January 18, 1865
The foundation stone was laid for a lighthouse on Amédée Island, a part of what was then the French dependency of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean. (New Caledonia was reclassified as an overseas territory of France in 1946.) Amédée Island is located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the present-day city of Nouméa (known as Port-de-France until 1866) on Grande Terre, which is New Caledonia’s largest and principal island. The origins of the Amédée lighthouse can be traced to 1859 when New Caledonia’s acting commandant Jean-Marie Saisset asked the government in Paris to construct a navigational aid to help guide ships making their way to Port-de-France.
Prosper de Chasseloup-Lauabat, the minister of the navy for France and its possessions, approved the request for a lighthouse on Amédée Island and appointed the prolific architect Lonce Reynaud to design that structure. The Amédée lighthouse became the first cast iron lighthouse to be built in France. The lighthouse was initially assembled in Paris. The structure remained there from July 1862 to June 1864 as a means of gauging its overall stability. During that time, the lighthouse became a must-see landmark for many Parisians.
The lighthouse was then taken apart, and its many pieces were packed in a total of 1,200 crates and shipped halfway around the globe to New Caledonia. A team consisting of both French soldiers and local workers subsequently reassembled the lighthouse on Amédée Island. Those efforts were supervised by Louis-Émile Bertin, who later distinguished himself as a leading naval architect for the governments of both France and Japan. The Amédée lighthouse began operations nearly 11 months after its foundation stone had been laid.
Measuring 184 feet (56 meters) in height, the Amédée lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world. The lighthouse has also become one of New Caledonia’s most popular tourist attractions.
For more information on lighthouses in New Caledonia, please check out http://www.ibiblio.org/lighthouse/ncl.htm.