguineous survivors would get as thirsty for beer as their zombie countrymen had been for their blood.   As a post-apocalyptic cry for help and attention, it certainly beats the HELLO that Jim and Selena managed to get on to an old sheet at the end of 28 Days Later.  Yet this is no outpost of humanity – or even the movie location for Shaun of the Dead II (now, that’s something that might get even the posthumous pulse of the perished racing).   This is the work of a group of cheeky painters, charged to restore the prominent red and white stripes of this landmark lighthouse at Beachy Head.

You might say that anyone brave enough to scale the heights of the 141ft lighthouse might just need a sense of humor.  The new paint job was the result of a fundraising effort after authorities deemed that it was not a required daymark anymore.  Daymarks, painted in distinctive red and white stripes are common around the UK coastline but do not normally have a light.  Beachy Head’s lighthouse has, since 2011, had a reduced light range of just 8 nautical miles and its booming fog signal was discontinued at the same time. These decisions were taken because advances in navigational systems made the structure partially redundant as a lighthouse and fully so as a daymark.

Yet local residents were not happy allowing their lighthouse, which fully functioned for over 80 years, to simply fade back to the granite grey of its stonework.  All told over £27,000 (around US$45,000) was raised to restore the lighthouse to all its stripy glory.  Celebrities who live in the area were also quick to back the campaign, including American expat Bill Bryson and comedian and actor Eddie Izzard.

The Beachy Head Lighthouse became automated on 28th June 1982 which means that people haven't stayed on the lighthouse for over 30 years - until now that is. The team will stay at the lighthouse until they have finished, rather than being shipped in and out each day.  For the first time in decades the inside lights show signs of human habitation.

The work will take more than a week and – as you can see – the undercoat is well underway.  In just a few days the mischievous message will disappear as the red and white stripes are repainted. Beachy Head lighthouse (at least in appearance) will return to its former glory.  However, you now know where to go, come the day - and what to ask for once it's all over...

All pictures by Flickr User Rob Wassell, author of The Story of Beachy Head Lighthouse.