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Kõpu lighthouse

Location: N58° 54` 57.4", E22° 11` 58.8" | Website: tuletornikohvik.ee/

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Kõpu lighthouse is the symbol of Hiiumaa. Today it is the oldest lighthouse in the world which still works. Its light, which can be seen as far as 55 km to the sea, helps seamen to hold course and not to wreck at the Neckmansgrund, the shallow areas off the north-west coast of Hiiumaa. This area is 50 sq km large and the depths there balance between one to twenty metres which has claimed hundreds of ships over the past several centuries.  

At the end of 15th century the Hanseatic Merchants' League needed an effective sea mark because their cargo ships were getting lost in the Baltic Sea. So they asked the Council of the City of Tallinn and the Bishopric Ösel-Wiek to construct the sea mark. The tower had to become so big that it would have been seen with a naked eye. The perfect location for the tower was found on Andrusemäe Hill or Tornimägi (Tower Hill) as we know it nowadays. Tornimägi was the highest point of Hiiumaa, 67 m above sea level. Construction works were difficult and time-consuming, wars, plague and famine also slowed construction progress. So the works were completed not before 1531. The lighthouse is 37 m tall, which is a little bit taller than ten-floor block of flats. It was only a solid sea mark at first, which needed six thousand tonnes of stones to be built. This is hard to imagine how it was possible to carry all that stone there without modern machines.

The fire was lit at the top of the lighthouse at the beginning of 17th century. It was made only at stormy nights in spring and autumn, because summer nights were short and in winter wooden ships couldn´t sail because the sea was frozen. About 3,600 m3 of firewood was consumed every year.  

A rule decreed that the fire be strong and a fathom high and the watchman not asleep, even in the strongest winds and rain.

Only after 200 years the staircase was hacked out from the solid stone inside the lighthouse. Hiiumaa was under the Russian Crown at that time, so this was a proper work for the Russian soldiers. Oil lamps replaced the open fire presently and the lamp room employing prisms was bought at the 1900 World Fair in Paris. Nowadays the lighthouse has a fully automatic light system.