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N’Ensiola lighthouse, Cabrera

150 years old

N’Ensiola lighthouse, Cabrera

One of Mallorca's most important buildings will soon have been in action for 150 years. It's the N’Ensiola lighthouse on the small island of Cabrera of the southern coast of Mallorca which has been flashing away almost constantly since 1870, advising sailors on the important Ibiza to Mallorca sea lane of their proximity to land.

Let's face it, an island such as Mallorca was totally reliant on the sea for transporting all of life's vital necessities to the island so the lighthouses around its extremely rugged coastline were extremely important. Cabrera itself had been a strategically important stop off for supplies and safety back in Roman times when galleys of the empire would pull in for water and food as they plied between Rome and its colonies in Spain.

So it came as no surprise when the Mallorcan authorities included Cabrera as a site for a lighthouse in their 1847 plan. Designed by Emili Pou, it was completed in 1868 – almost – as the optical apparatus, supplied by UK glass manufacturers Chance Brothers, wasn't installed until 1870.

At that time the light flashed every 30 seconds but in 1929 a new lens in a mercury flotation bath was installed emitting a signal of three white flashes every 10 seconds, which it still does today. The lighthouse was manned until 1971 when it became fully automated, though in 1936 it was abandoned in the Civil War and the lighthouse keepers transferred to Menorca in a submarine!

Its technical details are as follows;

Latitude N 39° 7' 45.349" N

Longitude E 2° 55' 9.716" E

Nominal range 20 nautical miles

Height above sea level 121 m.

Light pattern Groups of 3 flashes every 15 seconds.

And its 21 metre tower is painted in a jaunty red and white diamond pattern so you can see it even when it's not dark!

Though Cabrera is today an uninhabited National Park, it has a dark and interesting history being used as a base for Barbarossa, the admiral of the Ottoman fleet and a prisoner of war camp where thousands of French soldiers were held and died after Napoleon was defeated in Spain.

If you want to take a look, remember that Cabrera can only be reached by private boat or organised tours with a strict list of do's and don'ts to adhere to whilst you're there.