The Gironde was a trail-blazing waterway in the use of lightships, in which the light is placed on a moored pontoon. This system had been tested in both England and Holland in the eighteenth century. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that Ponts engineers, who were no doubt more accustomed to land-based projects, carried out the same tests. Efforts to do so were held up by both technical and administrative issues: although the vessels they served on were immobile, sailors on lightships were registered with and managed by the maritime affairs quarter, which reported to the Navy. In response to complaints by ship captains and pilots who no longer wanted to wait until daybreak to sail up the estuary, the Gironde's first lightship was installed on the Talais sandbank in 1845. It consisted of a wooden pontoon staffed by a crew of fifteen: a captain, first mate, lieutenant, seamen, carpenter, cook and ship's boy. The crew was relieved once a month. Fifteen years later, in 1860, a new wooden pontoon, the Talais 2, was built. Its predecessor was moved and renamed the Mapon. It signalled the route to Pauillac, along with another lightship, the By. In 1870, a fourth lightship was anchored on the Grand-Banc, off the coast of La Coubre. The Mapon and the By were retired in 1897. The administration attempted to keep down maintenance costs for lightships by replacing them with automated gas-fired buoys. Nevertheless, a new generation of lightships were launched in the late 1890s. Built of steel and staffed by a crew of only four, the Talais 3 was lit in 1898. The Bordeaux shipyard of Dyle et Bacalan specialised in these very specific vessels, and built two such lights for the Pas-de-Calais sandbanks, following tests in the Gironde.