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At the end of the dock in Portugalete, before Churruca built the iron dike, there was a circular tower called «The Pilot Tower». From there the Chief Pilot would signal, with flags by day and lights by night, to guide the ships that came to and from the port. If the Chief Pilot was not in the estuary, it would then be a watchtower lookout who would replicate the signals. If there was no flag on sight, however, that would mean that the estuary was too dangerous to navigate.

Harbour pilots had to be men; they would have to have four-year experience in the open sea and have in-depth knowledge of the course and tides, sandbanks, reefs, currents, cliffs, and capes in the Bay of Biscay.


En la foto: Arranque del muelle de Portugalete con la torre del piloto y el mareógrafo con el que se media la altura de las mareas. Se puede ver en primer plano la playa del Salto de Portugalete y al fondo la playa de Las Arenas y la mojijonera en 1890.
In the picture: At the start of the dock of Portugalete; the pilot tower and the tide gauge with which they measured the depth of the tides. The beach Salto de Portugalete can be seen in the foreground; in the background, the beach of Las Arenas and the dock “Mojijonera” as it could be seen in 1890.


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Coming from the «Jean Wagner, neveu» house, a prestigious French watchmaker, this float tide gauge was installed in 1883 at the beginning of the Iron Quay. Its purpose was to measure the level of the tides and to indicate the variations and the height, in meters, of the level of the sea waters using a sphere with a needle, facilitating the values directly obtained by the observations. There was no record of them, so we could call it a ‘tide measurer’.



In 1883 they installed electrical lighting on the port, to be able to continue working with night tides. The lighting consists of 33 lamps, a steam machine and a dynamo.



This system was first put into practice in 1900. It would indicate the maximum draught of the estuary at every given moment. This was easy to find out even from high tide, thanks to the combination of discs that would be updated every 15 minutes.

RIALIA, Industria Museoa, Museo de la industria

RIALIA, Industria Museoa, Museo de la industria

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