Discover Cacique | THE ELBOW REEF Lighthouse

I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve.
— George Bernard Shaw

I love lighthouses. I love them from a design aspect. And I love them in their metaphorical sense - the enduring light they provide despite everything that mother nature hurls at them - stoically showing the way through life's great storm. 

In the second of our Bahamian Lighthouse Series, we take a look at the iconic candy-striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse in Hope Town, Abaco through the lens of Alessandro Sarno - our island-hopping Italian lensman who enjoys a longstanding love-affair with The Bahamas. The 89 foot high, 101 step Elbow Reef Lighthouse is truly unique, being the only surviving hand-wound kerosene lighthouse left in the world. 

Photos by  Alessandro Sarno


 During the height of the American Civil War, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse was built in 1836 by Loyalist settlers with the primary purpose of preventing ships from being wrecked over treacherous low-lying coral. However, not everyone in Hope Town was enamoured by the idea of saving ships and their valuable bounty. Indeed, one man's disaster was another man's fortune, as the main industry amongst the Hope Townees was wrecking. The settlers protested against the lighthouse as they saw it as a threat to their lucrative trade, even going as far as sinking bargees used to transport building materials. Despite their efforts, the candy-cane striped lighthouse was built and completed by 1864. 



At the time of construction, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse was equipped with a non-rotating, wick-type light. In 1936, approximately 73 years later, the Imperial Lighthouse Service closed the Lighthouse at Gun Cay (south of Bimini), and saw the opportunity to modernize Elbow Reef Lighthouse, which was in need of a better beacon. The Gun Cay lighthouse was then decapitated, and the iron lantern room with its dome, petroleum burner equipment, turning mechanism, and the rotating "Fresnel lenticular panels" was brought to Hope Town for a successful light transplant. (Source: 


 Panoramic view from the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. 



In 1996, the Port Department was pushed to automate the hand-wound kerosene-burning lighthouse due to the cost of maintenance. The Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society was able to convince the government to reconsider, as long as it could secure the parts for the kerosene-burning light, most of which are no longer manufactured. Extraordinary efforts are still undertaken today to keep the original light burning - a wonderful working example of the Bahamian archipelago’s unique maritime history. 



At Cacique, we love to tell stories about the characters and places that coloured the rich tapestry of our Bahamian history. For more information on historic experiences with Cacique International or to arrange a tour of Elbow Reef Lighthouse located in Hope Town, Abaco, please feel free to contact us.

Looking forward to the next story!  ;)SS