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"I want to make them beautiful, but they always turn out wrong! That one, too fat! This one, too tall!
This one... too SYMMETRICAL!"
J.S. Steinman

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B1 Lighthouse Icon
For the Lighthouse of Columbia, see The Lighthouse (BioShock Infinite).
Lord help the lost ship that wanders into these waters unaware -- for suddenly, compasses spin awry and radios fill with static. Then the Phantom Lighthouse looms suddenly in the mist.
― Back to the Frozen Triangle[src]

The Lighthouse (simply named BioShock on its loading screen and The Crash Site on its save files) is the introduction level to BioShock and the world of Rapture. The site reappears in several other entries of the BioShock series and is one of the most iconic visuals of the franchise.



The Lighthouse entrance.

Lighthouse top statue
The building itself is a navigational tower standing on a small rocky island located at approximately 63° N, 32° W in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The monolithic structure stretches more than five stories tall and is designed with a series of setbacks decorated in a geometric reliefs effectively recreating an Art Deco style skyscraper. At the apex of the lighthouse stands an imposing Art Deco winged statue supporting the tower's light emitter. The figure is also commonly used as a symbol of the city and is represented on its various arts and decorations.

Despite its appearance, the lighthouse has a purpose far removed from navigational aid. The edifice actually conceals the only access to the underwater city of Rapture without a submarine, harboring a single bathysphere linked to the Welcome Center Metro Station, and so represents the only landmark to the city's position. It seems to employ some sort of defensive measures to prevent the advancements of unwanted boats and planes found within close proximity, and thus may be the cause of many disappearances occurring in the nearby waters, which were given the ill-fated name of the Frozen Triangle.


Main article: BioShock
When Mum and Dad put me on that plane to visit my cousins in England, they told me, 'Son, you're special, you were born to do great things.' You know what? They were right.
― Jack[src]

On a clear evening in 1960, high above the Atlantic Ocean, a young man named Jack partakes in a cigarette while onboard Apollo Air Flight DF-0301. Moments later, cries ring out through the cabin as the plane falls from the sky.

The Crash SiteEdit

So close, but yet...

A victim of crash floats outside the lighthouse.

Sometime after, Jack comes to underwater. Disoriented and nearly drowning, he kicks through the churning sea, passing personal effects and narrowly avoiding being struck by wreckage falling from the downed airliner, until he finally breaches the surface and finds himself alone and surrounded by burning jet fuel and choking smoke. Spying a break in the flames, he swims through debris and makes his way towards one of the engines until it ignites besides the rapidly sinking tail section of the Apollo Airways craft. He then spots the lighthouse, looming tall against the moonlit sky.

The StructureEdit

Deco male statue with fan
Top of Lighthouse

The Art Deco beacon.

In what country is there a place for people like me?
― Andrew Ryan[src]

Jack swims to the refuge of the towering beacon. As he looks out from the staircase leading to the entrance, distant cries from the crash site fade away until there's nothing left but the sound of the wind, the waves, and the crackling fire. Seeking shelter from the elements, he proceeds into the building.

BioShock Andrew Ryan Lighthouse Bust

"No gods or kings. Only Man."

Stepping into the darkness, the door closes behind him. Motion triggers activate lights illuminating an impressive octagonal room as instrumental music plays over the speakers. A large suspended bust of an imposing man and a banner displaying the phrase "No gods or kings, only man" loom over the rotunda. A split staircase leads down to a domed room decorated with medallions emblazoned with visual representations of Art, Industry, and Science. In the center of this chamber is docked a bathysphere at the top of a deep water well. With no other options, he steps aboard the submersible and pulls the telemotor lever activating the craft.

The DescentEdit

Bathysphere Station tunnel entrance - Torrance Hall
Bioshock rapture

"And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well."

Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose… Rapture.
― Andrew Ryan[src]

The pressurized door of the bathysphere seals shut and the vehicle begins to descend, quickly dropping several fathoms. As it travels downward, a canvas panel rises up. A prerecorded speech from Andrew Ryan, the man seen in the lighthouse, is played accompanied by slides projected onto the screen. He speaks to anyone entering for the first time of his dissatisfaction with the restrictions of modern society and preaches his philosophy of free will and independence. As the speech continues, the screen drops away just as the glistening city of Rapture finally appears. The bathysphere shuttles past various buildings in the underwater metropolis and Ryan welcomes the passenger to make a place for themselves in Rapture.

Rosie performing maintenance

A Rosie performing maintenance work on a tunnel.

All Good Things letters guide
All Good Things letters
All Good Things letters guide
Of This Earth letters
All Good Things letters guide
Flow letters
All Good Things letters guide
Into the City letters

As the submersible continues along, it passes many eye-catching sights such as a giant squid, a large figure in a diving suit with a welding torch doing work on a tunnel, and a whale swimming between buildings. Upon approaching the bathysphere's destination, the Service Radio inside it begins to transmit a strange conversation between a man with an Irish accent and another individual. The bathysphere maneuvers towards its destination as it enters a series of docking rings adorned with the phrase All Good Things Of This Earth Flow Into The City. The vessel slows to a halt as it arrives at the well of the Welcome Center's Bathysphere Station and then began its ascension.

There's Something in the SeaEdit

Day176 item931 phantom lighthouse

The Phantom Lighthouse.

Main article: There's Something in the Sea

The Lighthouse was mentioned three times during There's Something in the Sea: in The Frozen Triangle by Carleton Rede (page 13), in The Spectral Sea by Jeremiah Lynch, and in Back to the Frozen Triangle by Carleton Rede. All three books state that sailors had given it the name "The Phantom Lighthouse" and this myth's origin is expounded upon in Back to the Frozen Triangle. The only known vessel that managed to reach the Phantom Lighthouse and return, sparking the creation of this myth, was the Hackness, an English fishing vessel that became lost in the North Atlantic during the Icelandic/English Cod Wars.[1]

On the terms of his journey, Mark Meltzer set sail aboard S.S. Nellie Bly to follow the clues left by Orrin Oscar Lutwidge and find the entrance to Rapture. Using a compass unlocked from puzzle box left by Lutwidge, he approached the Lighthouse near enough to take a photo, but not enough to access it due to the impenetrable mist surrounding it and the boat's instruments going wild. Meltzer finally decided to use a dinghy found adrift the day before to look for the Lighthouse by himself. This decision saved his life as he avoided the slaughter which occurred when Splicers boarded the boat and attacked the crew. He managed to steal a bathysphere, either from the Lighthouse or from the attackers, and reached the station at the Adonis Luxury Resort in Rapture.

BioShock 2Edit

Journey to the surface lighthouse

Returning to the lighthouse at the end of Journey to the Surface.

Main article: BioShock 2

A miniature recreation of the Lighthouse is featured at the end of the Journey to the Surface theme park ride in Ryan Amusements, representing the riders returning to Rapture from the surface. A diorama in the Rapture Memorial Museum presents a somewhat glorified depiction of Ryan's selection of the lighthouse's location by claiming the decision came to him in a dream.[2]

At Siren Alley, a painting by the followers of Father Simon Wales is seen on the wall depicting the plane crash at the Lighthouse which occurred at the beginning of BioShock eight years before. The tower is also clearly seen in the background of the various endings of BioShock 2, once the escape vessel used by Subject Delta, Sofia Lamb, and her daughter Eleanor reaches the surface.

Infinite Spoilers

BioShock InfiniteEdit

Lighthouse Infinite

The lighthouse, alone in the Atlantic.

Main article: BioShock Infinite
There's always a lighthouse. There's always a man. There's always a city.
― Elizabeth[src]

Near the end of BioShock Infinite, Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth escape Columbia by opening a Tear to Rapture. Elizabeth then proceeds to guide her companion to the surface by using a bathysphere docked at the Welcome Center's station, which then emerges right at the stairs in front of the Lighthouse. She uses its entrance to open a passage to the Sea of Doors, where an infinite number of similar Lighthouse on a calm sea represent the access to an equally infinite number of realities.

Burial at Sea - Episode 2Edit


Jack returns to the lighthouse one last time.

Main article: Burial at Sea - Episode 2

In BioShock Infinite's downloadable content, Burial at Sea - Episode 2, the Lighthouse is featured once again as the entry to the reality of Rapture featured all along during the BioShock series. After her death in this reality, Elizabeth decides to return there once again to answer her guilt and make amends by saving Sally, the young girl whom she used as bait to exercise her own revenge on the last iteration of Zachary Hale Comstock in all realities. After making this decision, the Lutece twins, Rosalind and Robert, ferry her on a boat across the Sea of Doors, littered with corpses under its surface and in complete darkness, and to the Lighthouse to "resurrect her" in Rapture's reality.

At the game's conclusion, Elizabeth witnesses the future one last time. In her vision, she sees Jack standing at the steps of the lighthouse having returned to the surface with Sally and the other rescued Little Sisters.


Concept Art, Pre-Launch, and Promotional ImagesEdit

Models RendersEdit

In-Game ImagesEdit

Descending into RaptureEdit

Behind the ScenesEdit

  • The animation used for the Rosie in the sequence leading to Rapture is the same as when a Rosie is hit by the player with the Electro Bolt Plasmid.
  • The lighthouse is the only playable area in BioShock that is above sea level.
  • The music that plays in the Lighthouse in BioShock is an instrumental version of "La Mer", performed by Django Reinhardt and originally written by Charles Trenet and composed by Léo Chauliac.[3] The English version of the song, Beyond the Sea, was featured in one of BioShock's first trailers.
  • During the opening sequence in the plane, Jack is seen glancing at his wallet. Upon closer inspection, the player can see an Irrational Games business card in one of the pockets.
  • The person standing between the older man and woman in Jack's family photo at the top of the wallet is the Lead Designer at Irrational Games, Bill Gardner.[4][5][6]
  • If the player swims through the flames after the plane has crashed, the event of the sinking plane tail won't be activated, and the player can see the door of the plane.
  • According to Irrational Games Senior Artist Daniel Keating, the whale seen before arriving in Rapture was originally meant to be in the museum of the Proving Grounds, but when he applied the swim animation to the model, it was eventually used to improve the impact for the Bathysphere sequence.[7]
  • Although the banner and Andrew Ryan bust were the first things the player sees inside the Lighthouse, in a developer commentary video, there was originally a unique bronze statue appearing to hold the existing Rapture emblem.[8]
  • Rapture's emblem is seen above the Lighthouse doors and above the entrance to the docking station that leads to the Welcome Center complex. It depicts a geometric landscape and the phrase "Ad Idem," which is Latin for "to the same thing," or "in agreement." This suits Ryan's philosophy of a city moving in the same direction towards progress and success.
  • Much of the scenery and "skyline" seen in the descent to Rapture was designed by Demiurge Studios.[9] Many of the medallions and emblems seen inside the Lighthouse were designed by Dave Flamburis.
    • The sign below the bathysphere entrance reads "Torrance Hall". It was intended to be "a loose reference to The Shining."[10]
  • As said by Ken Levine in an interview, the Lighthouse was intended to have a gunfight, but was cut from the final game.[11]
BioShock-The-Collection 2016 06-29-16 001

The promotional image.

  • In BioShock: The Collection, handrails have been placed by the stairs on the exterior of the Lighthouse.
  • A promotional image for BioShock: The Collection features the remastered Lighthouse lobby with a different design for the Andrew Ryan statue than what is seen in the final version.
  • The statue on top of the Lighthouse has a very strong resemblance to two Art Deco statues by Oskar J. W. Hansen at Hoover Dam called Wings of the Republic. Similar statues are found throughout the city of Rapture.


  1. The Cod Wars on Wikipedia
  2. Dreaming of Rapture: “Andrew Ryan wakes one night, while cruising the Atlantic in his steamliner "The Olympian." His sleep interrupted with a singular purpose: "Here!" he shouts to his crewmen, as he wipes sleep from his eyes. "Full stop! We begin building here!"”
  3. BioShock OST, "La Mer" by Django Reinhardt on YouTube
  4. BioShock 2 Intro clip on Youtube, at 0:35
  5. Image of Jack's wallet
  6. Post by Joe Faulstick on the "A small picture showing you Irrational actually never "died" :)" thread in the Irrational Games Forums
  7. Note about creating the whale at
  8. Bioshock - "Dev. Diary 1" on YouTube
  9. Demiurge Studios
  10. Aeternum Ars: Bioshock artist Dave Flamburis' portfolio
  11. BioShock Infinite Ken Levine Interview on Polygon
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