A warning signal for the lighthouses of France

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OUESSANT, France: From this farthest edge of France, where the rain comes horizontally off the ocean, there is nothing on the horizon except waves and lighthouses, marking the lines between land and sea, sea and sky.

Built as a technical aid to sailors, their architects often unknown, France's lighthouses have increasingly become a symbol of the nature of the country, of its "patrimoine," or patrimony - a word that in France carries a spiritual quality of patriotism and nationhood.

It was a Frenchman, after all, Augustin-Jean Fresnel, who invented a crystal lens for lighthouses, and another who thought to rest the turning lamps on a pool of mercury, which conducts electricity.

But with time, harsh weather and automation, France's lighthouses are disintegrating.

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