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  • Totally Toco

The Story of Point Galera & Toco Lighthouse

Aerial photo taken using a drone, showing the galera point from the ocean, as well as the waves of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Oceans coming together.
Photo credit - Muhammad Ali

Galera Point is surrounded by extremely treacherous waters, made even more dangerous by the vicious underwater currents created by the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The ocean bed in the immediate vicinity of the promontory is littered with large rocks which have broken away from the mainland with the passage of time. It is therefore a very dangerous area for unsuspecting sea vessels. It was due largely to the dangers of the area coupled with the need for guidance and warning to ships in the night that the erection of a lighthouse was deemed necessary.

Toco Lighthouse taken somewhere around 1910. Pictured in the photo are Reverand George McCartney (right) and the lighthouse keeper, Mr Quinn (left). Photo credit- Sharon Burford

The positioning of a lighthouse at Galera was also important due to its strategic location to ships coming down the Caribbean, its close proximity to Tobago and the absolute necessity for proper navigational guidance to those ships en route to and from Tobago. The lighthouse at Galera was commissioned in 1897, at a time when shipping provided the major form of transportation and communication to rural, coastal villages around Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, the north-eastern coast of Trinidad was devoid of proper overland communication and remained inaccessible to motor vehicular traffic right up to 1930. Villages like Toco, Cumana, Grande Riviere, Matelot and Blanchisseuse depended on the operation of the Round the Island Coastal Steamer Service and later on the "SS Belize" for transportation and communication with the rest of the island. Therefore, the erection of a lighthouse at Galera Point was a major milestone in the development of proper navigational facilities on the north-eastern coast of Trinidad.

In March 1897, under the direction of the Harbour-Master, Captain James B. Saunders,

work began on the construction of what was to be called GALERA POINT LIGHTHOUSE. In October of the same year the lighthouse was completed. It was seventy feet high and was equipped with a kerosene-fired light which shone through a revolving lens. It was said to be one of the brightest in the world with 4 000.000candle power. The lighthouse was built in the year of the commemoration of Queen Victoria's 50th year on the British throne. On November 1ST 1897 the Galera Point Lighthouse was officially opened and its first light exhibited. In 1984, the system was modernized and made automatic.

Photo of Toco Lighthouse before the road was paved, approximately 1950. Photo credit - Henry Dalla Costa, provided by Mrs McSweeney (Toco Folk Museum)

Credit: Toco Folk Museum Quarterly Vol.1 No.1 1999

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