|In this Issue|
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the May/June Bulletin, edition 3/2004.
This Bulletin begins with the final part of the story of my lighthouse travels around Sydney in 2001. In this section, we visit Cape Baily, Wollongong & Kiama lighthouses before returning home to Melbourne.
We relate the tragic story of three lighthouse keepers lost at sea from the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse in the 1960s.
Continuing our introductions to the LoA committee, we profile our Finance Officer, Pam Colenso.
The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in WA celebrated its centenary in April. The LoA Secretary, Pauline O'Brien was there to help celebrate and mark the significant occasion.
The connection between the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and the MV Cape Don was remembered at the centenary celebrations - some recent correspondence regarding the Cape Don restoration efforts is documented, as are details of the maintenance log recorded by the Saving the MV Cape Don Society during their recent working bees.
The Frederick Valentich/Cape Otway Lighthouse UFO story is well-known amongst UFO & lighthouse enthusiasts, and is to be the subject of an episode of the ABC's new History Detectives TV program to be screened later this year.
We congratulate LoA member Christian Bell, and ABC cameraman Paul Di Benedetto, for their recent award wins for their respective environmental and cinematography work.
The National Archives of Australia exhibition Beacons by the Sea is on the move again, this time to Port Pirie in South Australia.
The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (Queensland) reunion is being held in Brisbane in July, with all ex-keepers, families and other regulars invited.
International Lighthouse / Lightship Weekend, which coincides with International Lighthouse Day, is being held in August - details of participating lighthouses around Australia are listed.
The Maritime Museum of Tasmania is seeking assistance in developing a web-based research unit for schoolchildren, based on Tasmanian lighthouses
Lastly, we have a number of letters from readers seeking information about stonemasons who worked on the construction of the Gabo Island lighthouse. Another reader sought details about early telegraph communications between the Cape Otway lighthouse and Melbourne, and an enthusiastic reader is encouraging us all to nominate lighthouses for Australian Heritage listing & funding.
Enjoy reading this Bulletin, and if you are not a member of Lighthouses of Australia, and would like to be involved in preserving, promoting and protecting Australia's lighthouses, join now!
NSW Lighthouse trip - Part 3 - Cape Baily, Wollongong & Kiama
By Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
In August 2001, my sister and I visited Sydney and saw most of the lighthouses in Sydney Harbour and environs. Part 1 published in the February 2004 Bulletin covered the lights around Sydney Harbour. Part 2 published in the April 2004 Bulletin, documents our travels to see the Macquarie, Hornby and Barranjoey Lighthouses.
Part 3 concludes our story, where we had adventures visiting the Cape Baily Light, the Wollongong Lights, and Kiama Lighthouse.
The morning after having seen the magnificent Barranjoey Lighthouse, we farewelled our family, and headed south through Sydney, heading for Botany Bay, searching for the Cape Baily Lighthouse. The lighthouse was not marked on most maps, and on others was shown to be located in several slightly different places, so with only a rough idea where to go, we travelled through the Kurnell Peninsula, to a section of the Botany Bay National Park.
The Kurnell Peninsula plays an important role in modern Australian history, as Captain Cook's first landing on the east coast of Australia occurred here in 1770. The peninsula also includes the Towra Point Nature Reserve, an area of great cultural and natural heritage significance - it includes a wetland of international importance, declared a Ramsar site in 1984.
An overwhelming aspect of the peninsula is that it is heavily industrialised, with oil refineries, sand mining & sewerage treatment plants. The road to the lighthouse is located under one of the main flight paths into Sydney Airport, on the north side of Botany Bay, and passes by enormous oil tanks, factories, pipelines & smoke stacks. It is difficult to believe that it leads to a section of national park, ending in an industrial street, where there is a gate across the entrance into the park. There is a sealed walking track, with very few signs, that leads through the park and ends abruptly at a wide-open rocky space with high cliffs.
We saw evidence of suspected industrial and effluent pollution draining across the bare rock, and with some trepidation, we headed north across the barren landscape, close to the cliff edge. A bushfire had recently decimated the low, scrubby vegetation, and enormous black crows perched in the blackened branches of the trees, squawking. The experience was surreal. After walking for an hour along the rough, barely discernable track, we finally saw the lighthouse at the top of a hill and headed towards it through the scrub.
Facing the ocean, the views from the lighthouse were spectacular. Behind us, burnt bush with heavy industry in the background. The light tower is plain, and difficult to photograph from any other perspective than ground level. There was no other shelter from the sun and wind, and we did not want to stay any longer than necessary.
Rather than return to the car by the circuitous route way we had come, which had been difficult and unpleasant, we thought it might be quicker to go "as the crow flies" - cross-country through the bush. In hindsight, this was an unwise decision, as we were wearing unsuitable clothes for "bush-bashing", and we had no food or water.
Nevertheless, we headed off across the scrub-covered sand dunes in the direction of the car, crossing many sand dunes, only to find more beyond. The bush in places was so thick that we were forced many times to double back on our tracks to find a way through. Orientating ourselves to the sun, and observing the flight paths of planes using the airport, we kept going. We had crossed too many sand dunes to go back the way we had come. Under a wire fence, through long swampy grass with unknown creatures lurking beneath, over the top of low trees and bushes, we finally reached the road.
We checked ourselves for bad scratches and creepy-crawlies in our clothes, and then returned to our car to drink about a litre of water each and collapse, absolutely exhausted. The trek from the lighthouse to the car had taken about 2½ hours - some short cut! We found a motel in Cronulla and went to bed early, having learnt our lesson well.
The next morning we drove south past the Royal National Park, along the Illawarra Escarpment, stopping at each of the magnificent lookouts. The sky was getting overcast as we reached Wollongong. We had lunch sitting below the Wollongong Head Lighthouse, and then walked down past the cannons and gun pits on Flagstaff Hill to the harbour.
A storm was brewing - it was windy and the sky was getting dark. Waves were crashing up against the enormous bluestone rocks that have been placed against the breakwater - it was easy to imagine the seas being so big as to wash over it.
The Wollongong Harbour (Breakwater) Lighthouse was in the process of being restored - it had been painted on the outside, and it appeared that they were painting the inside. The door of the lighthouse was open, and piles of sandbags were stacked around the base of the tower, both on the inside and out, as scaffolding was being set up on the inside of the tower.
After spending some time trying to get a photograph of the lighthouse without the tradesmen's trucks and signs in view, we said goodbye to Wollongong, and went inland to visit the famous Minnamurra Rainforest, where we spent the afternoon in amongst the trees and ferns. Late afternoon we returned to the coast at Kiama, and sought out the lighthouse. We got to the lighthouse just on sunset, took a few photos and then found our motel for the night.
The storm clouds had continued to brew all day, and that night, 110km/h winds hit. The motel we were in, although a sturdy solid building, creaked and whistled as the gale blew, and we didn't sleep very well.
The next day dawned bright and clear, although still very windy. We returned to the lighthouse, which gleamed brilliant white in the morning sunshine. I took a few photos with the sunlight reflecting off the lantern room windows, and then we walked down to see the Kiama blowhole. Despite the strength of the wind, there was not a big swell running, so the blowhole wasn't as dramatic as we expected.
Kiama was our last lighthouse on this trip, so with one last look at the beautiful white tower surrounded by the low picket fence, we headed up the escarpment to the Jamberoo Lookout, which looks back over the valley to Kiama.
The winds at the lookout were so strong, small eucalypt trees were bent at a 45 degree angle. We drove north-west passing through Morton National Park, stopping at the magnificent Fitzroy Falls, before heading towards the Hume Highway, to return home to Melbourne.
The next instalment from my lighthouse travel diary tells the story of my holiday in January this year, when I toured around northern Tasmania, seeing 16 lighthouses (towers, beacons & relics) in two weeks. Another trip was Kangaroo Island and SE South Australia in 2002. These adventures will appear in future bulletins.
Lost lightkeepers at Cape Jaffa Lighthouse
Extract from "Cape Jaffa - Its Memorial to Seafarers, Fishermen and Lightkeepers" by John Nicholson
The three keepers stationed at Cape Jaffa lighthouse in 1966 were Phil Dent (Head Keeper), since 1964; Edwin Hubert Blavins, who had been there since July 1965; and relieving lightkeeper Alfred William Ashcroft who had arrived at Kingston in January 1966 to replace lightkeeper Jordan who transferred to the Cape Northumberland lighthouse.
The manning schedule had been the same for many years - the lighthouse was manned by two lightkeepers, with a third at the shore station. Each lightkeeper worked two weeks on the platform, then had one week on shore. A full watch was kept during the hours of darkness, each light keeper being on watch for half the night.
During their off-duty daylight hours, fishing was the main outdoor recreation available to the keepers, and it had long been the practice to use the lightstation boat for this purpose - a strongly constructed, white wooden dinghy about twelve foot long.
On Tuesday 8 March, the lighthouse logbook entries showed that Ashcroft had come off duty at midnight and was relieved by Blavins, who remained on duty until 0630 hrs. At 0900, Blavins made routine radio contact with the keepers' residence at Kingston and spoke to Mrs Dent, the wife of the head keeper. At 1140 hrs, radio contact was made with the lightkeeper at Neptune Island.
Around 1300 hrs, a fisherman named Max Rothall was returning to Cape Jaffa and stopped to pick up some pots he had set on the south edge of the Margaret Brock Reef. The sea was calm while he was at his pots, but he observed a big wave come in and break unexpectedly. It was a very close call and Max considered himself very lucky to have avoided the break. In his nine years of fishing the area he had rarely seen a sea build up as quickly in those conditions. He then headed for home and used the passage at the lighthouse to come inside the reef. Passing the lighthouse jetty around 1330 hrs he noticed that the dinghy was not there and that the crane hook was hanging just clear of the water, the position it would have been left in after the boat was lowered. He became concerned for the lightkeepers and looked about, but could see nothing of the dinghy or the men. By this time the sea was breaking heavily on the reef.
Rothall radioed Jim Osborne at Kingston, and he was asked to conduct a search. Shortly after, another fisherman, Ken Shurdington, came through the passage in the reef and the two men searched the immediate area. A fresh wind was blowing by this time but visibility was still good. Shurdington again radioed Safcol and reported the men missing. By 1500 hrs, a plane belonging to Robby's Cropdusting was in the air, and seven boats searched throughout the afternoon, without success.
When it became apparent that the lighthouse was unmanned, Phil Dent telephoned Foley, the keeper who was already in Kingston ready to take up his duty as assistant keeper to replace the relieving Ashcroft. Dent was visiting a sick relative in Elizabeth and told Foley to proceed to the lighthouse and get the light going. Foley had never been on this lighthouse before, so he took Dent's 18-year-old son with him, as the boy was familiar with lighthouse routine. They went out with Mr Gribble, a fisherman who had the contract to transport stores and lightkeepers to the lighthouse.
On arrival at 1900 hrs, a quick inspection of the lighthouse platform found nothing unusual, though the kerosene stove was burning low in the galley and the kettle boiled dry. It was normal practice to keep a kettle of water on the stove as it provided the only supply of hot water. He checked the rooms of the two missing men and found their inflatable life jackets. Head keeper Dent arrived back in Kingston shortly after dark and noticed that the Cape Jaffa light had been lit.
The air-and-sea search for the two missing men resumed all the next day. Dent went out to the lighthouse with the Police Aqualung Squad, but as the conditions were too rough they returned to shore. No trace of the missing men or dinghy was sighted during the day.
On Thursday, the Police Aqualung Squad searched under water in the vicinity of the lighthouse and the protected area known as the basin, where the lightkeepers usually fished. Head keeper Dent searched the sea with binoculars and sighted a line of pot buoys running north and south along the reef. After a lot of persuasion, the Aqualung Squad convinced Gribble to take them to this area in his boat. The area was extremely dangerous - the divers soon became exhausted due to the extreme roughness of the water and the strength of the tide. The long kelp hindered the divers, and underwater ledges and caves made the search so complicated that the constable in charge stated he would need at least sixty divers to make a thorough search of the likely spots.
The divers thought that if the missing lightkeepers had attempted to pull the pots in that area on 8 March with the weather conditions prevailing they would have most certainly have gotten into difficulties. They claimed the area was the most dangerous they had ever worked in. Sea and coastline searches were continued but it wasn't until Saturday 13 March that a Kingston fisherman found the lighthouse dinghy and outboard motor floating upside down about 8 miles to the west of Kingston jetty.
It was undamaged, but the oars and rowlocks, a floorboard, a box of fishing gear, the grapnel and fifteen fathoms of two-inch rope were missing. A piece of the frayed rope was still attached and the outboard propeller had fishing line wrapped around it. By this time, little hope was held for the missing men and the search was scaled down to just regular beach patrols.
Both men were considered good boatmen. Edwin Blavins, who was known to be particularly careful, had enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1939 and served till 1953. During the war, his ship was sunk and he survived 36 hours in the water before being picked up. Alfred Ashcroft joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1936, and for a time served on HMAS Sydney during the war.
An inquiry was held at Port Adelaide on 18 March 1966, to reconstruct events leading up to the disappearance of the two lightkeepers. The findings revealed that it was the practice of lightkeepers to listen into the Country Hour on radio station 5CL on Tuesdays, and they were always interested in the long-range weather forecast given between 1214 and 1225 hrs. The committee of inquiry was of the opinion that the two men heard the forecast and decided to hasten out and recover their craypots while the weather held.
This belief was reinforced by the fact that neither of the men went to their quarters to collect their life jackets before going to the boat, despite the Headkeeper's assurance that it was invariably their practice to wear life jackets when using the dinghy. It was assumed by the Committee that shortly after 1225, the lightkeepers lowered the boat from the jetty and headed for their pots. It was decided that there was little doubt that the boat was caught in the seas that rose with unusual suddenness, but doubt remained as to the exact circumstances. It also seemed certain that the outboard motor had been stopped through fouling of the screw by a fishing line that was kept in the boat, thus causing the boat to become wholly subject to a violent sea.
There was further evidence that the boat capsized and was anchored by the grapnel until the anchor rope frayed and then drifted out to sea. The Committee also felt that if this capsizing and anchoring took place, it would explain Max Rothall's inability to locate it in his search close to the lighthouse. A small white boat capsized in white broken water would have been difficult to see.
The conclusion was that the lightkeepers were in the vicinity of the line of pots on the seaward side of the reef and the dinghy was sucked in under the reef, thus drowning the men. This would explain the total absence of wreckage. Until a further strong change occurred, the tide or the kelp probably held the dinghy under.
A memorial service for the two lightkeepers was held at the Holy Trinity Church of England at Kingston on Saturday 26 March. The same day about noon the body of Edwin Blavins was found washed up at Little Dip beach, 10 miles south of Robe and about 25 miles from Cape Jaffa. He was buried in the Kingston cemetery on the Monday. Alfred Ashcroft's body was never recovered.
Edwin Blavins was married with four children and Alfred Ashcroft was single.
John's book can be purchased from the Kingston National Trust, Cape Jaffa Caravan Park or the Port Adelaide Maritime Museum, or directly from the author, for $10 plus $2 postage. Contact John Nicholson at 11 Watts Avenue, Millicent SA 5280.
LoA Inc Finance Officer
Born 1964, in Bendigo, Victoria.
My husband and I operate an accounting and financial planning practice in Geelong. I was aware of Malcolm Macdonald's involvement in the Lighthouses Project and had been receiving the Bulletin for a while before he approached me to be nominated as Finance Officer for the newly established LoA Inc.
My passion for lighthouses started soon after I moved to Geelong with my parents in 1976. My mother was studying and my father used to take us four children on drives to give her some study time in peace. Rain, hail or shine we would end up at Point Lonsdale lighthouse with a few hot potato cakes for a snack.
From that time, I was attracted to the structure of the lighthouse, its symbolism to safety and the fact that lighthouses are mostly located in places that experience extreme weather conditions. I love nothing more than standing at the base of Point Lonsdale lighthouse on a blustery day with the wind tearing at my clothes, tears rolling down my cheeks and a big grin on my face, hanging onto the handrail to stop me being blown over. My young daughter is now an avid fan too, and all family holidays are planned to include at least one lighthouse.
I have travelled all over Australia and overseas, but my favourite place on earth (and designated final resting place) is Point Lonsdale, close to the lighthouse.
Centenary Celebrations at Cape Naturaliste, Western Australia
By Pauline O'Brien, LoA Secretary
Leon Chidlow (custodian/chief guide of the lighthouse for the Busselton/Dunsborough Tourism Bureau) truly achieved his goal to "make it a day to remember" for the families and descendents of former lighthouse keepers who had served at Cape Naturaliste.
The grounds of the lightstation were open for the whole day. The second lighthouse keeper's cottage was used as a shopfront and museum, and the third lighthouse keeper's cottage (normally closed), was used to house various displays. Pauline O'Brien, LoA Inc. Secretary, and friends set up an information booth in the designated "Lighthouse Room", along with the wonderful collections of articles on the early lightkeepers and their families. Many locals and tourists to the area dropped in on the day for a look around.
Part of the LoA Inc. display was dedicated to the Saving the MV Cape Don Society. On display were the scanned images of Ralph Meakin's pre-1971 slides, including some of the MV Cape Don, which sparked some memories of what it meant to have the lighthouse tender call with supplies and to service the light. Many were interested to know that the MV Cape Don is the last of her line - rather than be scrapped, she is under the care of the MV Cape Don Society who have volunteers working on her restoration.
The CWA set up in the kitchen of the house, and did a roaring trade in delicious Devonshire teas and sandwiches. Pauline reports, "One older lady was just standing there watching them at work, when she turned to me and said, 'We lived in this house, and I am trying to imagine my mother standing at that stove cooking.' Two other ladies were overheard talking about when they lived in the same house (at separate times), and we learned that the "Whale Room" had been their bedroom with up to four children sleeping in the one room!"
Once within the grounds, it was only a gold coin donation for the opportunity to ascend the light tower for a great view over the ocean and the cape from the balcony, albeit without the normal fully guided and informative tour with a guide. No whales on show at this time of the year. It was grand chance to examine all of the paraphernalia of the interior of a working lighthouse.
There are only three WA lighthouses that are open to the public - Cape Leeuwin, Cape Naturaliste, and Vlamingh Head. It is a unique holiday experience to be able to go inside and up the stairway for a closer view of the ever-turning lens.
There was a stall with a variety of souvenirs up by the lighthouse itself, and extra activities for the day included olden-day favourites such as apple bobbing and the telling of ghost stories, alongside more modern activities such as face painting, helium balloons and a sausage sizzle.
There were also ex-keepers' family members and invited guests from as far away as the Eastern States. Dr Greg Feeney, the Head of AMSA in Canberra was there to speak at the formalities. It was great to meet John Ibbotson (author of Lighthouses of Australia - The End of an Era) who in his usual style was cramming in visits to as many lights as he could while he was in the West.
Hoping to get some sunrise shots, John's day started at 5.30am out at the Cape, but the weather was not very cooperative. It didn't rain, but there was a bit of wind and cloud about - normal lighthouse weather. By the time the official ceremony was to commence, there was a beautiful blue sky, even though the wind fairly whistled through the microphone during the speeches.
Representatives of the local Tourism Association spoke, and the granddaughter of Baird, an original keeper, read two heartfelt poems. Leon Chidlow acknowledged the wonderful team effort that had made the celebration possible, and Barry House, the local MLC, spoke movingly of how important the lighthouse, as a symbol of the region, has been to him and his family.
Alongside the cutting of the cake (it's not a birthday unless there is a cake) and singing Happy Birthday, the highlight of the day was replacing the time capsule, due to be opened again sometime in the future. The original time capsule had included coins and press clippings from the day that Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse was opened, and other items that were inserted when the capsule was opened again in the 1960s.
The Centenary celebrations provided a rare opportunity for people associated with the Lighthouse Service to come together and reminisce. Childhood acquaintances were rediscovered, old friendships renewed, and new connections made.
Many of the visitors came from families who had served at a number of different lightstations, and the overall mood of the day was that we not only preserve all our lighthouses, but also the entwined history of the families who spent part of their lives there.
Cape Naturaliste is a beautiful lighthouse in a glorious setting. If you are travelling down in the South West of WA, be sure to visit there.
Background history of Cape Naturaliste, and the other lighthouses of Western Australia, can be found via the following links:
For tour information and accommodation, contact:
The following is a series of correspondence between Pauline O'Brien, Secretary of LoA, Chris Nicholls from the Saving the MV Cape Don Society & Ian Clifford, Vice President of LoA
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Hello to Chris and all,
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse celebrated its Centenary on Sunday, 18 April 2004. Its original light-up date was 21 April 1904. On behalf of Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc), I set up a display in the "Lighthouse Room" in one of the unoccupied keepers' cottages, which included a small display about the MV Cape Don. Included was a small advertisement from Jim Redfern re a meeting to be held at the Swan Yacht Club in WA at 12 noon on 20 May for all previous crew and mechanics of the Cape Don.
I am sure you will all be pleased to know that it generated much discussion about the various "Cape" ships which supplied the various offshore lights. A daughter of one of the keepers remembered how she hated it when the Cape Otway would call into Eclipse Island. Seeing my puzzled look, she continued, "We had to chop wood for the next month, because all the firewood was delivered at once!"
I was even able to talk with someone who knew Ralph Meakins personally, and had sailed on the Cape Don with him. I am currently working on a collection of Ralph's slides of many of our WA offshore lights (all pre-1971), which his widow Maureen Cardew has loaned to me.
There is a ground swell of interest in our maritime history, possibly triggered by the passing of time, which adds some urgency to what I am going to do with all the photos, artefacts and memories I am accumulating. Every day, I am learning more about the Don, and my enjoyment is coming from a growing understanding of how she and her sister ships seem to be the essential element that linked the lights and the keepers and families together.
Dr Greg Feeney from AMSA in Canberra was present at the celebrations to speak in an official capacity, and he later said that he was very much aware of the distances to be travelled between lighthouses in WA. The occasion was planned to be a day for previous keepers and their families to gather, and it was wonderfully successful - everywhere you looked there were people talking and reminiscing about their time on the lights.
I read with envy of your wonderful working party weekends and can only wish that Fremantle were a little closer to Newcastle. My continued best wishes and congratulations to you all on what you have achieved so far.
Webmaster of Lighthouses of Western Australia
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Thank you Pauline for your wonderful e-mail and the support from LoA Inc.
It goes to show that there is such a great depth of feeling, support and fondness for the ships and the lighthouses which they served. Many ex-crew have told me they felt a strong ownership of the lighthouses. They speak with great pride of the work carried out and the service provided to the lights and their keepers. Great friendships flourished between the crews and the keeper families.
The restoration of the MV Cape Don is potentially a truly great maritime heritage project - it has moved beyond the little ship and moved out into the domain of a commemoration of the lighthouse and marine aid service, all the people involved and the Australian coastal shipping service over the span of its history. So much of this has disappeared now - replaced by modern technology, road transport and satellite technology. All the more reason to celebrate the history behind our great maritime heritage.
All the best,
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Sounds like a great weekend at Cape Naturaliste. I think the Naturaliste lens is one of the most spectacular in Australia, even more so because of its rotation speed. Incidentally, there is a great picture of the lens in From Dusk Till Dawn.
I have had the privilege of doing some work on the Don a couple of weeks ago. She is still at Waverton in Sydney while more work is done on her before being towed to Newcastle where the actual restoration will take place.
If anyone is interested, I have quite a library of photos of her alongside at Waverton.
Saving the MV Cape Don Society Working Bees
The MV Cape Don Society was founded to carry out the refurbishment and conservation of the historic Lighthouse Tender MV Cape Don as a part of the maritime history of Australia, in accordance with maritime heritage guidelines.
When restoration has been completed, the Society will maintain the MV Cape Don, and operate the vessel for fund-raising purposes, research, community assistance expeditions, and for the benefit of all Society members.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and expertise of a dedicated group of ship-lovers, much progress has been made on board the MV Cape Don in recent months. It also appears that there is a strong sense of comradery amongst the voluntary crew. Here are a few snippets from the maintenance log:
Most of the superstructure has been chipped, sanded, rust proofed, primed and painted. The hull is next. The engine room magicians have brought more machinery on line - the large compressor vibrates gently, making the whole ship feel alive...
The leaks in the high-pressure fire-fighting system are being repaired, and the pumps are working.
The ship's intercom/audio system and fire alarm system have been re-activated.
The generator, switchboard and hydraulic winches are working, so the anchors can now be raised and lowered. Future work will involve the pressure cleaning of the anchor chains and the raising and reseating of the starboard anchor, more painting, more welding repairs and some serious cleaning below decks.
Master mariners are offering sound advice, valuable first-hand experience from their time on Cape Class vessels, and their future services when the ship is ready for sea.
The ship's list has been corrected, the rats have been ousted, and the hot water system is about to be fixed. She is coming about. There will be many more happy scenes like when David Willenborg clambered aboard with a tea-chest full of chilli beef and beer, just when the workers thought the grub and grog had all run out...
Congratulations to everybody involved - the journey is as important as the destination.
Previous MV Cape Don articles
Edited by Malcolm Macdonald
At 1908 hrs on 21 February 1978, Frederick Valentich reportedly radioed Melbourne Flight Service saying: "Four bright....seems to me like landing lights....just passed over me. At least a 1000 feet above."
Frederick had just checked in with Steve Robey of the Melbourne Flight Service, six minutes after passing the Cape Otway Lightstation, and had received the all-clear for other air traffic in the area.
After about two minute he became more concerned and reported: "It's approaching now from due east, towards me....It seems to me that he's playing some sort of game...He's flying over me....It's not an aircraft, it's.....it's a long shape....cannot identify...the thing is just orbiting on top of me....it's got a green light and sort of metallic-like...it's all shiny on the outside."
One of the last things Frederick reported before he was interrupted by a strange, unidentified sound, at 1912 hrs was "Ah, Melbourne, that strange craft is hovering on top of me again...It's hovering and it's not an aircraft!"
Cape Otway was the last place Frederick and his hired Cessna 182 was seen before he vanished, never to be never heard of again.
Despite an extensive search, no wreckage was ever found.
The transcript of his final words has fascinated UFO research societies and sceptics, and is considered to be one of the most famous UFO stories in Australia.
Extensive UFO activity had been reported just days before the incident, with UFO reports coming from all over King Island. At one stage, a large light hovered to the west of Maatsuyker Island for nearly two hours, and power in the lighthouse keeper's residence failed for that time. Moving lights and daylight sightings were widely reported as far south as Hobart, with the incidence of sightings peaking on the day that Valentich disappeared.
Witnesses from Cape Otway told of strange green lights in the night sky. Roy Manifold photographed an object hurtling in a blur of speed and mist out of the ocean near Cape Otway lighthouse. The object appears in the last six pictures, which were taken at twenty second intervals.
Over 25 years later, Cape Otway Lightstation guide Peter Livesey, who still describes himself as a sceptic, says the story of Frederick Valentich is the most legitimate UFO story ever.
Peter, an avid star gazer, lives at Hordern Vale, to the north of Cape Otway. He has seen mysterious lights over the Otways several times, but says he is a "concrete evidence sort of a person" and wouldn't describe the lights he has witnessed as UFOs.
The last time he saw curious lights was on a clear night a fortnight ago. "I was looking up in the sky in a west south westerly direction and all of a sudden a flashing light came, and I'm talking high altitude," he said.
"This one glowed, retracted and glowed half a dozen times and then disappeared. If it was a plane you could have tracked it, and this wasn't a meteorite because it was too slow. Normally, you hear the engine of a jet, but not this time."
He remains unconvinced about extraterrestrial visitors. "Until there's one that crashes into the ground and little green men come out, I'm still a sceptic."
In 1978, Frederick's girlfriend, Rhonda Rushton, was sixteen. She was supposed to join him on the early evening flight along the Victorian coast and across to King Island, but got held up at work and was unable to phone Frederick. Rhonda now lives in Queensland.
Frederick's mother has dismissed UFO theories. Twenty-five years after her twenty-year-old son disappeared, she is convinced that he will return to the Italian family's suburban Melbourne home. Mrs Valentich said she would never sell up or allow the telephone number to be changed, in case Frederick can make contact. She waits in hope, believing that he is alive, but for some reason can't make it home.
Although Mrs Valentich says she has an open mind about UFOs and the existence of extraterrestrials, she doesn't believe they are responsible for her son's disappearance.
Widowed for the past four years, Mrs Valentich said she made regular pilgrimages to Cape Otway Lighthouse precinct, where a plaque has been erected for Frederick.
"I feel very strongly that Frederick is alive. When I go there I feel angry, really nervous, and I'm in a really bad mood; it's like I'm furious. And when I leave I have more strength to carry on," she said.
The story of Frederick's disappearance in 1978 is the subject of an episode of the ABC's new History Detectives program to be screened later this year.
Program producer Simon Target and history detective Christopher Zinn travelled from Sydney last week to interview Mrs Valentich and film at Cape Otway.
Mrs Valentich has granted ABC Television an interview in the hope it will help her son come home. The crew has also interviewed the Melbourne Airport flight service operator Steve Robey, who was the last person to speak with Frederick.
Program producer Simon Target said the case was fascinating and it was very strange that no physical evidence of the plane has ever washed up.
"I can't think of a rational reason for this to happen and I've studied it endlessly and spoken to lots of people," said Mr Target.
"This is one of the top 10 UFO stories around the world and the Valentich disappearance is a big part of UFO mythology and a great part of Australian history."
Mrs Valentich said she hoped the TV program would prompt someone to remember a vital piece of evidence or recognise Frederick.
Edited by Malcolm Macdonald from The Echo (18 Mar 2004) with material drawn from
The Adelaide Advertiser (29 Aug 1998),
Victorian UFO Research Society &
Edited by Steve Merson, LoA Editor
Lighthouses of Australia Inc member Christian Bell has won the Professor Harry Bloom Memorial Award, a notable environmental title awarded by the Tasmanian Government.
Christian Bell has worked in a selfless, tireless and focused manner for the past fifteen years to ensure the adequate reservation of two marine areas considered to be of state and national significance because of their biodiversity - the Kent Group in Bass Strait and Port Davey in Tasmania's south-west.
Working first as a volunteer and then as coordinator of the Marine and Coastal Community Network, he facilitated policy input into Tasmania's initial Marine Protected Areas and continued to mobilise community awareness, interest and input to ensure that other significant areas were appropriately reserved. His work has culminated in the recent decision to declare the Kent Group and Port Davey as Marine Protected Areas.
The Tasmanian Awards for Environmental Excellence recognise contributions to better environmental management in Tasmania. The winner in each category will, as part of the prize, be nominated into the relevant category of the national Banksia Awards. The Banksia Awards have been presented since 1989 and are widely recognised as Australia's most prestigious awards for environmental excellence.The Professor Harry Bloom Memorial Award is open to any individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the betterment of the Tasmanian environment. The individual must have made a sustained contribution to the protection or restoration of the environment and influenced understanding or appreciation of the environment in Tasmania.
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The ABC's Paul Di Benedetto has won a 'Golden Tripod Award' for his camera work on the television feature, "Big Country Revisited - Keepers of the Light", which featured John Cook, the lightkeeper (retired) from Bruny Island and Maatsuyker Island in Tasmania.
The 35th Australian Cinematographers Society awards were presented at a gala function held on Saturday 15 May 2004 at the Gold Coast Arts Centre, Surfers Paradise Queensland. Mr Di Benedetto won the award in the TV magazine section.
The Australian Cinematographers Society Awards for Cinematography are open to all current financial members of the Society. The State Awards are held in October/November each year with Gold winners progressing through to the National Awards for Cinematography.
The Golden Tripod is the highest award in each category, and only one Golden Tripod can be awarded in each category. The winners are then re-judged to determine the winner of the Milli Award for Australian Cinematographer of the Year.
Beacons by the Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses
by Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor, LoA
The Beacons By The Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses touring exhibition presented by the National Archives of Australia finishes its show at the Western Australian Museum in Kalgoorlie on 6 June 2004.
The next location is at the Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, where the exhibition will be on show from 19 June 2004 until 1 August 2004.
Structurally unique, romantic and intimately linked with Australia’s maritime heritage, lighthouses have maintained a strong hold over the imagination of many Australians. Designed to guide ships, they have become icons of safety and stability.
Developed by the National Archives of Australia, this exhibition of photos, architectural drawings, diaries, log books and oral histories documents the stories of lighthouse keepers and their families, and the dramatic events such as shipwrecks and rescues that took place around these majestic structures.
The exhibition dates are reproduced from the National Archives of Australia website below (all dates and locations are subject to review by the NAA):
Further dates and locations as previously indicated in the Bulletin have not been confirmed.
Previous Bulletin articles about the Beacons of the Sea Exhibition
The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Reunion (QLD) is coming round again. Ex-keepers, ships' crew, technicians, mechanics and families are invited to come along and enjoy a day together.
Muster at the 18ft Sailing Club, 63 McConnell St Bulimba in Brisbane
on Saturday 3 July 2004 from 12 noon.
For more information, call Bob Todkill on (07) 3399 6922.
RSVP by 14 June 2004
Over the past 6 years, The International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend (ILLW) has grown to involve over 350 lighthouses in 40 countries around the world participating in the event.
The event is always held on the 3rd full weekend in August and it now coincides on the Sunday with International Lighthouse Day.
The basic objective of the event is to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio, and to foster International goodwill.
International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend is organised and co-ordinated by Mike Dalrymple, GM4SUC, who also manages the ILLW website. The manager of the list of participating lighthouses is Kevin Mulcahy, VK2CE.
Australian lighthouses participating in ILLW include:
* ARLHS - Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society
School research project on Tasmanian Lighthouses
As part of their learning, it would be great if a class could email a question to someone who has been closely associated with one or more lighthouses, especially those in Tasmania; whether a former Keeper, a family member, or a Caretaker.
The range of research that the kids explore may include the maritime, architectural or social history, the environment and its preservation, the weather, the lifestyle, or future prospects such as tourism. Their discoveries will depend on the type of feedback that they receive.
Please contact Marianne if you are interested in assisting with this project. She will work with those who do respond to this request to ensure that the resulting "workload" is limited - please don't imagine that you will be inundated with lots of emails from a class all expecting an immediate reply.
Thanks. This is a worthwhile endeavour and the children will benefit from your involvement.
It is up to those of you who believe in the Preservation, Protection and Promotion of Australia's lighthouse heritage to throw your hat into the ring, whether it just be a financial member or direct involvement on the committee, web pages, the Bulletin or some other aspect that could enrich the site.
Application for Membership Form
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Sorry. We no longer take online applications.
Cheques must be in Australian Dollars.
How can you help
If you have or know of material that Lighthouses of Australia (LoA) could use, we would love to hear from you. Contact LoA with the details, or send us some feedback.
What you can help with is:
For more information about how you can help LoA, visit the How You Can Help page.
New Pages & Links
New Pages for Australia: None
Thanks to the following people for their help with this edition of the Bulletin:
Thanks to all the people who have put links to the site, and those who let LoA use their photos for thumbnails.
Past Bulletins: Past Monthly News, Preservation or Access Bulletins can be accessed from the Bulletin Index.
Contact Lighthouses of Australia Inc: Contact details for various queries to Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc).
Contact: Email Bulletin Editor
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