OUR COASTAL TREASURE
The Lighthouse at Seal Point
Photo: Inéz Rossouw
The Seal Point Lighthouse in Cape St Francis stands on the most south-easterly point of our coast, warning ships of the dangers lurking along our shores. With modern aids the danger to shipping has lessened but it remains a very real threat to the unwary, as the graveyard of wrecks from former times testifies. Many of the shipwrecks are commemorated in the names of the oldest streets in Cape St Francis.
The St Francis Maritime Museum is worth a visit
A visit to the quaint but delightful Maritime Museum in Cape St Francis will tell you more about the connections with the street names in the village.
Some Cape St Francis street names
In 1871, after the many maritime disasters and on the recommendation of a commission appointed by Governor Sir Henry Barkly, it was decided that a lighthouse be erected in the area. Joseph Flack, who was building the lighthouse on Bird Island, submitted a design with the estimated cost to be R 31 832.
Mr. B. Godfrey, a building contractor, was awarded the tender and arrived on site on 1 October 1875. Local stone and sand were used but all other material was shipped from Port Elizabeth to “Kromme Bay” and then carried by ox wagon over the dunes to Seal Point.
Unfortunately Mr. Flack died of typhus fever before the lighthouse’s completion. He is buried in the old part of the Humansdorp cemetery.
The lamp was lit for the first time on the 4th July 1878. The first lighthouse keeper was John Duthie.
Until the area was developed by Leighton Hulett and John Booysen, Seal Point was the one of the loneliest lighthouses on the South African mainland. So much so, that the posting to this lighthouse was regarded as a hardship posting. The lighthouse keepers were supplied by ox wagon by the Watsons and later by the de Vos family and the Mosterts of Mostertshoek. The ox wagon had to ford the Kromme River some small distance above the present bridge. In 1964 a gravel road was built to Seal Pont.
Crossing the Kromme River by oxwagon was not always easy (Photo: The monument around Us)
Interestingly the first Watson arrived in the area as a young survivor from the Hope wrecked at Tsitsikamma Point in 1840.
The lighthouse remains the most impressive and dominant feature of our coastline. So wide is the base of the tower that the first forty feet of the staircase up to the light is built within the walls.
The lighthouse lantern emits a light with a candle-power of 2.75 million CD. The light stands 36 m above sea level and can be seen for 28 nautical miles (52 kilometres). It flashes every 5 seconds. It is equipped with a strong horn that can be heard from far when fog rises. The lighthouse is now fully automated and is monitored from Gqeberga.
Seal Point lighthouse was declared a National Monument in 1984.
From time to time it is possible to visit the lighthouse and climb the 27.75 m to the balcony. Contact St Francis Tourism for opening times.