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This page discusses Beacons, fires designed to attract attention. See also radio beacon. For other uses of the word, see Beacon (disambiguation)

Beacons are fires lit on hills or high places, used either as lighthouses for navigation at sea, or for signalling over land that enemy troops are approaching, and alerting the defence. In the latter form, beacons are an ancient form of optical telegraph and always used in relay leagues. Probably the most famous example is the beacons used in Elizabethan England to warn of the approaching Spanish Armada. This chain of beacons gave the name to many Beacon Hills.

Beacons have often been abused by pirates. A fire at a wrong position was used to direct a ship against cliffs or beaches, so the cargo could be looted after the ship sank or ran aground.

In modern technical parlance, a beacon can also be a transmitter used for navigation.

Beacons are aids to navigation devices. Intentionally conspicuous, beacons help guide navigators to their destinations. Beacon types include radar reflectors, radio beacons, sound signals, and visual beacons. Visual beacons range from small, single-pile structures to large lighthouses or light stations and are located on land or in water. Lighted beacons are called lights; unlighted beacons are called daybeacons.

See also Emergency position-indicating rescue beacon.

Last updated: 05-09-2005 20:48:51