Lighthouses of Liberia

Liberia is a nation on the southern curve of the West African coast, between Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. The country was founded in 1822 as a refuge for freed American slaves, although only about 12,000 slaves were returned as residents. Organized as a republic in 1847, Liberia is the only West African nation that was never colonized. Sadly, a bitter and tragic civil war tore the country apart from 1989 to 2003, and it has been recovering with the assistance of a UN peacekeeping force. Port facilities at Morovia were rebuilt by the UN Joint Logistics Centre.

The coastline of Liberia has only a few natural harbors. Monrovia has always been the major port. In the 1950s a second port was established as Buchanan for the shipment of iron ore, although these operations ceased in the 1990s. Efforts are being made to redevelop both ports.

In early 2007, the lighthouses were inspected to assess what would be needed to restore them to service. However, little has been done, and in June 2012 a visiting team from the International Maritime Organization reported that lighthouse restoration was "one of the major challenges facing the maritime sector of Liberia." Restoration and operation are the responsibility of the Bureau of Maritime Affairs.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.

General Sources
Afrikanische Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Cape Palmas Light
Cape Palmas Light, Harper, 2005
photo copyright Chipo Nyambuya; used by permission

Lighthouses
Cape Palmas (4?)
Date unknown (station established 1847). Currently inactive; listed with focal plane 32 m (105 ft); two white flashes, separated by 4 s, every 16 s. 22 m (72 ft) masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Lighthouse painted white, lantern and gallery red. Chipo Nyambuya visited the lighthouse in 2005 and contributed the photo above, Justus Wendell has a 2008 photo, a 2008 closeup is available, and a 2010 photo of the gallery is available, but Google has only a very distant satellite view of the cape. The history of this light station is poorly known. The U.S. Library of Congress has a distant photo of a round tower dated 1849-50. German Wikipedia has an 1885 sketch of a square tower, and there is also an 1887 photo of that tower. A 1904 light list describes the lighthouse as destroyed, but a 1920 light list describes a square tower. The tower in the lower right of Nyambuya's photo might also be an earlier lighthouse. Cape Palmas was the area of the first American slave resettlement, sent out from Maryland. Located on a promontory at Harper (also called Maryland). Site open, tower
South Point (Greenville) (?)
Date unknown. Currently inactive; listed with focal plane 32 m (105 ft); four white flashes every 20 s. 8 m (26 ft) square tower, painted white. No photo available. The survival of this lighthouse is doubtful, since it can't be seen in Bing's satellite view of the point. Located on a promontory at Greenville. Site status unknown. ARLHS LIB-003; Admiralty D3114; NGA 24752.
Buchanan Main Breakwater
Date unknown. Inactive; listed with focal plane 9.5 m (31 ft); green flash every 3 s. 7 m (23 ft) square cylindrical white concrete tower. Gene Brooks has a distant view (click on the photo for an enlargement), and Bing has a satellite view. Located at the end of the south (main) breakwater of Buchanan harbor, a short distance southeast of Grand Bassa Point. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3112.4; NGA 24740.
Buchanan North Breakwater
Date unknown. Inactive; listed with focal plane 8 m (26 ft); red flash every 3 s. 7 m (23 ft) square cylindrical white concrete tower. A photo is available, a closeup shows the building stripped of any lighting equipment, and Bing has an indistinct satellite view. Located at the end of the north breakwater of Buchanan harbor, a short distance southeast of Grand Bassa Point. Site status unknown. Admiralty D3112.6; NGA 24744.
Grand Bassa Point (Buchanan) (1?)
Date unknown (station established 1906). Inactive for many years. Approx. 10 m (33 ft) round masonry tower, unpainted. A photo is available, and Google has a dim satellite view. This lighthouse was replaced by a 24 m (79 ft) skeletal tower, painted with yellow and orange horizontal bands. However, Maritime Affairs Commissioner John Morlu stated in January 2008 that the more recent lighthouse "does not exist" and a new one would have to be built. Located on a rocky reef projecting from Grand Bassa Point, a prominent cape on the south side of Buchanan. Part of the point is eroding, but it should be possible to reach the lighthouse, at least at low tide. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS LIB-004; Admiralty D3112; NGA 24724.
Cape Mesurado (Mamba Point, Monrovia) (2)
Date unknown (around 1900; station established 1855). Reactivated (?); focal plane 85 m (279 ft); white flash every 6 s. 12 m (39 ft) cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted yellow, lantern red. The photo at right is from a Bureau of Maritime Affairs document posted in 2008 but no longer online. A 2010 photo (first photo on the page) is available, and Bing has a satellite view that probably shows the lighthouse. Huelse has historic postcard views of the original lighthouse, a square masonry tower, and of the present lighthouse. Cape Mesurado is the promontory on which Monrovia, Liberia's capital, is built. In 2007, the Liberian government was seeking funds to reactivate the lighthouse, and apparently there has been some progress in this effort, although the Admiralty reported the light to be "temporarily" extinguished in early 2011. Located atop a hill at Mamba Point, the northwestern point of the cape. Site status unknown, but probably open; tower closed. ARLHS LIB-002; Admiralty D3105; NGA 24696.
Cape Mesurado Light
Mamba Point (Cape Mesurado) Light, Monrovia, 2008
Liberian Bureau of Maritime Affairs photo by Capt. Armett E. Hill

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Sierra Leone | East: Côte d'Ivoire

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted September 9, 2005. Checked and revised September 6, 2013. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.