For the GPS-enabled yacht, lighthouses are not as critical for safe navigation as they once were, but yachtsman are still comforted by the loom of a distant light and the reassuring agreement between observed and charted characteristics.
In Scotland, the lighthouses are managed by the Northern Lighthouse Board and their website has a page of information for each of the main lighthouses, such as Cape Wrath - a memorable sight in our summer voyage from Bristol to London.
There is no API of course, so I had to scrape the site - first the index page for the names of lighthouses and their uris, then each page. Missing data needed to be researched and merged with the scrapped data. The result is this XML file.
Finally some transformations:
The KML uses TimeSpans so that the time-slider appears on Google Earth and the sequence of lighthouse construction can be animated. Links go to the NLB page, Panoramio and Google Images.
I love making things like this - its my craft - my version of knitting I suppose. Moving up a gear, to the development and promotion of an XML schema, or an RDF vocabulary is tempting. There are some wonderful databases of lighthouse data out there ( Michael's List, RussRowlett's , ARLHS ) , each with their own scope and perspective on the subject and huge personal investment in time. Governments gather and release definitive data - published freely by the USCG (but only as PDF's) and at great cost for digital data by the Admiralty. Although there are benefits in having an RDF schema and common repositories for the users of this data, the benefits to either enthusiasts or governments are much less clear. To the data crafter this looks more like hard work than fun - perhaps I'll just find some more data to knit.