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What is a beacon

A beacon is a warning signal light on a high place where it can easily be seen. A chain of beacon fires lighted on one hilltop after another could signal a warning for hundreds of miles.

A beacon is a warning signal light on a high place where it can easily be seen. Hundreds of years ago people were warned of the coming of an enemy army by fires lighted on the tops of hills or mountains. Sometimes a chain of beacon fires lighted on one hilltop after another could signal a warning for hundreds of miles. Mount Beacon on the Hudson River in southeastern New York State got its name from the signal fires that were lighted on its top by American soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

Today the word beacon means a lighthouse, floating light, or any other kind of light placed along a seacoast to warn ships at night to keep away from dangerous rocks or places where the water is not deep enough for a ship. A lighthouse is a tall tower with a light at the top protected by glass all around from rain and wind. The light may be green, white, or red or a combination of any of these colors. It may flash on and off, turn around all the time, or just shine steadily. Such lights are usually turned on at night by a lightkeeper who lives in the tower and takes care of the complicated machinery that works the light. Light buoys are also used as beacons. These are steel floats with a glass-enclosed light in a five- or six-foot steel tower. They are anchored by chains to the sea bottom and often turn themselves on at night and then turn out the light at dawn.

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