Kingston to Adelaide by Car
All too soon, we had to leave Kingston and our friends. We were to travel to Adelaide in our little Ford, a journey of about four hours on the old Coorong road, and there was only one roadhouse, about halfway along. The car would go into storage until we came ashore again.
On board, we had the five children, the youngest a tiny baby; one case full of travelling clothes, a small supply of food and water which turned out to be nowhere near enough, and the children's five cats in a basket roped to the back of the car. The rest of our belongings were being shipped to Adelaide on the train.
It was a stinking hot day, and the car constantly broke down. The cats howled, and the children sat squashed together in the back seat squabbling and grizzling. The baby was on the floor between my feet. When we stopped, I dare not let the children out of the car in case Jim got it going again and we had to move off in a hurry. They became more and more restless, and their father got crosser and crosser. My supplies of food and water did not last long, and when we eventually reached the roadhouse, it was closed - until I knocked on the door of the attached dwelling. Since I was nursing the baby and needed fluids to maintain my milk supply, the owner took pity on us and opened up. I believe the trauma of the journey also caused my milk to dry up, so I was forced to wean the baby on Sunshine powdered milk. It was over a month before I was able to get baby formula or vitamins for her.
The journey took fourteen hours. We rolled up to our hotel in Port Adelaide in the middle of the night and it was closed - all the doors were locked. We woke the manager who, unimpressed, was not going to take us in because it was 'after hours'. When he saw the tired children tumble out of the car he relented.
Shipping out to Neptune Island
The next day we had an appointment at head office, during which we learned about the conditions of life on Neptune Island. The children of officers posted to Neptune Island had correspondence schooling, the Royal Flying Doctor Service was available for emergencies, and stores were taken out every two weeks by ship. In addition, there was no natural water on the island.
rugged and isolated South Neptune Island from the the air.
The keepers relied on the rainfall collected from the roofs of the three houses. There were often heavy downfalls, but not all the water could be used for drinking, cooking and washing. The island was constantly swept with sea spray, so the salt had to be washed from the roofs each time it rained, before it was allowed to run into the water tanks. Often the rain stopped before the roofs had been properly washed, so there was often no gain. Consequently, water was strictly rationed - each family was allowed 150 gallons a week, which sounded a lot to me because I had no idea how much water I used. You turn on a tap and the liquid pours out. In my inexperience, I told them we would manage all right.
Then we talked about supplies. We learned that we had to keep at least three months supply of food on hand, and we would need to get it in before the winter storms began; the supply ship Yandra was not able to anchor off the island if the seas were very rough. I sat in silence while the interview was concluded. We were then directed to the Central Supply Store where bulk provisions were dispatched to all the island lighthouses and the most remote homesteads and stations.
It was a dark, poky shop - no need to keep up an attractive appearance if most of the business comes via mail order. I knew nothing about bulk buying. I had no idea how much flour, sugar or butter I might use in three months, nor could I imagine all the other things I would need to have on hand to keep us fed. But the helpful staff produced a list, and I was soon ordering 20lb bags of flour for baking bread, 10lb bags of sugar, and tinned vegetables by the case. I remember having a vague worry about where to store all this, and was told the houses were equipped with galvanised bins to keep dry goods in, while the rest went into large cupboards or kerosene fridges. The storage bins were in the lounge room - convenient, if not very decorative. A bit too accessible for the children, who I caught several times playing in the flour bin, or happily dipping sticky fingers into the sugar.
The Yandra was a small coastal trader contracted by the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service to take provisions to the islands and ship the keepers' families to and from the light stations. Her regular run was a fortnightly trip along the South Australian coast to Streaky Bay and back to Port Adelaide. The ship was a lifeline to lighthouse families, for her visits provided the only social contact, apart from daily radio calls. Chatting with the crew was just as important to the isolated families as receiving the supplies of food, mail, newspapers, firewood, and when needed, fresh water.
We boarded the Yandra early one morning and the crew immediately made us feel at home. The voyage from Port Adelaide to Neptune Island would take about 24 hours. Our cabin was small but adequate, and an area on deck was made safe for the children to play in - the off-duty crew keeping them amused. We ate with the Captain, and I found myself settling down for a lazy trip.
The ship headed to the lighthouse on Althorpe Island (where the head keeper at Kingston had lost equipment from the flying fox). It was well after midnight when I felt the engines stop, so I went up on deck to see what was happening. The deck was floodlit and the crew were loading boxes and crates into large wicker baskets, which were hooked onto the flying fox and sent up into the darkness. Above me, a speck of light barely illuminated the landing platform. There was great bustle and noise; men shouting to each other amid the creaking of ropes, rattle of chains and the roar of the wind.
Althorpe Island rose as a sheer cliff straight out of the sea, its surface hidden in the darkness. The towering cliffs loomed 300' above us, a huge black mass beyond the ship's lights. I could well imagine the terrifying experience of being hauled up those cliffs in the flying fox. I had heard that it was not unusual for the rope to become tangled when buffeted by the high winds that often swept around the island, leaving the unfortunate occupant of the basket or sling hanging in mid-air above the boiling, rocky sea. I could also imagine the despair at seeing possessions crashing down into the sea below. How would my children react to being woken in the dead of night, placed in a basket and hauled up a cliff in the dark, to be lifted out by strangers? I was secretly glad we were not stationed on Althorpe.
Neptune Island lighthouse and cottages.
The next day I was on deck at dawn. It was a clear bright morning and a pearly haze rested on the calm sea. Some of the crew was already at work, stacking our baggage into piles ready for unloading at Neptune Island. "Morning luv, luverly day! We should get you ashore easily if this weather holds." The cheery greeting came from the cabin steward and general hand, Johnny, a friendly Liverpudlian who had taken charge of the children from the moment we had come aboard. He considered that I would need some rest before landing on Neptune; that I would have them under my feet soon enough. How right he was. He gave them a guided tour of the ship that they talked about for weeks afterwards. I thanked him and went back to leaning on the rail, watching the antics of the birds and keeping a lookout for our island.
South Neptune Tower.
We sailed past many small, rocky islands, some barely visible except when the sea made a ripple of foam as it passed over them. The whole area was a haven for sea birds - the isolated islands made ideal undisturbed nesting places. They swooped around the ship, screeching and calling to each other as if they resented our intrusion into their territory. Seals and walruses basked on the reef in the early morning sun.
Later that morning, we sipped tea on deck amid neat stacks of boxes and crates. We sailed past Thistle Island, and after rounding Wedge Island close enough to see sheep grazing on its steep craggy pastures, Neptune Island came into view. It lay as a deep purple shadow on a smooth silver-blue sea - such a beautiful sight.
Notice of Maatsuyker Meeting
Looking for Alfred Henry Stephens of Queenscliff
Looking for Jack Strothers late of Cliffy Island
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The Oxford Companion to Australian Jazz says about Judy Jacques
Her new CD 'Making Wings' is a collection of original compositions, augmented by several traditional songs, is inspired by the search into her own ancestral past as well as the rich history of the remarkable islands of Bass Strait.
Judy spent four wintery months on Flinders Island trying to find out and get the feel of her mysterious past, then using this to write songs of striking beauty and depth.
The result is her CD 'Making Wings', a collaboration with her musicians and special guests creates music that is hard to define. Careful listening will, however, reveal hints of art song, gospel, improvised soundscapes, and use of narrative through song and spoken text.
The CD includes several songs about the islands and her lighthouse heritage.
Captain Charles Christie Brown married Maria Jacques, Judy Jacques' Great Grandfather's sister.
The Browns married into Baudinet family also.
Thomas wrote the poem I found on Flinders, 'The Lightkeeper's Lament', which is included in the CD as a song.
Thomas wrote this poem aged 16 on Goose.
years later he and his best friend were drowned just off Flinders and
are buried on Inner Sister Island. I finally got across to Inner Sister
last May and found the grave. It was a very moving experience ... we're
going to restore the
The new CD is an appropriate follow up for her 1997 Lighthouse CD 'Going for a Song'.
As well a buying the 'Making Wings' CD from these concerts you can also order it at Judy's Website. It is a outstandingly beautiful production with a 28 page booklet.
The cost from Judy
is $30, but it is also available from Readings Carlton at
The CD will be
available overseas at a later date.
Stoic, isolated and highly visible, lighthouses are familiar landmarks all along the Australian coastline. For many people, their distinctive shape and remote locations seem to conjure a magic mix of romance and wonder.
The National Archives of Australia's latest exhibition, "Beacons By the Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses" looks at lighthouses from the inside and out.
Recalling the humorous, sad and sometimes tragic stories and experiences of those who lived on our lights it traces their history from the time of European colonisation through to automation.
With plans, letters, log books, photographs, paintings and films, it focuses on lighthouse architecture and design, their roles during war, the contribution of women to lighthouse service, shipwrecks, myths and technology.
Whether coming to Canberra for business or pleasure? Make sure you include a visit to the National Archives on your itinerary, especially if you're interested.
Much of the content is from the Archives own collection and includes such things as original plans, logbooks, letters, photographs and film. There's even a message conveyed by carrier pigeon!
It's not widely known but lighthouses and maritime issues were vital topics in discussions about trade and transportation between the colonies prior to Federation.
After 1901, one of the key areas of control transferred to the new Commonwealth of Australia was maritime navigation.
These days, technological advances in maritime navigation have improved to the point where all Australian lighthouses self-operate and no longer need the services of a vigilant live-in keeper.
Some have become iconic tourist attractions (like Byron Bay) and a few have even metamorphosed into unusual B&B accommodation.
After this the exhibition will then tour around the states giving all of us an opportunity to attend.
Peter Braid has informed us of the latest details of the proposed Cape Cleveland Reunion.
At this stage it looks like being held on Saturday the 26th of October.
Peter has spoken to the curator of the Townsville Maritime Museum and she has kindly offered the use of the facilities at the museum.
He has also spoken to the head ranger with National Parks and he is very keen on the idea as well as Steve Price, a local radio personality, and who is also very keen to help out.
Peter Braid can be contacted at 0417 600 221 and at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Peter Braid and his sister, Sharon Fielden grew up on Queensland lightstations including Cape Cleveland. Both members of Lighthouses of Australia. Sharon also sits on the Lighthouses of Australia Committee.
For the inaugural International Lighthouse Day, August 18th, Montague Island Tours joined with many other lighthouses around the planet in celebrating the role played by these unique structures in the safety of mariners for so many years and in so many unique locations.
Lighthouses have a certain attraction to landlubbers and sailors alike. It could be their reassuring presence in some of the remotest and most spectacular locations on the coast, or perhaps their stance in defiance of the elements, flashing out their signal as a welcome or as a warning to passing ships and nearby communities. It may be their unique architecture or perhaps their almost timeless form. Whatever, people are interested in them and keen to explore inside them as well as learn about their history.
Westwood at the bow of the "Dreamtime" as it approaches Montague
With this in mind, a boatload of Narooma district tourist business operators ventured out for a Montague Island Tour with the added bonus of climbing the spiral stairs to the balcony of the lighthouse itself, just as the keepers had done for more than a century.
"Great to get to the top!" and "What must it have been like to work a shift in the lantern room 100 years ago?" were just some of the comments.
Narooma Charters and the National Parks and Wildlife Service combined to present the promotional tour with the aim of familiarising the operators with the product and providing first-hand evidence of the quality of the experience offered to visitors to this area.
International Lighthouse Day itself was celebrated in true Aussie fashion with a sausage sizzle in the historic courtyard of one of the restored assistant keepers cottages.
seals are one of the main attractions on Montague Island.
Each year more than 6,000 tourists make the journey out to the Island, visiting the seals, observing the birds and, in season, interacting with whales as they pass on their migrations.
This lucky tour group enjoyed the company of a solo humpback who lolled around on the surface showing off flukes and fins for the clicking cameras. Perhaps it was a late whale heading north or hopefully the first of the southward migration, heralding the start of official whale watching in Narooma from mid-September to mid-November.
"Great tour, great experience," commented one local motelier from the bow as "Dreamtime" headed round the Island.
The more than 800 fur seals showed everyone why Montague is such a special place by casually sunbaking on the rocks just a few metres from the stern or by leaping and playing in the water alongside.
to the top at the Montague Lighthouse.
As the group neared the top of the Island, the guide related tales of the human side of the lighthouse construction and also the community of keepers who called Montague "home" over the years, keeping that light going from dusk till dawn every day of the year.
Head barbecuer, Mike Saunders, the resident NPWS Field Officer stationed on Montague reported "I've had phone calls from Green Cape and Smoky Cape Lights, which are also celebrating International Lighthouse Day today."
This is evidence that the network of the lights still exists despite increasing automation and de-manning around the world. Many lights are operating some kind of tourism venture whether it is accommodation or guided tours. Some are privatised and some are managed by relevant government agencies.
Thankfully, preservation for tomorrow is now the order of the day, when for a while it looked as though many would fall into disrepair.
It was agreed by all present that the trip was a great way to celebrate the first ever "International Lighthouse Day".
"I'm not going home" commented one local accommodation provider as the time for departure arrived. "I could live here forever. I wish I was a keeper."
ham radio operator at Emery Point Lighthouse in the Northern Territory
Once again last weekend 17/18 August saw amateur radio operators all around the world having a great time communicating with other lighthouses.
This year we had 316 lights activated in 45 countries. Australian amateurs worked from 25 lights.
Probably the most successful was the Summerland Amateur Radio Club which activated 7 lighthouses on the North NSW coast.
Details of the event and a list of entrants are on my web site at:
This event is really taking off in popularity in this country. 4 years ago we had 5 entrants only.
caravan and antennas set up at Cape Otway.
I have made sure that the NPWS people know about this event also and the PR which they are getting from it.
The boys at Otway have been asked to return next year by the lightstation managers as have quite a few others.
I have included some pics. It's a bit early yet but a lot of the entrants put pics on their web sites after a while. These are listed on the web page for the entrants at:
If you know of any news or event effecting an Australian Lighthouse please forward it to us so we can publish in the Monthly Bulletin.
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.
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While we are in the process of setting up secure payments, we request that you open one of the Printer Friendly Versions above, print the form, fill in your details and post with payment.
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Thanks to all the people who have put links to the site
Thanks to those who let me use their photos for thumbnails.
until the October 2002 Bulletin
The SEPTEMBER 02 BULLETIN was published on: 11/09/02
Lighthouses of Australia Web Site First Published: 3/12/97
Photographs & Contributions:
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