"Margaret, wake up! A ship has run aground!" Jim shook me and pulled at the blankets. I wondered if this was another of his practical jokes, or if he was just bored and looking for company. Ships just do not run aground. After all, we were on a light station, equipped with modern, well-serviced equipment. Even so, I sleepily wondered what the implications would be for us if there were a shipwreck whilst Jim was on duty - it was every lighthouse keeper's worst nightmare.
As I drifted back to sleep, Jim became frantic. "Get up. I'm not joking, I'm sure there is a wreck - you will be needed to help." I sat bolt upright and tried to gather my thoughts. Through the window, I could see the pearly, pre-dawn glow of a thick fog outside, and I prayed he had not let the light go out. I grabbed some warm clothes and ran through the dark house to the kitchen.
very unforgiving coastline that claimed the Yandra.
The fire was almost out. I knew we would need bread, whatever happened. As I fed kindling into the fire to arouse a blaze, I wondered when the supply ship was due, for our supplies were getting low. Where on earth had Jim gone? I waited and worried.
The head keeper's wife burst in, panic-stricken about her husband's reputation as head keeper. As she ranted, I tried to think what we needed to do. Common sense told me that we would need hot drinks, warm blankets, dry clothes and the medical kit if we had to care for survivors of a shipwreck. I lit the fires in the lounge and dining rooms, just in case. Outside, it was still dark and foggy.
The three keepers all came into the kitchen, very worried. The radio was not working; there was a lot of static, possibly weather interference. But they were sure they had heard distress calls from a ship. With no visibility or clear communications, we waited. One man monitored the radio while we looked out into the gloom for flares.
As dawn came, the
fog began to lift. Silently I prayed that we would not have a total
disaster to cope with. As soon as it was light enough, I climbed the
ridge behind the cottages. Visibility was still poor, but I could see
several small boats in the bay - fishermen and yachtsmen often anchored
there for shelter.
Hearing shouts from the jetty, I saw a group of men who I recognised as crewmen off the Yandra, walking up the track from the beach. Their ship had run aground in thick fog on the ocean side of the other island during the night, and they had abandoned the vessel with only the clothes they were wearing. But they were in good spirits and had suffered no serious injuries.
"We were all thrown out of our bunks when she hit. When we saw there was no hope we went to emergency stations." The second mate, Norm Griffin, in trying to launch the only useable lifeboat, had been bashed against the side of the ship as he hung from a rope. Hit by a huge wave and washed into the pounding surf, he was very bruised. The lifeboat was smashed, so a seaman, Ron Gifford, had leapt over the side with a line to rig up a breeches buoy to the shore. He was hurled against the rocks, injuring his back.
They had spent the night huddled together on the barren North Island, cold, wet and in a state of shock, not daring to move in the fog for fear of slipping on the rocks and injuring themselves further. After daybreak, they were rescued by a yachtsman who landed them at our jetty. As I led the group up to the cottages, I could see our rowing boat and a yacht returning to the North Island to pick up more men, and wondered where we would put them all.
The hierarchical protocol of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service prevailed - the head keeper's wife swiftly separated the survivors into groups - the ship's captain and officers went into her care, the second keeper got the engineers, and I got the deckhands and cook.
Yandra Survivors leaving to return to Adelaide.
We were lucky to have the lowest ranking crew billeted with us. The children already knew Johnny and he played with them and helped with their schoolwork. The cook took over the kitchen and produced an excellent meal from our limited stores, and they all waited on me, hand and foot. Having people to talk to was the best thing of all.
We sat outside, drank tea and talked about the Yandra. They could not fathom how we had not known they were in trouble. They had sent out distress signals, expecting help to arrive during the night. As for us, we could not comprehend how they had managed to hit the island. We knew the fog was thick, but not unusually so - the lighthouse beam could always be seen through it.
Then one of the crew saw goods from Yandra being transferred from one small boat to another in the bay, which told us the ship was being plundered. The men had left all their personal belongings on board: private diaries, watches, signet rings, radios and some expensive camera equipment. Our old friend Johnny, recently married, was particularly upset about his wedding ring on board and a collection tin full of money for the Children's Hospital. But an age-old superstition says that once sailors who abandon a shipwreck risk the very worst kind of bad luck if they return aboard.
The crew requested permission to row out to one of the small boat owners and ask them to fetch their belongings for them, but the head keeper said no. So, I took the men to the dangerous rocky channel that separated the islands, where they could get a view of the ship.
efforts to free the Yandra, she was abandoned
to the place that had claimed her.
We could clearly see the Yandra surrounded by several small craft; other boats were sailing away, obviously heavily laden. The men were very eager to jump over the seething channel of water and rush to the ship to prevent their possessions being stolen. While they discussed who would leap across, a huge wave rolled through and swamped the area, followed by several more large waves. Before anyone could attempt the hazardous crossing, an officer arrived and ordered everyone back to the cottage.
The sailors polished floors, washed dishes, chopped wood and cleaned the dunny while I sat in the sun and watched the head keeper's wife run herself ragged trying to impress the officers. With the Yandra out of action, we were concerned about our dwindling supplies and how long we would be expected to house the survivors. We then received a radio message confirming that a tug was steaming out from Port Adelaide to try to pull the Yandra off the rocks. On board was the Deputy Director of Navigation, Captain L.W.D.Taylor, who was to conduct an inquiry into the disaster.
However, the operation was unsuccessful and the tug returned to the mainland with the crew of the supply ship.
author Erika Johnson and her partner Alan having a "Sundowner"
in front of Quarters 1 on a rare and sunny day.
Over the last few evenings we have been treated to the rare experience of having weather suitable for us to sit outside on the western terrace and watch the sun sink below the horizon.
The absence of wind accentuates the continuous roar of the surf. Every now and again there is a loud thump as the waves hit the rocks over 200 feet below us.
To our south west we can hear the barking of the seals on the Needle Rocks. The cheeky Currawongs chortle at us from their vantage point on the eaves while Green Rosellas shriek 'tussick tussick', swooping below us.
The Shearwater rookery is strangely silent. The adult birds have left on their northern migration to the Bering Sea. Their chicks have to fend for themselves now and look pathetically comical as they stumble along, falling flat on their beaks as they try their wings.
The blue-grey mountains of the South West are sharply etched against a hazy sky of gold and blue.
Johnson and her partner Alan chose to live as volunteer caretakers on
this remote and isolated island for three and a half months.
As the sun finally kisses the horizon good-bye, a green flash says farewell to the day. As darkness descends, a myriad of twinkling stars pierce the velvet sky and later, the lights of the Aurora Australis arch across the southern horizon with its pulsating rays beaming up into the heavens.
We feel quite remote from the 'real' world, at one with nature and free from the hustle & bustle of 'civilisation'.
Our role as caretakers is almost over but the magic of Maatsuyker has woven its web.
Cottage as it is today. The caption on the Swan Island page has been
I noticed that you have a picture on the web site of Eliza's Cottage on Swan Island labelled "The former Swan Island head keepers cottage built in 1908."
In fact this house was built in 1850 and was the home of Charles Baudinet, the longest serving keeper on the island. Alterations & additions were carried out in 1908.
I think the most authoritative reference I have for dating Elizas Cottage is the Australian Construction Services Conservation Plan for Swan Island, published in December 1992.
Captain Malcolm Laing Smith of Flinders Island, on a visit in 1850, reported that work on the superintendents new two-story dwelling was well advanced.
The description of it as a two-story dwelling probably relates to the fact that it was built with a double-hipped roof with dormer windows.
With the completion of the new house, the original superintendents cottage, built in 1845, was turned into stores & quarters for the men. Until 1850 the men had been housed in an old weatherboard structure with blankets covering the roof, but some of them lived in the tower itself & the smoke from their fires was obscuring the lens.
Charles Chaulk Baudinet became head keeper in 1867. He had previously been a light keeper at Deal Island and met his future wife, Eliza, when she was shipwrecked on the island.
It is Eliza for whom the cottage is now named, as she died of dropsy mortification in the front room of the house on 21 February 1882.
Charles is reported to have demolished some shelving in the house to make her coffin and conducted the burial service himself. A grave stone with inscription marks her burial site in the dunes near the house.
Charles Baudinet married a second time and had a total of 25 years service on the island and seemed reluctant to retire.
A drawing in a booklet compiled by Irene Schaffer shows Elizas as it was in 1850.
A new Head Keepers house was built in 1907/08 and it was during this period that Elizas underwent additions and alterations. The plan of the house underwent a radical change and its external appearance is now much more like that of the 1907/08 Head Keepers house. However, evidence of the 1850 dormer windows can still be seen if you poke your head up through the man-hole and look into the ceiling space.
Grave on Swan Island.
I feel Eliza deserves a more comprehensive story but I hope that can come later. There's far more to tell that the snippets I told you.
I will do a follow-up
at a later stage as I feel it deserves greater
Unfortunately I have no photo of Eliza herself
The Baudinet family themselves originally came from France, escaping persecution about 1795.
Their story is more comprehensively told in "The Baudinette Story", written by another branch of the family now living in Victoria.
original 1850 Eliza's Cottage.
Thank you for the info regarding the local LoA group and Maatsuyker. We certainly need to keep our eye on things down there to make sure the Program is continued.
Thanks for a great web site and also for the Bulletin which I enjoyed reading.
Norah Head lighthouse - Harry Fisher
Looking for Priests, Keepers at Port Stephens
The Lighthouse Keepers Daughter
Looking for "A Big Country"s Maat Keepers, the Ikins
Looking for William Henry Stevens of Williamstown
Looking for Richardsons, Keepers of Low Head
Feel free to post any request, letters and notices here regarding research, events etc for any Australian Lighthouse on this notice board.
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Please eMail <Keeper>
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I must admit to having no idea what to expect, in fact no expectations of the opening or the exhibition.
ladies who were playing Grace
Darling and were dressed in period costume welcomed everyone and
set the atmosphere.
Upon arrival I was amazed at the number of people attending, and the formality but in a short time Brian and Jeanne Rogers, Averil Legg, Winsome Bowman, Richard Jermyn and myself had found one another and were busily looking out for any other members who had made the pilgrimage.
Kiernan of 'Cleanup
Australia' and yachting fame opened the exhibition.
Don Mickelborough and Dick Hammond who between them have sailed in 86 Sydney to Hobarts also provided reminiscences. But I don't think I have ever heard a mariner not remark on the comfort of seeing the reassuring flash of a lighthouse, and again this was echoed in their presentations.
The exhibition is as much about the human presence as the lighthouses themselves and to many is what makes lighthouses so special.
Beacons by the Sea features log books, letters, original plans, photographs, film and artifact from many lighthouses.
As David Gray from AMSA remarked to us the exhibition contains but a fraction of the preserved material available.
Walking around the exhibition you get a sense of the human presence and the social history attached to so many of our lighthouses, something that in reality is gone probably forever. You come to realise that keepers and their families led a unique lifestyle, especially in the early days, a very difficult life, which is reflected in the tragedy associated with some stations.
The exhibition is contained to one section of the archives, to my surprise after an hour and a half we all felt we would have to come back before the exhibition leaves to visit major towns and cities around Australia next year, something we will keep you posted on.
As you would expect we were the last to leave with our farewells said to the security guard we headed off for a late meal at Sammy's restaurant in Civic where lively discussion continued as all six of us are in different ways "hands on" when it comes to lighthouses.
The exhibition is a must see if you have any interest in lighthouses, if you have the opportunity to visit the National Archives do so, the address is Queen Victoria Terrace, Canberra.
The touring schedule for later next year is currently being planed.
Back row:Sharon Fielden, Barry Laver, Margot Laver, Pat McManus, Iris Woodhead, Roy Woodhead, Bob Mann, Jeanette Mann.
row: Margaret McManus, Irene Wedel, Ruth Gillingham, Bill Carter, Joan
McGorrey, Annette Thorogood, Peter Braid.
Lighthouses of Australia members Peter Braid and Sharon Fielden (nee Braid) held a display of photographs and memorabilia at the Townsville Maritime Museum on the 26th October.
The main focus was on Cape Cleveland Lighthouse although other lightstations were also featured.
The event was attended by ex lightkeepers Dave McKeown, Barry Laver and his wife Margot, Pat McManus and his wife Margaret , by the children and relatives of lightkeepers and people with a general interest in Cape Cleveland such as Bob and Jeanette Mann who have visited the Cape with the Amateur Radio club and Scout groups.
Braid in front of the Lighthouse Display.
The Carter family were on a variety of stations and lived at Cape Cleveland from 1938 to 1943. Four of the seven children attended the reunion, Ruth Gillingham from Townsville, Bill Carter from the Sunshine Coast, and Irene Wedel and Joan McGorrery from Brisbane. They brought photos and a wealth of information on Cape Cleveland 60 years ago.
Laver,Barry Laver and Roy Woodhead.
Roy and Iris Woodhead's uncle Charlie Woodhead was a well known lightkeeper and their family have a strong maritime history in the area.
John and Ken Sweet's father died in the service in the 60's.
Lighthouse Keeper, Dave McKeown.
Cape Cleveland is now in the care of National Parks and we're disappointed their representative did not attend as we are all interested in the future of this and other lightstations. A boat trip to the Cape could not be organized so we hope to achieve that at a later date.
The curator of the Maritime Museum has received a grant to open the Bay Rock Lighthouse and exhibit photos and information inside the tower. We were able to look inside the tiny lighthouse and most wanted to see if it held the wonderful smell of a lighthouse, something which can't be replicated with the structures that are replacing such a rich part of our history.
For some years now, my family and I have been privileged to be able to spend the October long-weekend (plus a few days either side) on Troubridge Island, staying in the cottage managed by Chris and Judy Johnson.
We have been returning each year since 1994, love the place, and find its history fascinating.
During our last stay, I was appalled to find that the light has actually been turned off as an economy measure (even though it is solar powered), and that the lighthouse itself is unlikely to receive any further maintenance (for the same reason apparently - no longer required, and nobody interested).
No government department appears to be prepared to accept responsibility for its upkeep. So, despite having lit the way for seafarers since 1856, and being a unique lighthouse (one of two of its type), it looks like being left to slowly rust away.
Shoal was featured on one of 4
lighthouse stamps at the very time it was being turned off!.
I intend writing to the newspapers about it, but am sufficiently pessimistic to believe that this is not likely to make any difference to the situation.
I find the whole situation totally unbelievable. It appears that whichever department is responsible is quite satisfied to surrender the facility to the elements.
South Neptune Lighthouse.
The audit found that all the cottages roofs had a high concentration of asbestos and some of the other buildings had asbestos too.
Ross Allen, from the Port Lincoln Office of Parks SA , says a maintenance inspection had revealed that asbestos products were now showing early signs of degrading or failure and may present a potential health and safety risk to visitors.
is now well-known to be a risk to human health and it is paramount that
we protect people from potential exposure to asbestos", Mr.
The declaration was made in the interest of public safety. Known users of the island have been notified in writing and and signage is in the process of being erected.
A permit is now required to land on the island and Steve Clarke of AMS informs me that this even applies the them when they wish to do maintenance on the light.
The island, 70 kilometres south of Port Lincoln, is a conservation park proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act to conserve a breeding colony of New Zealand fur-seals.
The island also houses a former lighthouse keeper's cottage and associated buildings which were constructed in the 1900's including the use of asbestos in the building materials.
Access is poor as the jetty is no longer there and the sea needs to be very quiet to make a beach landing.
Ross Allen informed me that it is their long term intention to clean the site up and once again lease the property out so there is the vital human presence to ensure upkeep the site and keep vandals at bay.
This however will be subject to an assessment of the work needed to rectify the problem and the availability of funding.
Windmill Point And Isle La Motte Lights (Vt) Relit
All of Vermont¹s Lake Champlain lighthouses were deactivated years ago, and some were replaced by modern automatic lights. But the Coast Guard has been working closely with the private owners of some of these historic properties, and now two of the Green Mountain State¹s beacons are shining again.
Windmill Point Lighthouse and keepers Cottage.
A lighthouse at Windmill Point in Alburg, Vermont, may have been established as early as 1830. A steel skeleton tower replaced the present 1858 limestone lighthouse in 1931. The present cast-iron lighthouse at Isle La Motte, about five miles south of Windmill Point, was built in 1880, and it was replaced by a skeleton tower with an automatic beacon in 1933. Once painted orange, the Isle la Motte Lighthouse long ago faded to a distinctive pinkish hue.
Isle la Motte Lighthouse and keepers Cottage.
Isle La Motte Light has been owned by the Clark family since 1949, and the same family has owned Windmill Point Light since 1963. In 2001 the Clarks were approached by the Coast Guard about the possibility of relighting their two lighthouses
On August 7, 2002, National Lighthouse Day, people gathered to see the light turned on at Windmill Point. For the first time in almost seven decades, Lake Champlain had a working lighthouse. Two months later, on the evening of October 5, 2002, the Isle La Motte Lighthouse returned to service at dusk, marking another historic day for the Clarks and the lighthouses of Lake Champlain. Attendance at the ceremony was estimated at more than 300.
The Coast Guard is now working with the owners in preparation for the relighting of three lighthouses on the New York side of the lake: Cumberland Head, Split Rock and Bluff Point (Valcour Island). My congratulations to the Coast Guard, and to Lockwood 'Lucky' Clarke, his son Rob, and everyone else responsible for this bright new day for Lake Champlain lighthouses. A more extensive story on these relightings will be in Lighthouse Digest magazine soon.
For more information:
Parks SA now has a website for the Cape Willoughby Lightstation located at:
The recently established World Lighthouses Society (WLS) now has it's own web site:
The site was created by well known British lighthouse enthusiast, Ken Trethewey.
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until the December 2002 Bulletin
The NOVEMBER 02 BULLETIN was published on: 24/11/02
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