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Lighthouses of New South Wales
|State Indexes > NSW > South Solitary Lighthouse|
The South Solitary Lighthouse
This lighthouse was considered the most isolated on the New South Wales coast.
It was the first and the last New South Wales lighthouse to use kerosene.
|LOCATION:||Latitude 30° 12.5' S. Longitude 153° 16.1' E. (map)|
|OPERATOR:||Australian Maritime Safety Authority|
|CHARACTER:||Flash white every 5.00 seconds|
|LIGHT SOURCE:||12 Volt 3 Amp Lamp|
|POWER SOURCE:||Solar Power|
|RANGE:||20 nautical miles|
|CUSTODIAN:||National Parks & Wildlife Service - NSW|
The South Solitary Lighthouse
Photograph: Ian Clifford
As early as 1856 it had been suggested that a lighthouse be established on either North of South Solitary Islands, near Coffs Harbour.
When asked, ships masters favoured South Solitary over North Solitary for the location of a light by 3 to 1.South Solitary Lighthouse was designed by James Barnet and first exhibited in 1880.
The tower was built of mass concrete using cement and sand conveyed to the island and broken stone from the conglomerate rock of the island.
Three large stone cottages were erected for the keepers. Owing to the exposed positions they are surrounded by high stone walls. A wall also runs from the cottages to the lighthouse.
Conditions for the builders of the new light were most unfavourable as stated in From Dusk Till Dawn:
It goes on to say:
One construction worker was drowned when fishing off rocks. He could be seen for a long time as the tide carried him out but there was no way to reach and save him.
The South Solitary Lighthouse appears to be the first in New South Wales to use kerosene instead of colza oil. The mechanism was so satisfactory that it was not converted to automatic electric until 1975. Therefore the South Solitary Lighthouse was also the last kerosene operated light in New South Wales. It was then demanned.
Mechanics now fly to the island by helicopter each 3 months to carry out routine maintenance.
The lightstation was considered to be the most isolated Station on the New South Wales Coast as borne out by Lippingwell's report in 1938:
It seems that in the early days of the light stores and domestic supplies arrived by steamer from Sydney every fortnight (weather permitting.
Later South Solitary was supplied regularly (weather permitting), usually weekly or fortnightly, by launch from Coffs Harbour.
Because of the precipitous slopes of the island, supplies and humans had to be taken off the launch in a basket lowered by a crane from the landing stage. The drums of kerosene have to be unloaded and then hauled up the steep concrete path as with the other stores.
Until the 1950's there was no electricity, the light and the living quarters being lit by kerosene, and coal was used for household cooking and heating.
Pedal radio established in 1937 so the the keepers could communicate with Norah Head. This was later replaced by a Bendix radio which relieved the need for pedalling. Previously the only communication with the mainland was by signalling lamp or heliograph.
Beryl Royal, daughter of former headkeeper Jim Duncan tells a story she heard:
There is a little school house, a room, near the headkeeper's residence on the island. In the early days a governess was engaged by many of the keepers. Children of school age later received their education through correspondence.
The light has never been extinguished except for a few nights during the Second World War in May 1942, when several vessels were torpedoed with loss of life near the island by enemy submarines.
Verdi Schwinghammer, a local historian who wrote for the Grafton Examiner states:
"During the Second World War, an enemy submarine could have blown up the lighthouse and residences with one shell, but it was too valuable to them, to get their bearings and lay wait for vessels."
We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to Web Keeper.
Please include this lighthouse's name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.
Carting stores up from the jetty (1946)
Photograph Courtesy: Beryl Royal
|NEAREST TOWN:||Coffs Harbour|
|DISTANCE:||18 km (Coffs Harbour)|
|421 km (Sydney)|
Stores and personnel are raised from the launch to the jetty (1946)
Photograph Courtesy: Australian Women's Weekly
The Surrounding Area
|Ian Clifford's South & North Solitary Islands Trip Report||Bulletin Feb 00|
|Memories of Lighthouse Life by Beryl Royal||Bulletin Mar 00|
|Norah Head Lighthouse keeper - William Williams||Bulletin Apr 03|
|Lighthouse keepers in NSW - Josiah, Fred Sr, Fred Jr & Bill Warren||Bulletin Sep 03|
Aerial view of the South Solitary Lighthouse
Photograph: Winsome Bonham
Other South Solitary Sites
|South Solitary Island Lighthouse||NSW NPWS|
|Conservation Management & Cultural Tourism Plan (PDF file)||NSW NPWS|
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