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Marking time

Sunday 7 January 2018

Alexander Gordon in Africa

I have added one more to the list of lighthouses I would like to visit some time. It is the old Cape Point lighthouse near Cape Town, South Africa, first lit in 1859. There is a good chance I’ll get to see this one, unlike some of the others on my bucket list. I’ll enjoy com­par­ing it to the Australian lighthouses designed by the same engineer, Alexander Gordon.

Cape Point Light House, an albumen print from my collection.

Alexander Gordon (1902–1969), the British civil engineer, de­voted himself principally to the construction and management of lighthouses, especially in the colonies. I have already men­tioned him here. One of his great contributions to the field was his enthusiastic promotion of cast iron as a material for building lighthouse towers. In the 1840s, ’50s and ’60s he designed a series of cast iron lighthouses which were pre­fab­ric­ated in Eng­land and erected in distant parts of the British Empire​—​in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

“Some of Mr Alexander Gordon’s lighthouses, most of the towers being of iron”, a fold-out plate included with Gordon’s pamplet Circular relating to lighthouses, lightships, buoys, and beacons (London, 1864). The Cape Point lighthouse is at the top right of the plate.

Gordon’s illustration includes four Australian lighthouses. I have had professional dealings with three of them: Cape Borda (1858), Breaksea Island (1858) and Cape Northumberland (1859). So my experience of Cape Point, if it happens, will resonate with these Australian examples.

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Sunday 31 December 2017

Preparing to visit Africa

It has has been quite a year. Let’s hope the new year brings more delights than the old one. 2018 is shaping up well, with some in­ter­est­ing travels on the program​—​including a couple of weeks in Africa, a continent I have not set foot on (apart from the time I stepped ashore at Suez in 1966). The prospect of a trip turns my mind to the question of what to bring.

Mr H M Stanley’s boat, the “Livingstone,” for crossing lakes and rivers in Africa, a wood engraving published in the Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

Which reminds me of Mr Stanley who also went to Africa. He carried with him…

… two different contrivances for crossing the lakes and rivers in that vast wilderness. One is of cedar, 40 ft long and 6 ft wide, divisible into portable sections, which was built for him by Mr J A Messenger, of Teddington, and which is the subject of two of our illustrations. The other is a raft, composed of inflatable indiarubber pontoon tubes, which rest transversely on three keels, with poles laid above the cylinders or tubes and lashed to the keels beneath; there is a triangular compartment fore and aft of the same depth, to form the bow and stern, This raft was made by Messrs J C Cording and Co, of Piccadilly, and is reported by Mr Stanley, in one of his published letters, to answer its pur­pose very well. It weighs altogether 300 lb, which can be divided into five loads of 60 lb each. The tubes are in­flated by means of a pair of bellows. Their material is a very strong kind of twill, which promises to endure any amount of wear; but if it should need mending Mr Stanley has wherewithal to make it good.

—​“Mr Stanley’s indiarubber pontoon raft,” Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

I hope I have sufficient wherewithal to enjoy my trip.

Mr H M Stanley’s boat, the “Livingstone,” carried overland in Africa, another wood engraving published in the Illustrated London news, 31 July 1875.

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Sunday 10 December 2017

Stan

My father, Stanley John Marquis-Kyle, died on Thursday 7 Decem­ber 2017​—​peacefully, in his own bed, at the age of 97. The business of con­serving buildings will be suspended while we make arrangements for his send-off.

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Monday 20 November 2017

Unintended consequence

When I go out to do serious work recording historic places I carry a pile of camera gear​—​a solid tripod, a couple of camera bodies, a range of lenses, various accessories.

But when I travel for pleasure I take less​—​usually one camera body (Canon 5D series) and two lenses (17-40mm and 85mm). These fit nicely in a ThinkTank Speed Demon bag strapped around my hips. The bag looks a bit nerdy, but it does the job and is com­fort­able enough for an all-day walk.

Just now I have replaced the 17-40mm f/4L USM (my most-used lens, but an old design from 2003) with the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM (a better-performing design from 2014). Some quick tests have shown an improvement in off-centre sharp­ness, not to mention the image stabilisation that promises to be capable of reducing blur that results from normal, minute shaking of a lens due to hand-held shooting.

The old Canon EF 17-40mm 1:4 L USM lens (left) compared with the new Canon EF 16-35mm 1:4 L IS USM lens (right). Both lenses are shown mounted on Canon 5D Mark II bodies. [camerasize.com].

Lovely. But the new lens is a smidgen longer and, mounted on the body, it won’t fit nose down in the Speed Demon bag. Bugger.

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Alexander Gordon in Africa
Preparing to visit Africa
Stan
Unintended consequence

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