Ever since medieval times, the Lindesnes headland has been one of the most important landmarks guiding ships sailing between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. As they sailed between Skagerrak and the North Sea, ships were forced to keep close to the Norwegian coast, where pilots could guide them in bad weather. Sailors avoided the shallow Jammerbukta on the Danish coast, as it offered no natural shelter from bad weather. At the end of the 16th century the Norwegian priest and historian Peder Claussøn Friis described Lindesnes as "the headland known to all sailors". Once they caught sight of this distinctive landmark they could easily plan the rest of their voyage along the coast.
However, the waters around Lindesnes were also feared - with good reason. The Skagerrak and North Sea meet here, throwing up strong currents and winds that make the waters treacherous, causing many ships to run aground. Indeed, the stretch between Lindesnes and Lista has been dubbed by historians as a ships´ graveyard.
On 18 July 1655 the Danish King Frederik III issued an order granting Pouell Hanssønn, a citizen of Cristiansand, the privilege to set up a lighthouse operation at Lindesnes. The operation was to be financed by taxing all ships calling at the ports between Bergen and the county of Bohuslen.
But bad weather in the autumn of 1655 hampered building work. It took more than 7 weeks for three ships carrying materials and equipment to reach Lindesnes from Kristiansand. And the ship bringing coal from England never arrived at all. As a stop-gap, a three-storey timber tower was built with 30 candles behind lead glass windows used as a lantern. This hardly provided much light, much to the anger of sailors. Despite the coal fire lantern finally being built, the King still closed down the lighthouse the following year.
But 69 years later, the lighthouse operation at Lindesnes was given another chance. Two coal fires, in open grates placed directly on the ground, were lit on Feb 1 1725. One was placed on the Lindesnes headland and one a little further west, at Markøy, in order to prevent confusion between Lindesnes and the lighthouse at Skagens Odde.
In 1822, the coal fires were housed more permanently in sheltered lightrooms at the top of a brick base. Vents ensured a steady fire and more economical fuel consumption. The smoke was released through a small chimney at the top of the lantern. The foundations for these lightrooms have been preserved at Lindesnes and Markøy.
The lighthouse at Markøy was closed in 1844, while the Lindesnes lighthouse was refurbished in 1854. A first order lens was installed on top of the old coal fire, and the light was now generated by a modern paraffin burner.
In 1915, the lens was moved to a new steel tower, with a new engine room and a fog signal. Within a year, the Lindesnes lighthouse stood much as it does today. Lindesnes lighthouse had a permanent staff until 2003. In 1992, a foundation was set up to preserve the lighthouse and open it up to visitors. In 2000, Lindesnes lighthouse was chosen as the Millennium Site for the county of Vest-Agder. A new underground information centre is being built, underneath the lighthouse. Construction work began in autumn 2003.
HDR from three exposures. Tonemapped in Photomatix, distortion corrected in Photoshop.