Open house at Raffles Lighthouse

Open house at Raffles Lighthouse
Lighthouse keeper Syed Hassan Syed Agil Al-Yahya at the top of the Raffles Lighthouse earlier this year. The lighthouse above The Fullerton Hotel is among two decommissioned ones here.


MR V. Uthrapathi, 51, thought he would be lonely working 10-day stretches maintaining Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu, Singapore's southernmost island which is out of bounds, like the lighthouse.

But after 20 years as a lighthouse keeper, he is quick to point out the perks: the sea breeze that makes nights on the tiny isle comfortable, the peace and quiet, and the occasional sighting of dolphins.

During World Cup season, another draw is watching the matches for free, he said, as television signals from Malaysia and Indonesia can be picked up from Satumu, 23km south-west of Singapore's main island, a 60-minute boat ride from the mainland.

But the silence that the stocky Mr Uthrapathi enjoys may turn into oohs and aahs later this month, as the Raffles Lighthouse welcomes crowds during this year's Singapore HeritageFest, which will, for the first time, include a Lighthouse Trail featuring three lighthouses.

The trail will not only take visitors out to Pulau Satumu, but also on a bus ride to see the former Fullerton Lighthouse at Marina Bay.

They will also sail past the lighthouse on Sultan Shoal, near Jurong Island, during the 90-minute boat ride from Marina South Pier.

The National Heritage Board, which is organising the HeritageFest, said response to this year's offerings has been overwhelming.

It is working to add more tours beyond the festival period, to cater to the demand for the island tours.

The Raffles Lighthouse was built in 1885, the second-oldest of Singapore's five still in use.

The oldest is Horsburgh Lighthouse on Pedra Branca, off the mainland's eastern shore, which goes back to 1851.

Visitors will get the rare chance to climb Raffles Lighthouse's 88 spiralling steps to the glass-panelled dome that sits 29m off the ground, about six storeys up.

In it is its most-prized possession - an array of quartz halogen lamps in aluminium reflectors that emit white light visible from 20 nautical miles away.

Light pulses, three white flashes every 20 seconds, not only function as a location indicator, but also warn seafarers of treacherous rocks and reefs.

Visitors will see maritime artefacts, such as lanterns and wind gauges used in the 1970s, in a small museum that used to be the generator room.

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