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What is a “light” or “lighthouse”?
How does the ARLHS define a lighthouse?

The ARLHS maintains a list of the world’s lights and assigns each an ARLHS number. This number is used by hams to identify the light in our various on-the-air lighthouse events and for awards and certificates.

In case you are wondering what we deem to be a 1ight, here is a brief definition as we interpret it: Definition of a light — Any lighted nautical aid to navigation (ATON) that appears or has appeared in an “official” government chart, map, or publication (such as the Coast Guard “Light List”) and from which a ham station could be operated if physically placed on the structure with the operator at the controls on the structure (thus disallowing remote control). This is NOT meant to imply that an operator Must be on the light, only that it must be possible for that to be so. For beacons and range lights marking the entrance to a channel, for instance a pair occurring on the port and starboard side of the entrance, or for range lights occurring in pairs, each of the lights is considered a separate entity, provided that each of the lights is duly designated and identified in a publication or govt list of lights. For those not listed or printed in a recognized publication or those in countries whose governments do not provide such lists, we define a light as “any light or beacon meeting the criteria described above and existing for the purpose of maritime safety and/or navigation. According to these specifications, however, this would rule out such things as lighted channel buoys that could not physically support a station and its operator.

In other words: From the answer to another FAQ:
“. . . the light should be recognized by some official government agency as a true navigation beacon; that is, it must now appear or have in the past appeared on or in an official map, chart, or directory as an aid to navigation (ATON) — nautical, not aeronautical — and be large enough and constructed in such a manner as to physically support an operator and all equipment necessary to sustain a complete ham station for a period of at least an hour. Poles, day-markers, and such do not qualify, nor do lights or “faux lighthouses” constructed primarily as monuments or historic or tourist attractions, unless they have truly served as an ATON as defined above.”

This link will take you to the opening page of the ARLHS World List of Lights, and from there you can go to various countries to see what lights are listed.

“Historic” and “Museum” Lights

One of the basic premises on which Jim, K2JXW, founded the ARLHS was to honor the memory of lighthouses and lighthouse keepers. In this respect, it was deemed that even those lights of the past that no longer exist should have a place in our heritage and memories. To this end, two categories were established to cover light beacons that no longer exist at their original location: The “Historic” category was created to assign a number and recognize a location where a light once stood but little or no physical evidence remains, perhaps only a piling or rock foundation for example. The “Museum” category designates a light that has been moved from its original location to another place and no longer serves as an aid to navigation (ATON) but is most often a museum or an existing historical structure with no ATON duties, perhaps serving as only a tourist attraction or educational museum.
For a fuller explanation, see the ARLHS Definitions Page.

“Faux” Lighthouse, Replicas, etc.

Occasionally individuals or organizations will construct a replica of a light or make a model that looks exactly like a light. A restaurant, for example, may construct a faux light as a tourist attraction. In most instances these have never served as a recognized aid to navigation (ATON) and have never been listed on a nautical chart as such. Consequently….

In no instance will a fake or false (faux) lighthouse be assigned a number and be recognized as a legitimate light beacon.

In the instance where the original light on a location was torn down or destroyed so that it no longer exists, the site becomes “historic” and the number can be suffixed with (H) if desired. If at a later time, on this same site, a replica is constucted, the replica of the orginal light will have the same number as the original and retain the “historical” classification. In other words, the new replica on the same original, historical site will bear the same “historical” number and will NOT be given a new or different number.

Lighthouses that have been moved
(See below for lightships/lightfloats).

From time to time we run across lighthouses that have been moved. Two things happen to these lights, 1). they are moved and NOT placed back in service, and 2). they are moved and placed back in service. Therefore:

(1). If a lighthouse is moved and NOT placed back in service, it will NOT be listed from its new location. If its old location is not listed, then that will be added as an historical location.

(2). If a lighthouse is moved and IS placed back in service, (i.e., listed in Notes to Mariners, etc.) and meets the other requirements of the Society, it will be listed with its new name, location, and number.
[As amended August 2002]

Lightships underway or that have moved berth

If a lightship moves to a different country or residence, a new ARLHS designator number will be assigned to indicate the country of its current berth (and operation), in addition to the original number of its mother country, which will be cited in parenthesis following the new number.

For example: Lightship Falsterbo Rev is originally from Sweden and is assigned ARLHS designator SWE-009. It then moves to Belgium and thus is given a Belgian number in addition to its Swedish number; thus it is now designated BEL-017 (SWE-009).

The lightship therefore has more than one country/number designator, but it is allowed only one number at a time for “active” purposes; that number will be the one that indicates the country of its current residence. When it is active in Belgium, it will use BEL-017.

It will be listed on the numbered list of both countries in the “ARLHS World List of Lights.”

If by rare chance a lightship is maritime mobile in international waters at the time of operation, it will retain its mother country’s designation.
[As amended May 30, 2001]


*See the Awards Program rules (web site, page 9) for additional information on light qualifications and clarifications. Return to FAQ questions. REV. Oct 22, 2006