The State owner, the Syndicat Mixte pour le Développement Durable de l’Estuaire de la Gironde (SMIDDEST) manager, the boat operators and the association of the Cordouan and Graves lighthouses are committed to the preservation and enhancement of Cordouan.
Cordouan lighthouse is a changing place. Its historic role as a waypoint for sailors no longer requires the permanent presence of Subdivision of Lighthouses and Beacons technicians. However, Cordouan has also been classified a historic monument since 1862 and has been open to visitors for even longer. The State services, in particular those of the Ministries of the Sea and Culture, seek to preserve this exceptional building in this dual-function of signaling for sailors and being an exceptional monument.
Today, five electric power generator supply two groups of twelve batteries which serve all the electrical installations in the lighthouse. This device was completed in 2012 with a telecontrol which allows us to know the status of the beacon 24/7. The technical installations have become more autonomous, but they still require continuous human surveillance. Thus, the team from the Subdivision of Lighthouses and Beacons (DIRM South Atlantic) monitors the beacon from Verdon-sur-Mer and are always at the ready.
Pummeled by the waves at high tide, washed by the storms, Cordouan suffers extreme conditions which impose a costly and complex maintenance policy.
In 2005, two ministries (Culture and Equipment/Ecology, and regional governments) agreed to financing urgent and extraordinary works. The portion of the lighthouse that is most exposed to storms is now protected by a concrete shell and anchored to the ground with steel stakes.
The construction project for making the crown watertight was started by the Ministry of Ecology in 2010 and finished in 2014. A new works campaign was launched in 2015. This project reveals how much the site has changed. The daily management of the site was given by the State to SMIDDEST.
Created in 2001, SMIDDEST (Mixed union for the Sustainable Development of Gironde Estuary) combines the department Councils of Gironde and Charente-Maritime, the regional council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Bordeaux Metropolitan Region, the Royan Atlantique Consolidated Government, the Community of Communes of Haute Saintonge and the Community of Communes of the Estuary.
SMIDDEST coordinates the implementation of all initiatives or joint actions of its members concerning the living environment, the natural environment, zoning, tourism, culture or economic development of Gironde Estuary.
Since 1 January 2010, SMIDDEST has managed Cordouan lighthouse:
Lighthouse keepers – Welcoming the public – Site promotion – Cultural project development – Preservation of the rocky plateau
Four lighthouse keepers are necessary to maintain the desired and necessary human presence at the lighthouse.
They work in pairs for one or two weeks at the lighthouse, followed by one or two weeks of rest on the mainland.
The change of shifts takes place on Friday when the tide permits. The lighthouse keepers depart from Verdon-sur-mer on board the Subdivision of Lighthouses and Beacons boat.
The lighthouse keepers have many tasks, including:
Created in 1981, the association of the Cordouan and Grave lighthouses has worked hard to save the lighthouse and to maintain the lighthouse keeper. Today, it proposes to discover the lighthouse through a museum located in Le Verdon-sur-mer, at the Grave lighthouse.
The aim of the association is to study, promote and implement measures to ensure the sustainability of the Cordouan lighthouse, in particular by making it known by all available means (brochures, visits, media support …).
Due to the need to regulate tourist flows, SMIDDEST organizes transportation to Cordouan lighthouse via service contracts with marine transportation companies.
Through concession contracts, marine transportation companies provide regular transportation to the lighthouse and also welcome and provide information for visitors and sell “transportation + lighthouse entry” tickets and provide commercial promotion and canvassing services.
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