|In this Issue|
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to edition 2/2003 of the online Bulletin/Prism.
The process to publish the online Bulletin is still being settled, but at this stage the Bulletin is still a reproduction of the printed Prism newsletter.
Steve Merson has volunteered as LoA News/Story Manager, and has been inundated with a large amount of letters and other material. A publishing schedule for the Prism and the Bulletin will be determined shortly, and this will allow us to proceed so that the Bulletin becomes its own publication again, sourcing a greater amount of material that will fit into the Prism. This will also mean that the Bulletin will be published more frequently, possibly monthly as in the past.
I have received a large amount of feedback from readers of the last Bulletin. I want to thank everyone who has encouraged and commended me in taking on the onerous task of filling Malcolm's shoes in producing the Bulletin. It is extremely gratifying to find out that so many people rely on the news in the Bulletin to keep up-to-date and maintain their enthusiasm for lighthouses. The more people that are interested and read the Bulletin, the more there are to "preserve, protect and promote" our lighthouses.
A group of LoA members and members of the LoA committee met at Cape Schanck Lighthouse on Saturday 5 April 2003 for a casual BBQ lunch and get together. The group was offered a tour of the lighthouse and ample opportunity for photographs - I hope the group shots worked out!
I want to offer my thanks to all those concerned in organising the BBQ, as it was an excellent opportunity to put faces to names, and nut out a few strategies for publishing of future editions of the Bulletin/Prism. My sister and I stayed on until after dusk, waiting for the perfect shot of the lighthouse when the lantern first switches on. I took a number of photos, with a small crescent moon in the background, and the beam of the lantern heading over my head - one of the photos is at right.
Your comments and feedback regarding the Bulletin/Prism are welcomed - contact me by email.
If you have any lighthouse news or queries, email Steve Merson, LoA News/Story Manager.
Light is Out for Kangaroo Island’s Cape Willoughby
By Wren Lashmar
This historical lighthouse known as the Cape Willoughby Lightstation has under gone yet another change.
Located on the eastern end of Kangaroo Island at the entrance to Backstairs Passage, it was first lit on 16 January 1852, making it the first lighthouse in South Australia.
When first established, the optical apparatus consisted of revolving parabolic reflectors powered by a weight-driven motor. Fifteen multiple wick oil burner lamps provided the illumination. These wicks were normally trimmed every 2 hours.
1974 – Automation
2003 – The Light Switched Off
To the east and 8 miles offshore from Cape Willoughby are two small islands called The Pages. The south Page does have a beacon on it and was upgraded at the same time Willoughby was downgraded. The upgraded beacon is a Vega VRB-25, 12 V, 35 W with intensity of 67 018 candela giving a range of 19 nominal nautical miles. This light came from Snapper Point located 9 miles north-west of Cape Willoughby. Snapper Point will no longer have a light.
Guided tours still run through the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse every day except Christmas Day, so at least the public can view a Chance Brothers Prism and have an insight into lightkeeping as it was many years ago.
After 151 years of brilliant revolving beams, the "Tupperware" light with its minor flash, seems to have no character in comparison. How magical it used to be to stand on the balcony on a dark night and watch the beam of light revolving, lighting up the land and sea. What a sorry state it would be if all these historical lights were turned out completely.
Journal of a Trip to Kangaroo Island
Written in 1853 by William Anderson Cawthorne, the son of William Cook Cawthorne who was the first Head Keeper at Cape Willoughby. The person referred to as "Nat" in the story was Nat Thomas, the second keeper under W.C. Cawthorne. Though hard to believe, this is about the son’s trip to visit his father.
Having a couple of weeks to spare, I determined upon paying a visit to the Sturt Lighthouse at Cape Willoughby by means of a whale boat belonging to one of the old islanders Nat.
Nat was a perfect character; he had been 32 years on Kangaroo Island as a geologist. He is a compound of sailor, sealer, farmer, and wild man. He possesses all the resources of the sailor combined with the instincts of the aboriginal native. Nothing comes amiss to him in the way of eating, from a frying pan of young ants to a dish of grubs. For years he has lived upon wallaby and seals, never seeing the sight of flour.
Nat belongs to a large and respectable family and out of a large family but ran away to sea during the war, then went whaling, was wrecked on the island, got away to Sydney and went surveying under King. Then took up the life of an islander and sealing. Seals are rarely to be met with now on the rocks and islands of the coast, and Kangaroo Island at this time cannot boast of a kangaroo. They are all killed for their skins. The wallaby only remains.
Nat, like all the islanders, has rejoiced in the possession of a couple of our darker sisters for "gins", he has children and grandchildren, all fine healthy half-castes. Their usefulness in the boat in fishing, and all kinds of hunting, is not to be compensated by the white man; and hence their position.
MONDAY 13th December 1852
An intensely hot day. Up at half past 4, anxiously looking for a breeze. Nat still smoking on the sand hill.
In the evening the wind came from the eastward, and at sundown we finally started with an overloaded boat and nine souls, including two children. Night drew on and the wind freshened; we kept coasting along. About 1am wind lulled, a strong puff of the S.W. wind came tearing down upon us, took timely notice, and pulled in at "Hanroks" beach, about eight miles N of Yankalilla.
Very calm, had to pull, which went sorely against the grain with Nat.
At 5pm reached Rapid Bay. In passing the cliffs a very large niche is observable, and on it a huge white stalactite of such a form as to resemble a human skeleton.
On landing, the best thing we did was to kill a death adder, just where we were preparing for our evenings repat. Snakes abound in Rapid Bay, and I saw several before I left. Slept on the beach. After midnight, rain and thunder. I got soaked, and having come away without blankets, was all the worst for it.
Pouring rain, strong winds, no starting for the day.
Wind got more moderate; determined upon a start. Rounded the reef at Cape Jervis, not without some peril, as the tide rip is so great and so strong that it swept us towards the rock like a straw. Entered boat harbour. Boat Harbour contains neither wood nor water. Gathered a pot full of periwinkles for supper, and ate my last saveloy.
My bed consisted of a narrow rut, like a coffin that I exactly filled. I then pulled over me a borrowed blanket, a piece of old table covering, and then my coat for my shoulders; and to finish off, strewed the seaweed all over me. I am informed, on the authority of Nat, that wet seaweed is the warmest bed that can be slept in.
Rose a little after 4am. After a very scanty meal, mouldy bread and a pannikin of tea, commenced loading the boat. I then took the steer-oar, and we stood over to Cuttle-Fish Bay.
About 11 o’clock reached Antechamber Bay. On jumping ashore on the beach the boat had to be hauled over on skids into a salt creek, a distance of at least 300 yards, which was no joke on a hot day.
Half a mile brought us to the first hut, the house of Nat's son-in-law, here we found about 20 dogs, wallabies, parrots, "Old Wab" and "Long-Un", both natives of Van Diemens Land women, with Nat’s big daughter and a baby. Found a weather boarded house nice and clean. A salt lagoon is near the house, visited by hundreds of ducks, pelicans, geese and swans, and surrounded by marsh and scrub, filled with snakes.
After a ride of about 3 hours, the bullock dray brought us to the residence of the head light keeper on Cape Willoughby, midst a solitude profound, and about half a mile from the Lighthouse, whose grim aspect added little to the scenery in the way of beauty.
About midnight went to the Lighthouse to see the machinery wound up, the lamps trimmed, etc, and was much pleased with all I saw.
Strolled about, was duly cautioned about snakes, upwards of 120 of which were killed in the first year of the building of the Lighthouse. They were everywhere! Three dogs were killed by them just before I arrived. These with the hawks, guanas, and blowflies are the pests of the place. As the latter, they exceed credibility. The guanas came boldly and seized a chicken, and when caught will not release their bite.
Visited a bay on the S.E. coast. All around the Cape there are no sandy beaches, all round granite boulders. They are most tiresome to walk on. Found a great variety of sponges.
The country around is a dense carpet of matted grass. Saw the gigantic rollers that set in, which when they break, cause the very earth to vibrate.
Inspected the Lighthouse from top to bottom. Everything very clean and orderly. It is a huge circular pillar, built of large blocks of granite, and the facings of the door and windows of fine yellow sand stone. There are five flights of stairs containing 100 steps.
The light room is all iron and plate glass, in the centre of which stands a revolving iron stem containing 15 lamps, with parabolic reflectors. The stem is moved around at different rates, when required, by clockwork machinery. Five lamps form a group, and produce a concentrated flash of great brilliancy. Outside the light room is an iron railing, and at the panes of glass, at night time, thousands of insects of all kinds flutter and congregate together. There could not be a better place for an entomologist.
The Lighthouse stands on the very pitch of the Cape, exposed to all the fury of the elements. Massive as it is, the rain has managed to penetrate on one side so as to cause the walls to drip with dampness. This must be seen to before it becomes a serious matter. A coat of stucco, I believe, is the only remedy. The tanks also have given way, so that in the event of a drought of water, the nearest pool would be eight miles. The present distance is about a mile and a half, over a huge hill. Water is scarce at Kangaroo Island.
Started on a trip to Nat's, via Antechamber Bay, very squally and rain. Picked up two nautili. Was nearly bit by an ugly black snake. 50 yards further brought us upon another, which was killed, it measured 6 feet. Returned in the evening, having walked about 20 miles.
Dined on Cape Baron goose. Two of these creatures actually alighted near the head light keepers house and strove to get into the garden. He then went out, caught one by the leg, and shot the other. Very fine eating. Killed a snake at the hole where the water is obtained, he was eating small frogs.
Shot a fine eagle that had done sundry damage amongst the poultry. One of the keepers brought in a live guana and wallaby which he caught in the snares. Assisted in taking out some potatoes which grew very fine on Kangaroo Island, as well as all vegetables.
Went fishing on the rocks, caught a few leather jackets, rock fish and sweep. It is a rather dangerous employment as the seas run very high, and you rarely return without a good "ducking".
As the poor keepers have no regular communication with town, they are frequently very hard up for want of provisions. Salt meat, of course, is the staple article, varied with goat and pork when Nat can spare them. When I arrived, they were smoking hops for tobacco, and using roasted peas for coffee. Wallaby hunting and fishing require a great deal of time, more than they can spare and a bit of fresh mutton or beef would be a delicacy.
Christmas day-all hands in their best in honour of the day. Fowls and green peas, plum pudding, the fatted calf that had been treasured up for many a day. Long conversations upon Christmas past and Christmas future. Visited, in the company of the head light keeper, the light at midnight.
The day from Nat's came to take away our goods for the morrow, as we intended to start to Adelaide. Magnificent night, saw an eclipse of the moon.
Rose a little after 4p.m. Had breakfast, and started for the beach at Antechamber Bay, eight miles away. About 11, pushed off; fair wind until we reached the middle of the passage, when down came a roaring N.W. breeze, and we had to reef and run back for our lives. Landing in the afternoon. Had something to eat, and laid down on the beach with a skid for a pillow and tried to sleep.
Wind dead against us; walked down to the beach; a brig standing in, and anchored. Nat went off and secured a passage; was soon bundled on board. It was the "Phantom" from Melbourne, with about 90 diggers. Weighed anchor and beat up with a strong wind blowing, and rain. In the evening off Rapid Bay; the diggers very jolly; singing, recitations, and drinking, and a little fighting. Vessel infested with rats. A female one with little rats had her residence just under my ear, which rather prevented sleep.
The tug took us in tow early. A little after noon we bid adieu to the good brig Phantom and her kind captain. The last infliction was an additional shilling as the fare up to the Port-cart, because it was races!
The historical account as well as the photographs were provided by Wren Lashmar, the current manager and caretaker of Cape Willoughby Lightstation. This story has been heavily edited to fit the Prism and Bulletin formats. The original, much longer and colourful story, can be obtained from Wren Lasmar Email or the editor Denise Shultz Email.
The "Riverina" Pilgrimage
by Max Huxley
Christmas holidays [early 1940's] had arrived at last. Doug and I were released from the Eden State School where we had been held unwilling captives for the last few months. How wonderful it was to be freed from those dreaded lessons!
For some reason the mail boat has already left Eden for Gabo without us, but help came to us from Jean Becus, a young lady who ran a milk bar and billiard room in Imlay Street. Jean piled us into her little utility truck and drove us all the way to Mallacoota, so that we could still catch boat to the island from there.
After a long, bumpy ride along corrugated and dusty roads, we arrived at the Mallacoota Hotel, where we were to stay until the boat arrived in the morning of the next day.
We thanked Jean and as she headed back to Eden, we went to our room.
Next day, the hotel owner directed us to a landing place called Bastion Point, where we were supposed to be picked up by Eden Cole in his fishing boat, the Shamrock. The weather soon turned nasty and it was too dangerous for Eden to land. We had to walk back to the hotel to wait for the wind to die down.
It took three days for the wind to calm down to a breeze, and once again we headed for the Bastion Point. When we reached the landing, we were thrilled to see the Shamrock, but it was lurching up and down in big waves. Eden was keeping the boat well back from the breaking surf but we could still see our dad and a couple of R.A.N. men aboard with him.
Doug and I were dreading the rough trip to the island but the excitement of going home eased our fears somewhat. It was short lived though. As Eden circled Shamrock through the troughs and crests dad was waving his arms at as bellowing something. We could only hear fragments of what he yelled but in between the roar of the surf, we put together a message:…."Too rough to land" …"back to the hotel"… "tomorrow"…"telephone".
When Eden turned his boat around and headed back to Gabo it was clear to us that we were not going home this day and as a two crest fallen heaps of misery, Doug and I headed back toward the hotel. As if to prove the point, light drizzle soaked us before we got back there.
In the early afternoon the next day we got a phone call form our dad. The instructions called for us to get out things and start walking along the beach until we got to the wreck of the Riverina. We were to be picked up from there by a station dinghy. The wreck was at an angle where she made a good breakwater, making it the only possible place where a small boat could land in reasonable safety through heavy surf.
The hotel landlady made us a couple of bags of sandwiches and a large bottle of creamy soda and lemonade for us. Cheerfully, we grabbed our suitcases and were on our way. Two young ladies rowed us in a boat to the other side of Mallacoota Lake and set us on our way. One of them, Miss Mason, later become our teacher and the other, Jessie Bruce, boarded with us when we moved from Eden to Mallacoota.
With our suitcases, soft drinks and sandwich bags we started to scramble through the scrub towards the Ninety-Mile Beach. The sun was shining and the wind had died away. We took off our boots, stuffed our socks in them, tied the laces together and hung them around our necks.
It felt so good to feel such freedom, to breathe the warm salty air, to bury our feet in the warm sand, to know that we were going home at last. Groups of little dotterels took flight every time we got too near them, flying ahead, then landing again a little further away, their legs almost a blur as they darted about searching for food.
We chased the frothing edges of the waves as they slapped up onto the sand then back down the slope as they receded making a fizzing noise. We raced one another to some distant object washed up on the beach. It was usually a glass craypot float. Most of them were made of clear or green glass but the rarest and most treasured were the amber coloured ones.
We found bottles, cork floats and sometimes a fancy ship’s lightglobe. We began collecting some of these treasures but soon we had to abandon them for we had too much to carry already. Our suitcases were beginning to feel heavy and so were out thick glass drink bottles.
So, we sat down and ate our sandwiches and drank the soda and lemonade. When we finished our tucker we screwed the wooden stoppers back on the bottles and threw them into the sea wondering how long it would take them to drift to America or England. Pity we did not have either paper or pencil to write messages to put in them.
Having eaten our sandwiches and jettisoned the heavy bottles, we were on our way with lighter loads. Ahead we spotted a couple of shiny objects being nudged up the beach by the waves. We raced one another to see what they were, and when we got to them we found out they were our two bottles! They did not get very far. We threw them back into the sea and hot and puffing, we plodded on.
We had to push on, Doug remembered dad telling us it was nearly nine miles to the Riverina and he was afraid he would "go crook" if we were late. The cases were a nuisance and though we kept swapping them around, Doug finished up carrying the bigger suitcase most of the time, because he was bigger and stronger than I was.
We must have made a strange sight; two boys dressed in their best clothes walking along a vast empty beach with boots dangling around their necks. The wrecked Riverina was visible in the distance as just a small smudge and it looked very far away. We did not seem to be getting any closer to it either. The sun was getting low in the sky and the white mist created by endlessly crashing surf started to drift across the beach.
Suddenly we spotted in the distance three tiny black dots, which seemed to be moving towards us. One of the dots seemed to be getting bigger while the other two receded until they finally vanished. The lone black dot slowly turned into a man and as we closed in it, turned out to be our own dad. "What on Earth have you been doing, you should have been further than this" dad scolded us. He was not very pleased with our progress and we did not dare to tell him how we entertained ourselves along the way. We just blamed the heavy suitcase for our sluggishness.
Dad just took both suitcases from us and hurried us on. He was a bit over six feet tall and having very long legs he strode off while we scuffled behind him trying to keep up. We had to be quick, it was getting really dark and the tide was due to change any time. The other two men already turned back and were waiting for us with the boat.
Gradually the Riverina disappeared, swallowed up by the thickening mist and gathering darkness but now and then we could hear a muffled rumble. As we were closing up the strange sound was becoming louder. Then another sound came to us- human voices. "That you Cyril?" someone called. "Yes boys" dad replied, "here we are at last".
The three navy men stood beside the partly floating dinghy, its bow aground on the sand. At once I became aware of something huge and black looming out of the darkness nearby. It was the Riverina. Although she was a fairly small liner, the wreck looked gigantic to me as I stared up at her tall masts and funnel. Gigantic and scary!
Doug stepped in first and after manoeuvring his way between the three sailors already seated with their oars at ready, sat down on the stern seat. As dad kept hold of the bow rope, I got ready to board the dinghy too. I put my hand against the boats rusty plated side to steady myself for I was up to my thighs in water.
When I was about to jump in, there came the tremendous ‘thud’ and a loud rumble followed. The ship's side quivered under my hand as the big wave crashed through Riverina’s seaward side through a big hole that had been cut there to remove many of the fittings from the wreck many years ago.
Now all hell broke loose! The water pouring into the hull made everything movable sway back and forth, loose plating screeched and scraped, broken and dangling steam pipes banged and clattered. The air, forced out of the hundreds of holes, portholes and ventilators by the inrush of water made mournful, gasping, sighing sounds so scary that my hair stood in terror.
Something punched me in the back drenching me, it was a fat jet of water forced through a porthole way above me. I yelled with fright, shock and pain as the same wave surged around the ship’s stern, lifting and pushing the dinghy forward, where it thumped on my foot. "Stop panicking and get in", ordered Dad who was beginning to lose his patience as he leaped about trying to keep, the dinghy from turning side on. I finally scrambled into the unsteady rocking boat among a clutter of oars and sailors knees, grumbling to myself about my sore foot. I made my way to the stern and sat down next to my brother.
During the lull in the breakers, the three sailors dipped their oars into the water ready to row. As the men backed their oars dad pushed the half- floating dinghy off the sand turning her around at the same time. Now we were afloat, dad jumped in grabbed the fourth oar and cheerily yelled "Righto boys, heave! Heave! Heave!" We began to bounce through the surf surging around Riverina’s overhanging stern. A wave lifted us up and just as I started to envision us being crushed against the rusty plating, we dropped down towards the ships big, barnacle-encrusted rudder where I feared we would be smashed to pieces on its curved edge.
Before my petrified mind could decide which fate was in store for us, the rowers and the backwash shot us clear into a smooth, rolling swell. My spirits rose and I looked back at the wreck. The Riverina still looked beautiful in spite of her broken back. She was cracked almost in the middle so that her forward section tilted down. The seas swept across her forward hold, her forward mast sticking out of the water. At high tide her bow was under water but now it was clear showing all her deck machinery.
‘Cling, clang, clunk, clong’ echoed across the water. Wondering what could have made such a strange, almost musical noise, we looked for its cause. There, still attached to their angled steel cables high up on the forward mast and dangling just above the water were the four broken off ends of the ship’s derricks. Most of their wooden length’s being smashed years ago, every time a bigger wave hit the ship’s side and rolled across her forward hold, it struck the derrick’s ends sending them swinging out and around like kiddies on a maypole. When they crashed back on the hollow steel mast ‘clunk, clong, clang, cling’ they were playing a different tune with each wave that struck them.
As we were progressing further away, the wreck of Riverina stood out clearly this starry night with the sand dunes as a backdrop. Her tall masts, funnel ventilators, superstructure and elegant hull looked as if they would be there forever. Whenever the wave hit the Riverina, there was a scattering of glittering light as the water broke around her. It was a beautiful eerie sight. Phosphorescence sparkled as the oars splashed in and out of water glowing in the boat’s wake.
Soon, we were up against Gabo’s little jetty and there, waiting for us was our mother together with a couple of navy men carrying two hissing Tilley lamps. We clambered up the ladder at the end of the jetty thrilled to bits to be back on the island. While dad, the head keeper and the navy boys hoisted the boat we started walking along the track heading for the station. When we came over the hill, the wonderful sight of the lighthouse its strong clear beams sweeping around the star-lit sky opened before us, welcoming us back home once more.
From Poland to Australia – A European's View of Sydney Lighthouses
By Apoloniusz Lysejko, Poland
One of the most important organisations related to lighthouses today is IALA - the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouses Authorities. It was pleasure for me to take part in the XVth IALA Conference, which was held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre on Darling Harbour in Sydney in March 2002. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Australian equivalent of Trinity House or the Maritime Office in Poland, organised this conference. The Lighthouse Service of Australian Maritime Service is reflecting the global trend of de-manning and automating lighthouses.
The overviews of IALA activities was presented first. A wealth of topics was discussed. The overview of the Panel on Historic Lighthouses was presented by Larry Wilson (Canada). This presentation considered the activities of Advisory Panel on the Preservation of Historic Lighthouses from the previous IALA Conference held in Hamburg to the present. The conference was attended by 300 delegates from 51 countries. In the course of Conference I was able to meet delegates from the widely represented organisation and enjoy a very impressive hospitality of our AMSA colleagues.
During the Conference the book Lighthouses of Australia – Images from the End of an Era by John Ibbotson was launched. I had a talk with him and it was nice meeting a man who had the same hobby as me. Mr. Ibbotson suggested which ones of the 14 NSW lighthouses were close to Sydney and I could visit during my stay in Australia. They included Macquarie, Hornby, Norah Head and Kiama. We exchanged the books of lighthouses written by us. I also gave him other books about Polish Lighthouses for my friends in Australia. Two month later I received letters from Laurie Sharp and Ken Ohlson who informed me that, the books had opened a new window in their collections.
Although the sessions were all day long, like me, many delegates were able to visit or have a look at lighthouses in Sydney. I stayed for some time after the conference and during this time I was fortunate to get to know the New South Wales coast and its lighthouses.
My first trip was a drive down from Sydney to Kiama and Wollongong. I travelled with Ewa, my friend from Poland and Australian family that we visited. At the weekend of 9/10 March we set off early morning and after two-hour car journey south of Sydney we got to the spectacular coast line of the Illawarra. There is no more landmass east of this coast until you step ashore in New Zealand about 1000 nautical miles away, the ocean is enormous.
First we visited Kiama lighthouse. It was built in 1887 on the highest point of the peninsula, at the end of Terralong Street (the main street) in Kiama. The lighthouse is located on the edge of a car park. This brick round tower, 15 meter high, is cement-rendered on the outside and plastered on the inside.
At the end of peninsula is very amazing sight named Blowhole Point. The first recorded reference to it was by George Bass who anchored his whaleboat in the sheltered bay (now known as Kiama Harbour) on his voyage of coastal exploration on 6 December 1797.
The name Kiama is from the Aboriginal word KIARAM-A, to which some sources give the meaning "where the sea makes noise". A huge surge of water is forced through a tunnel of volcanic rock by southerly swells and gushes up through a natural hole in the roof of the tunnel. The large spray quite often exceeds the height of the nearby lighthouse, when the seas are running from the south-east.
Because of a mild wind on the day we were there, the spray was only about 3m high. The Blowhole is a favourite meeting place for visitors as well as the locals and over 300,000 people visit this interesting place each year. Saturday at Kiama was fabulous. Walking and resting took us nearly 2 hours before we started to continue our trip to Wollongong.
Half an hour's drive north from Kiama, Wollongong is accessible by road from Cliff Drive. As well as in Kiama, the weather was rainy and cloudy. The rain continued for the whole day and then the sun appeared from behind, quickly clearing up the clouds.
There are two lighthouses in Wollongong. Wollongong Head Lighthouse is bigger than the Breakwater Light. Wollongong Head is an elegant concrete tower 25m high with a third order Chance Brothers catadioptric lens on elevation 40 meters. This lighthouse was built in 1937 and was the first fully automatic flashing light in NSW. A temporary acetylene light had been used for the first year until the permanent electric light arrived and was installed in 1938. The Wollongong Head Lighthouse is located on a headland and is surrounded by old gun emplacements. Close to the city and beaches it is a favourite meeting place for visitors.
About 5 minute walk away is the Wollongong Harbour Breakwater Light. It was designed by Edward Moriarty and built in 1872. It was the first prefabricated wrought iron lighthouse constructed in NSW. The tower is 12m high. It was replaced in 1937 by the Wollongong Head light, although it was not turned off until 1947. In 1999, the program to repair the light was undertaken and it is now fully restored. It is also likely that the light will be relit for small boats entering the harbour. We were disappointed though of not being able to get inside either of the lighthouses.
After coming back home I met a retired officer of the Australian Navy and after I told him about my disappointment at not being able to get into the Kiama Lighthouse he organised for us to ring the Kiama Lighthouse Keeper. As a result, on the weekend 23/24 March I returned back to Kiama together with my Polish and Australian companions, to meet Grant Maizels, friend of my Australian hosts, and be shown over their immaculately kept lighthouse and compound. For the second time in Kiama, the sky was filled with very grey clouds and the day was rainy. My companions and I stood on the gallery and watched the rocks and the blowhole. It reminded me of my frequent visits to Hel Lighthouse in Poland which I can see from my window.
My next trip was a two-hour drive north from Sydney, to Norah Head Lighthouse at the weekend 16/17 March. On our way to Norah Head we saw a complex of paperbark fringed lakes that are a natural habitat for pelicans, sea eagles, kangaroos and koalas and other wild animals. The lighthouse lies within a Nature Reserve. I have seen some superb photographs of Norah Head lighthouse surrounded by a carpet of flowering bush. Unfortunately during my visit the land surrounding the lighthouse was dry dark grey-green and there were no flowers.
Norah Head is a magnificent sight from the sea. To get close to it on land is possible only on foot. There is a path leading to a viewing area below it, a roll plate from where stunning views of the lighthouse can be seen. Norah Head lighthouse is a 27 m high tower built in 1903 on the highest point of the peninsula. It was made from pre-cast concrete blocks and it is the last of James Barnet style lights.
Because these lighthouses were built at the same time they are quite similar and Norah Head looks much like Byron Bay and Point Perpendicular. It is a round tower topped with Chance Brothers 3,7 first order lantern and a 2-panel 700 mm second order catadioptric lens with an intensity of 1 million candelas. The white, green and red lights can be seen at 50, 15 and 13 km respectively.
I could climb up onto the lantern gallery and admire the optic through the glazing but, unfortunately, for safety reasons, could not do it from within the lantern. The original keepers' cottages surround the tower. The keepers’ quarters are close to the tower and are also built from pre-cast concrete block using local aggregate. These, together with the tower, are actually in excellent condition. The lighthouse and keepers’ quarters complex is painted in July’s honey colour. The whole area has become an important heritage and tourist site, as the lighthouse is accessible to the public.
A few days later, I went to visit Macquarie lighthouse, so this time our journey was to Sydney Bay. Sydney Bay was the site of an active aids to navigation. They were built to mark the entrance to Sydney. This is an area in which many ships have sailed so this coast is marked by significant land and water marks. One of the unique characteristics of Australian lighthouses, along the East Coast is their similarity to those of Britain.
The first beacon in Sydney was a fire in a tripod mounted at South Head. This unique beacon continued to be used until the first lighthouse was built.
The Macquarie light was the first light built in Australia. Its purpose was to enhance the ability of mariners to get an accurate fix and navigate safely into, or out of Jackson Harbour. It was commissioned by the governor, Major General Lachlan Macquarie without an approval from London. An architect Francis Greenway was appointed.
By 1878 the old tower had been held together by a series of iron bands and it was decided to build a completely new tower. The Outer South Head is marked by magnificent structure, built in the same style as the original. It is 26 metre high conical tower, elevated 105 metres, topped by a Chance Brothers 3,7 lantern which houses another magnificent 250 mm fourth order lens with double flashing panels with intensity of 800.000 candelas.
It was exhibited the first time in 1883. The gallery is ringed by the most glorious wrought iron railing, similar to those found on Kiama Lighthouse and Wollongong Harbour Light. The original keeper's cottages which surround the base of the tower are in excellent condition but the public is not allowed to visit this light-station.
Together with my companions we were standing at The Gap. It was a balmy 32 degrees, cooled by the sea breeze. From the Watson peninsula there is interesting view on the inner water and on Sydney with its Sydney Opera House, one of the world's greatest examples of 20th century architecture. South Head at Watsons Bay and North Head at Manly give spectacular views of Sydney Harbour - sailing boats, harbour cruisers, big ships, ferries and lighthouses all bathed in golden light and caressed by the sea breezes.
Generally speaking, lighthouses are open from Monday to Friday/Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and are usually closed on Sundays. If you are planning a visit, it is better to give a lighthouse a call before you set off just to check they are open.
I wanted to visit the Hornby Lighthouse, principally to view its light but there was no possibility to take a photo because of the South Head Military Reserve, so I didn't visit the light or take any photographs.
[Editor's note: When I visited in August 2001, I did not experience any difficulty in accessing or photographing the Hornby Lighthouse, although you are unable to access inside the lighthouse. Whilst the path to the lighthouse skirts around the edge of the Military Reserve, and there are military fortifications on the cliff edge in front of the lighthouse, according to the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service website, the "lighthouse can be reached by a pleasant stroll along the South Head Heritage Trail through Sydney Harbour National Park, starting at Camp Cove." Visitors may want to confirm that this is still the case by contacting the Sydney Harbour National Park information centre on (02) 9247 5033.]
My final tour it was a trip from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo. From the ferry which took us to Taronga we could see Denison (originally Rocky) Island on which was built a fort in the mid of 1800's. There are two lights on the small island. One at the northern end and the main tower, which is marked by white light although it used to be red. The southern end of the fort is also marked by a small green light. Fort Denison and the lighthouse are open to the public with ferry visiting daily from Circular Quay.
Andrew and the keepers that I met were very proud of their stations and very positive about them being open to the general public. They all had plans to make their own stations as very ‘people friendly' and interesting to visit.
Update on Althorpe Island
by John Lawley
The friends of Althorpe Island have been quite active in caring for the historic infrastructure as well as the environment.
The three former lightkeepers cottages have been re-roofed and connected with new water reticulation. DEH provided a grant for a solar energy power system, while the friends loaned or donated solar water heating panels.
There has been a considerable effort put in removing Lycium ferrocisimum (African boxthorn) which had spread extensively over the island. This job was a bit too much for the friends alone so the Department of Correctional Services assisted us with three visits by inmates from Operation Challenge at Cadell Training Centre. Groups from the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers chipped in as well. There is still about 1000 boxthorn to deal with plus new seedlings and regeneration (it’s a determined weed) but the friends hope to be able to control the beast in the future. We have been targeting other weeds such as Lavatera arborea (tree mallow), Fleabane and Parsley as well.
There have been several vegetation surveys done over the years but we found that Planning SA had developed a system that could be placed in a data base and made available on the internet. We obtained a couple of grants from the Native Vegetation Council and completed surveys on Althorpe and South Neptune Islands. Interestingly, we found on Althorpe, a New Zealand grass (Elymus multiflora) that has never been recorded before anywhere in South Australia. The data from South Neptune Island (about 35 NM distance from Althorpe Island) provided comparative information as well as being an interesting place to visit.
We are maintaining the equipment on Althorpe including the last operational diesel winch in Australia, flying fox and the Holder tractor, which we use to haul gear from the cliff top flying fox platform to the houses. Our jetty is getting frail and funding is being sought to preserve it especially since our flying fox goes to the end of it.
The feral cats have been hunted over the last few years and may have been eradicated bar one wily tom. We are now looking at the possibility (in cooperation with NPWS) of making the island available to a threatened native animal or two.
If you are interested in supporting or
becoming involved with our volunteer group, the contact is:
Update on Deal Island
By Stuart Dudgeon (with Georgie, Aidan,
Hugh and Evie)
One month in and we are well and truly entrenched in the pace of life of the Kent Group. My wife Georgie and three children are now well settled and not wanting to think about this experience ending.
We have had a regular stream of visitors with six sea kayakers spending a total of 15 nights between them in the Kent Group. One lot were thoroughly organised, with good communication and a cautious approach to the wilds of Bass Strait. The other two were a little less convincing in their approach to tides, weather etc.
Whilst arriving with high expectations of achieving loads while here, the family, and the need for continual tinkering has gradually brought me back to reality. I bought a second hand tow mower for behind the bike, which after a few teething problems is proving quite successful. I have mowed a reasonably wide track (firebreak 3 m wide) all the way to Garden Cove as well as most of the old airstrip, and am half way to Winter Cove with a bike width track. This will hopefully protect against a fire being started by the bike. Dallas and Shirley, the previous caretakers, did a power of work and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge the place offers. With their work contacts their diary notes were heading around the world.
The water supply improvements have been very successful with gravity fed water providing 24 hours hot water to both houses and when running the firepump we now have pressurised fire hydrants again. It has a down side though as water levels are getting low. I've refitted the starter motor to the lighthouse generator, which is running well and starting off the batteries. We have used the Honda generator (backup power supply) on a few occasions to power the houses which is adequate but doesn't produce the power of the Lister. We removed and repaired the big tank covers in the hope of getting a few more years out of them. I also put new protection around the concrete top and set up an external level measure so people don't have to take the covers off.
The project to clear out all the table and cross drains on the lighthouse track remains a priority and I will be working on that again after the mowing. Georgie has put some time in on the Euphorbia at Garden Cove, East Cove Road and checking Winter Cove.
On the social side, our little girl had her third birthday on Sunday and managed to have two yachties come to the party. Our twin boys are snorkelling along the edge of East Cove and having a great time. Georgie finished the last of the immediate painting needs by doing the sunroom frame top coats. Dallas and Shirley painted anything and everything including the jetty shed, the fire hydrants, bird baths, the new fire pump enclosure and new outdoor setting, the navigation markers and even the front fence.
Dallas also removed all the poa grass out of the larger enclosure, and did a very professional job sign writing all the walking track signs.
All in all, the place is looking great. Thanks everyone for the past efforts, we are doing our best to keep up the momentum.
PS – A group came out from Devonport two days ago. They had a mechanic with them who was very happy to pull the head of our little genny and replace all those leaky gaskets for two cups of tea and a batch of scones. All is now degreased and we can look forward to a thousand or two hours of drip free power.
Centenary of Norah Head Lighthouse
A workshop of interested parties is being held to coordinate the celebrations for the Centenary of the Norah Head Lighthouse.
For more information, contact:
For further information about the painting above, contact the artist at Fool In The Hill Art Gallery, 16 Beach Road, Currie, King Island, Tasmania 7256 or Email Fool In The Hill Gallery.
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.
The memberships and costs are as follows:
Other groups/bodies with an interest in Lighthouses:
Application for Membership Form
Past Bulletins: Past Monthly News, Preservation or Access Bulletins can be accessed from the Bulletins Index.
Contact Lighthouses of Australia Inc: Contact details for various queries to Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc).
Contact: Bulletin Editor
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