Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Three Men Vanished from a Lighthouse, Nobody Knows Why

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How do you imagine a lighthouse keepers job?

Probably like an introverts paradise: youre alone on a rock in the middle of the sea,

looking out at the raging waves and keeping the light on.

But lack of people around has its downside too: no one will know if something happens

to you.

And that was exactly the case with the keepers of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse

It was a fine and calm day on December 15, 1900.

In such weather conditions, lighthouses arent crucial for the safety of passing ships.

But still, it was unusual for the Archtor, a steamer passing by the Flannan Isles on

its way from Philadelphia, to notice that the lighthouse on Eilean Mor was not operational.

The ships captain noted it in his log and left it at that.

So it was only three days later, when the Archtor arrived to the port of Leith, that

this strangeness was reported.

A ship was immediately rigged, with a relief lighthouse keeper, Joseph Moore, to be delivered

to Eilean Mor, but weather had been bad since the day before, and it couldnt set sail

for more than a week.

Finally, on December 26, two things happened: Hesperus (that was the name of the relief

boat) arrived at the lighthouse, and it became obvious that it had been abandoned all this


The lighthouse had been manned by three people: James Ducat and Thomas Marshall, the regular

keepers, and Donald MacArthur, the occasional who was then substituting for another keeper

on sick leave.

There was a fourth too, a rotating man who was on shore at the time.

The Hesperuscrew, however, was met with dead silence.

It seemed that none of the keepers were presentotherwise, at least one of them wouldve

been waiting for the ship on the dock.

That was an alarming sign, but not the only one.

Upon arrival, James Harvie, captain of the ship, also noticed that there was no signal

flag on the flagstaff to welcome the relief boat, and all the supply crates had been left

on the landing while they shouldve been inside.

Harvie blew the ships whistle.

No reaction.

A flare was fired in the air, but that had no effect either.

The sense of unease grew on the Hesperus, and Moore decided to deploy a boat and go

on shore alone to investigate.

It was ominously quiet on the island.

The lighthouse stood dark and lifeless, only seagulls keeping it company.

Moore went on to explore the territory and the building itself.

And what he found unsettled him even further.

There was no sign of the keepers, not even a trace left.

Both the main gate and the entrance door to the lighthouse were closed, the beds were

unmade, and most eerily, all the clocks stopped.

That meant the men were absent for more than a week.

Pensive and alarmed, Moore returned to the ship and took three volunteers back to the

shore for further investigation.


the men returned

to the Hesperus, Captain Harvie used the telegraph to send a note to the Northern Lighthouse


It said that a dreadful accident had happened at the Flannans and that all the keepers had


His guess was that poor souls had been swept away by the raging sea or had fallen from

a cliff.

Harvie requested an official investigation to be conducted, and on December 29, Robert

Muirhead, a Northern Lighthouse Board superintendent, arrived to do just that.

And heres where the weirdest things started to come up.

Muirhead found the lighthouse logbook that the men kept until their disappearancethat

is, about dinner time of December 15.

On December 12, Thomas Marshall wrote that there were severe winds the likes of which

hed never seen in twenty years.

Also, the two other men began acting in a highly unusual way.

Ducat, according to the log book, wasvery quiet,” and MacArthur was crying.

Highly unusualin this regard was a huge understatement, though.

All three of the keepers were tough, hardened men, and MacArthur was a veteran mariner.

It was simply impossible that he couldve been crying because of the storm, no matter

how bad it was.

The entry from December 13 said that the winds were still howling, and the sea was even more

violent than the day before.

The log implied that the three men were terrified, which was, again, very strange since they

were experienced keepers and knew they were safe inside the lighthouse.

The elements could do nothing against a sturdy stone structure built specifically to withstand

rough conditions.

But perhaps the most unsettling of this all was the fact that there were no storms on

the 12th, 13th, or 14th of December in the area.

The log said, however, that the skies finally cleared only on the morning of December 15.

And that was the last entry.

The keepers went missing on the evening of the same day.

There are so many inconsistencies in this whole story that it remains a mystery to this


Not only did official investigation not find any clear evidence of what had happened in

the Eilean Mor lighthouse, but it also made the situation even more perplexing.

As soon as the news reached the mainland, wild theories from all corners of the UK started

popping to the surface.

Not the least popular of those was that the men had gone insane, which was not out of

the question considering the logbook entries.

Nobody in the area confirmed any storms, so it was either the log had been made up, or

the bad weather region had been incredibly localized.

And since the keepers had been behaving in a very strange way before disappearance, it

seemed quite plausible that they couldve gone crazy and maybe jumped off the island

into the sea.

Other theories were much less credible and speculated on anything and everything from

supernatural activity to secret government operations, although why the government would

be interested in eliminating three lighthouse keepers at the end of the world remained unclear.

Still, there was also the official version of the events, and it made at least some sense.

You see, the western landing of the lighthouse premises was severely damaged by recent storms.

Iron railings were bent, the iron railway beside the path was torn out of concrete,

and turf had been ripped away from the top of a cliff that stood 200 ft tall!

This evidence showed that the waves and the wind had been particularly savage.

And there lay the explanation to the mysterious vanishing of the keepers.

On the 15th of December, two of the men mustve gone out into the storm to secure the box

on the western landing which contained mooring ropes.

They had been out for some time, when the third one, left inside as the rules required,

noticed an abnormally large wave coming down on the island, and fast.

He reasoned there was no time to waste, leaped to his feet, overturning the chair he had

been sitting on, and rushed off to warn the other two of the imminent danger.

He was in a big hurry, so he didnt stop to grab his oilskin coat on the way out.

But apparently, he was late: when he reached his fellow keepers, the wave had already come

to the island, and as they were all dangerously close to the edge, it swept them from the


Seems a plausible enough theory, but there are a couple of gaps in it.

Firstly, it doesnt explain where the storm even came from.

The keepers disappeared in the evening of December 15, and by all accounts the weather

that day was fine, and the sea was calm.

Even the keepersown logbook confirmed that.

So how would a huge wave appear on that day without any warning?

And secondly, again according to the entries in the lighthouse logbook, the damage to the

western landing had been done before the mens disappearance.

So they had witnessed the mayhem but had not, in fact, gone out into it.

Since 1900, many more theories have been born, including freak waves washing away one of

the men and the others being swept away while helping him.

Also, some theorized that a big wave might have entered a narrow gully by the western

landing and burst back with force, pushing the men who were trying to secure their equipment

over the edge.

In this theory, the third keeper was also running to help his colleagues but suffered

the same fate as them.

But whatever hypotheses, credible or nonsensical, were given, none of them have given us any

clue as to what really happened to the three bold men from Eilean Mor.

Who knows, maybe someday holds the answers?

What do you think caused the lighthouse keepers to disappear from the island?

Let me know down in the comments!

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