The Needles are chalk stacks formed over 60 million years ago by an upheaval in the earth's crust. They are the western
end of a chalk ridge that runs across the Isle of Wight from Culver Down, Sandown. There is a continuation of the chalk
outcrop westward under the seafloor and it emerges in Dorset at Ballard Down, Swanage. At one time the Island was
connected to mainland Britain by this chalk ridge before sea levels rose and erosion took place. A fourth Needle, known as
"Lot's Wife", disappeared during a storm in 1764.
The Needles are one of the major tourist attractions on the Island and the best view is from the end of the 65 metre tunnel accessable from the Old Battery. When the Battery is closed there is a viewpoint on the cliff edge above Scratchells Bay.
A lighthouse was first proposed for The Needles in 1781 when merchants and shipowners petitioned Trinity House. A tower
was constructed on the cliff overhanging Scratchells Bay, some 144 metres above sea level, and lighted for the first time
in September 1786. As the lighthouse was so high it was frequently obscured by sea mist and therefore of limited use to
mariners. In 1859 Trinity House planned a new lighthouse to be built on the outermost of The Needles at sea level. The
circular granite tower is perpendicular, has walls over one metre thick at the base and is 33 metres tall. Cellars were
excavated into the chalk to provide storage space. The pattern of light from the lighthouse mark the hazards and safe
passages, an automatic foghorn sounds every 20 seconds.
The lighthouse was fully automated in 1994 and the last keepers left on the 8th December. The lighthouse is monitored and controlled by a telephone link from Trinity House Operations Control Centre at Harwich in Norfolk.