Armen: the choice of the site
Armen: choice of the site

Armen: choice of the siteWhy a headlight at the end of the "Chaussée de Sein"?
The first precise statement of these rocks was carried out in 1817 under the direction of Beautemps-Bowsprit (one of the founders of modern Hydrography). He declared then: “The large plate of rocks (Fitted Center) is so dangerous, in all its extent, which we can affirm that any browser who will cross it without the assistance of a pilot of the island of Sein will owe his safety only with one fortunate coincidence… ”. These some laconic lines of a large specialist in the time give an idea of the “dangerosity” of these reefs. It was thus a question of marking out the end of this rock plate in the West (side ocean).

A difficult choice
The French authorities were alerted by the number of shipwrecks on the Chaussée de Sein. Armen: choice of siteIndeed with the development of commercial navigation during 19th century, the Roadway became a cemetery of wrecks with several shipwrecks a year. Side covers over with soil (point of the Strong current and island of Center) the construction of headlights did not pose a problem. On the other hand, at sea, it was a question of finding a rock placed well and enough favourable to support such a building. A study of the central administration begins in the years 1850 to choose one of the three rocks more in the west. In 1860 the decision is made to build on the Ar-men rock (the stone into Breton) because it is best located. It remains that this rock is very difficult to approach and that she is discovered only with low tide of spring tide and per good weather.

A “chaotic” beginning of building site
By 1861 a nautical commission goes to the island of Center and tries three times, without success, to approach Ar-men. Other attempts fail in 1865 and 1866. The Administration and the engineers start to discourage themselves. The sailors of the island of Center are more skepticals in front of this foolish project and refuse to take part in such “a madness”.
However the obstinacy of one of the engineers makes it possible in April 1867 to unload and begin the first work.
It is necessary here to pay a great tribute to engineer Jolly and his Lacroix assistant who by their physical courage, their tenacity and their direction of human succeeded in overcoming the hostile elements. Jolly had finally succeeded in persuading the sailors of the island to take part in the operation, sine qua non indispensable condition to ensure its success. For that, it obtained initially its administration appropriations to repair and prolong the dams protecting the port of the island then very exposed to the blows from wind.Armen: choice of site In addition, he proposed to pay work “with the task” and especially very substantially (compared to the incomes more than modest, at that time, of these fishermen).

A building site defying the elements and the understanding
The first work on the rock thus started in 1867. It was acted as the first time to drill in the rock of the 40 depth cm holes. In 1867 the first 15 holes were drilled in 8 unloadings. The following year the boring of 34 new holes made it possible to have a base to begin work from foundation. It is necessary here to point out the exploits of the men of the Headlights and Balises and the marine islanders for the first work in 1867 /1868. This extract of report is explicit: “As soon as they were likely to accost, 2 men went down on the rock, provided with life belts, lying down on it, studding themselves there with a hand, holding in the other a hammer and working with a feverish activity, covered without delay by the blade which broke over their heads. If one of them were pulled by the force of the current, its belt supported it with flood and the launch was going to fish out it to bring back it to work”. In 1869 work of masonry for the foundations at a rate of 50 cm starts a year during 5 years. Then working above sea level the work of the masons became more normal insofar as the weather made it possible to unload the material of which stones. It took 7 more years (3 to 7 m a year) to carry out the 32.60 meters of the headlight not without sometimes dramatic adventures in this extreme environment of a rock beaten by the floods and the large swell of the Atlantic.
Armen: choice of siteOn August 30th, 1880 at midnight, 14 years after the first steps of engineer Jolly on the rock, the headlight of Armen, classified of “first order” ignited for the first time thus paying homage to these men of exception who had carried out the unthinkable one… according to the very words of the Minister for Transport “these men who, unconscious with their title of admiration, have through energy and of devotion, had ensured the success of a company bolder, if not bolder than any the same kind”; it was:

  • Engineers Reynaud (originator), Planchat, Fenoux, Jolly (1865-69), Cahen (1969-1973), Mengin (1874-1881); their assistants: Lacroix
  •     until en 1869 then Probesteau.
  • The crew of the launch: Fouquet, Schott, Provost, Bloas, Salou, Cloarec, Cadio.
  • The Sénans pilots: Vain and Guilcher.
  • Sailors and women of the island of Center and many masons and carpenters.

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