Navigational Beacons

The Portuguese planted giant navigational beacons ("padrões") on the coasts where no previous navigators had been.

Each beacon corresponded to a precise latitude so pilots could check their coordinates when they saw the beacon from the sea off the coast.

Beacon on 1502 map
Artist's drawing of a navigational beacon at the Congo River.

1502 Beacons Africa's West CoastArtist's 1502 drawing showing where the beacons were placed along the West Coast of Africa.

The top beacon is at the Congo River, the bottom at the Cape of Good Hope.

Unlike eighteenth- and nineteenth-century lighthouses the beacons did not have a light nor did they warn of danger. Instead they were navigational beacons indicating latitude. However in southern Africa many present day lighthouses are located where these padrões used to be.

Available Elsewhere on the Net
Modern Lighthouses The World Over | Pictures of US Lighthouses | Buoys | U.S. Coast Guard's Guide to the History of Lighthouses

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