Lighthouses of Mauritania

Mauritania is a thinly populated nation of the Sahara Desert, located on the northwestern coast of Africa between Morocco and Sénégal. The country's coastline is 750 km (465 mi) long but has only two ports, Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou. France colonized the country in the first years of the 20th century and maintained control until Mauritania became independent in 1960. The French colony was administered from Saint-Louis in neighboring Sénégal, and it was only at the time of independence that the previously-tiny fishing village of Nouakchott was identified and developed as the capital of the country. The port and railway terminal of Nouâdhibou (formerly called Port-Étienne) was developed to ship iron ore from mines at Zouîrât.

Aids to navigation in Mauritania are maintained by the port authorities of Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou, respectively.

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
Online List of Lights - Mauritania
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
World of Lighthouses - Mauritania
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Afrikanischen Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.

Phare de Cansado
Pointe de Cansado Light, Nouâdhibou, April 2009
Panoramio photo copyright leonarti; used by permission

Nouakchott Lighthouses
Note: At the time of independence in 1960 the tiny village of Nouakchott was selected as the national capital and site of a new port. In the 1980s Chinese engineers built a large groin perpendicular to the coast on the south side of the new city. The groin traps southward moving sand to create a wide beach for the town to the north and an open harbor to the south. At the end of the groin a large breakwater wharf arcs southwestward to provide an artificial shelter for ocean-going ships. This facility is called Port de l'Amitié (Friendship Port).
FPSO Berge Helene
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 24 m (79 ft); white light, characteristic unknown. Light mounted near the bow of the supertanker Berge Helene. Trabas has a photo. Built in 1976, the ship was converted in 2002 to an FPSO (Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading) vessel. Anchored over the Chinguetti oil field, the ship pumps up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day and stores the oil until offloaded (about once a month) by a tanker. Located about 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Nouakchott. Accessible only by boat. Vessel closed. Admiralty D2991.
Port de l'Amitié Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 22 m (72 ft); green light, 0.5 s on, 0.5 s off. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) skeletal tower carrying a diamond-shaped daymark colored green and gray. NGA describes the light as being on a mast, but Google's satellite view shows the skeletal tower. The front light is indeed on a mast. Located just behind the south end of the port facilities. Site status unknown. Operator: Port Autonome de Nouakchott. Admiralty D2986.31; NGA 24373.2.
Nouakchott Approach (Port de l'Amitié)
1980s? Active; focal plane 37 m (121 ft); white light, 5 s on, 5 s off. Roughly 30 m (98 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern and double gallery, painted white with red trim and narrow black horizontal bands. The photo at right is by one of the Chinese companies developing and operating the harbor. The Degree Confluence Project has a photo taken by J. Baker Hill from exactly 18°N 16°W, about 1 km (0.6 mi) east of the lighthouse. Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse is in the midst of the port facilities. Site and tower closed. Operator: Port Autonome de Nouakchott. ARLHS MAU-004; Admiralty D2986; NGA 24373.

Nouakchott Light
photo by CCCC First Harbor Consultants Co.

Nouâdhibou Lighthouses
Note: Nouâdhibou (called Port-Étienne under French control) is at the extreme northern end of Mauritania's coast. It is a major port for the shipment of iron ore from the Zouîrât mines 480 km (300 mi) to the west. The harbor is sheltered by the hook-shaped peninsula of Cap Blanc. The western shore of the peninsula is in the former Western Sahara, now claimed by Morocco.
Pointe Chacal (Nouâdhibou)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); white, red, or green light, depending on direction, 2 s on, 2 s off. 12 m (39 ft) octagonal tower, painted with black and white vertical stripes. No photo available, but Bing has a satellite view. This light guides ships on a west northwest course into the harbor. Located on Pointe Chacal, on the east side of the harbor entrance to Nouâdhibou. Site status unknown. Operator: Port Autonome de Nouâdhibou. ARLHS MAU-002; Admiralty D2980; NGA 24364.
* Pointe de Cansado
Date unknown (station established 1913). Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); quick-flashing white light; red flashes are shown over a sector to the southeast. Approx. 8 m (26 ft) lantern mounted on the flat roof of a small 1-story keeper's cottage. A 2009 photo is at the top of this page, and Bing has a satellite view. Cansado is the location of several hotels used by visitors to Nouâdhibou. Located on a sandy point on the east side of the Cape Blanc peninsula about 7 km (4.5 mi) south southeast of Nouâdhibou. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Port Autonome de Nouâdhibou. ARLHS MAU-003; Admiralty D2979; NGA 24360.
* Cap Blanc (Ras Nouâdhibou)
1910. Active; focal plane 43 m (141 ft); white flash every 5 s. 20 m (66 ft) octagonal tower with lantern and gallery, mounted on a square base, painted with black and white horizontal bands. Lantern removed. Jean-Baptiste Dodane's 2013 photo is at right, Trabas has a distant photo by Capt. Peter Mosselberger, J.P.C. van Heijst has an aerial photo, the Degree Confluence Project has a wider view showing the lighthouse and the point of the cape, and Bing has a satellite view. The older photos show that the lighthouse was without its lantern for many years. It was restored in 2009 by a Spanish company, La Maquinista Valenciana. Huelse has a historic postcard view of the lighthouse with its original lantern. The great bulge of West Africa ends in two prominent capes, Cap Blanc in Mauritania and Cap Vert in Senegal. European explorers named them, respectively, the "white cape," for its desert sands, and the "green cape," for the vegetation that begins to appear farther south. The White Cape is a long, sandy peninsula sheltering the Baie de Nouâdhibou, the only naturally protected harbor on the Mauritanian coast. Mauritania's northern border runs down the middle of the peninsula. The lighthouse is located near the tip of the peninsula, only a few feet from the international frontier. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Port Autonome de Nouâdhibou. ARLHS MAU-001; Admiralty D2977; NGA 24340.
* Ras Nouâdhibou Range Front
2009. Active; focal plane and light characteristic unknown. Approx. 13 m (43 ft) round barbell-shaped tower, colored with black and white horizontal bands. Sergio Formoso's photo was taken in December 2009, Jean-Baptiste Dodane has a photo showing the new light behind the Cap Blanc lighthouse, and Bing has a distant satellite view. The light was installed by La Maquinista Valenciana as a leading light guiding vessels into the harbor. Located at the extreme point of Cap Blanc, about 150 m (490 ft) south of the lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. Not listed by international authorities.
Cap Blanc Light
Cap Blanc Light, Nouâdhibou, March 2013
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Jean-Baptiste Dodane
* La Gouira (Punta Güera, La Agüera)
Date unknown. Inactive (listed with focal plane 14 m (46 ft); red flash every 5 s). 6 m (20 ft) square stone tower with gallery, unpainted. Ruins of a Spanish fort surround the rear of the lighthouse. Jamal Ait Sayed has a very distant view, and Google has a satellite view. This former Spanish lighthouse is located on a promontory on the west side of the Cap Blanc peninsula about 8 km (5 mi) northwest of the Cap Blanc lighthouse. The pre-1960 international border between the colonies of Spanish (Western) Sahara and French Mauritania runs down the length of the peninsula. Most of Western Sahara is now under the control of Morocco, with the rest in the hands of Sahwari insurgent forces. Neither Moroccan forces nor Sahwari forces are able to occupy this extreme southern tip of the former Spanish Sahara, so it has been occupied de facto by Mauritania. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D2976; NGA 24336.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Morocco (Atlantic Coast) | South: Sénégal

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Posted August 25, 2005. Checked and revised February 16, 2018. Lighthouses: 6. Site copyright 2018 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.