|In this Issue|
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the September Bulletin, edition 5/2003.
This edition is a little late due to family illness, but it has meant we have been able to include some last minute news about Deal Island and Jarman Island.
In this issue, we conclude the story of Annette Flotwell's east coast lighthouse trip photographing our lighthouses for her lighthouse calendar, Lighthouses of Australia. Her journey continues southward from the Clarence River Lighthouse at Yamba in northern NSW to Burrewarra Point Lighthouse in southern NSW. I would like to thank Annette for providing LoA with such a great story and fabulous photographs.
We have reprinted a fascinating story titled "The Golden Age of Australian Lighthouses", which originally appeared in a booklet titled "The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service - Its Formation and Early Development". The seven years between 1913 and 1920 can be termed the Golden Age of Australian lighthouses, due to the amount of building and expenditure on lighthouses during this time.
Continuing our profiling of Lighthouses of Australia Inc committee members, we meet Denise Shultz, our enthusiastic and tireless President. Denise did not even see her first lighthouse until she was fourteen - and fell in love with them after seeing Cape Otway Lighthouse in Victoria.
In Australian News, we have an update of the condition of the Deal Island lighthouse tower. The tower has been slowly deteriorating since being deactivated in 1992, although many concerned groups, including Friends of the Kent Group National Park, Wildcare and the Marine & Coastal Community Network, are working together to preserve this light.
We also have fantastic news from WA, where The Shire of Roebourne has been awarded a $75,000 grant under the Australian Government's Regional Tourism Program to conserve and restore the 19th century Jarman Island Lighthouse.
John Ibbotson, author & photographer of "Lighthouses of Australia: Images from the End of an Era" is publishing another book, this time titled "Lighthouses of Australia - A Visitor's Guide". This will be a glovebox guide to 150 of Australia's 'classic' lighthouses, with photos, maps, and information on how to get there, services available, cost, contact information and accommodation details. Iím sure all lighthouse enthusiasts will be eagerly awaiting this latest addition to the limited bibliography of Australian lighthouse books.
We also review the lighthouse-themed novel "The Alphabet of Light and Dark" - this year's winner of the prestigious Vogel Literary Award for the best novel by a young Australian unpublished author, written by Danielle Wood. The Cape Bruny Light, at the southern tip of Bruny Island off Tasmania's south-east coast, is the pivotal setting of this book.
In Notices, we advise that the Macquarie Lighthouse in Sydney, Australiaís first lighthouse, is now open to the public every second month on a weekend day. Tours are conducted by volunteers from the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, and access is limited and by appointment only.
The Beacons by the Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses touring exhibition being run by the National Archives of Australia is now on show at the SA Maritime Museum. This exhibition, which includes architectural drawings, photographs and logbooks, began in Canberra in October 2002, and is open at the SA Maritime Museum until 23 November 2003. The tour continues throughout Australia until 2006.
LoA member, well-known artist, and former Royal Australian Navy officer, Dacre Smyth, author of "The Lighthouses of Victoria", is launching a new book, "Australia from the Sea" at an exhibition in Melbourne in early October. Paintings will also be on sale.
We also have a number of letters from readers discussing their family's long histories over many generations working as lighthouse keepers at Australian lighthouses. One reader describes how they inadvertently became a lighthouse keeper for a night at the age of 16, when no one else was available!
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!
Annette Flotwell's East Coast Lighthouse Trip: Part 3
We continue the story of Annette Flotwell's travels around Australia photographing our lighthouses for her lighthouse calendar, Lighthouses of Australia, published in the USA.
The Golden Age of Australian Lighthouses
The Golden Age of Australian Lighthouses originally appeared in print in a booklet titled "The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (CLS) - Its Formation and Early Development" by Michael B. Komesaroff, a Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (Victorian Region) lighthouse engineer. The article is re-printed from The Victorian Historical Journal, Vol 48 No 2 May 1977. Further excerpts from the Victorian Historical Journal, regarding the Lightkeepers and Lighthouse vessels will appear in the next two editions of the Bulletin.
The seven years between 1913 and 1920 might be termed the Golden Age of Australian lighthouses. When the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service was officially formed on the 1st July 1915, it inherited a legacy of many years of colonial and early State government neglect. With the increase in the number of deep draught steam vessels plying the coast, there was also an increasing need for additional lights.
Despite the preoccupation of being at war, limited funds and inadequate lighthouse supply vessels, many important and urgently needed lights were built during this period. Most of this work involved the use of the latest engineering techniques - the construction of the unattended Great Barrier Reef lights was unique at the time, with the large structures built over exposed coral and sand cays. Many unattended lights were converted to acetylene.
The Commonwealth spent a total of £239,345 constructing and improving ocean lighthouses. The greatest volume of work was undertaken in Queensland, where £119,073 was spent. Seven new unattended lighthouses were built north of Cooktown on the Great Barrier Reef. Ridgway and Hood surveyed these sites in 1914 and Ridgway designed the foundations and supervised some of the early site work. Stewart, Wood and then Mehaffey completed the actual construction.
These northern lights were built over a number of seasons between 1914 and 1918, as the work was interrupted by cyclones. Working conditions were arduous and lonely. Floating plant for the project consisted of the Forbes Bros - a 70-ton sailing ketch, the Roogana - also a sailing ketch, a launch and three 30 ft surfboats. No natural stone was available in that region, so the Roogana transported it from Cairns. The Forbes Bros brought clean river sand and water from the mouths of creeks on the mainland.
Both vessels anchored a safe distance from the reef and discharged their cargoes into the surfboats, which were then towed by launch to the works site. Workmen camped on the nearest habitable islet and were taken to the site each day in the launch. White labour was used throughout the construction and the rates of pay varied between twelve shillings a day for a cook and labourer to one pound a day for the foreman.
To assist in the approaches to the western entrance of Torres Strait, an unattended light vessel was established at Merkara Shoal. A similar vessel was used at Breaksea Spit in 1918. Designed by David A. Stevenson, Engineer to the Scottish Light Board, both vessels were constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard in 1916.
By far the largest project undertaken was the construction of a major manned lighthouse at Cape Don in the Northern Territory. To avoid the cyclones, this light was built over three eight-month work seasons and supervised by Jackson. Again, working conditions were arduous and lonely.
The Alcairo was used to ship all materials from Darwin - a distance of 105 miles. Because of mangrove swamp and coral outcrops, a small jetty was built to land stores and materials. A two-mile railway track was cleared through the bush from the landing to the work site. Flat-top steel trucks driven by genuine four-legged horsepower took two hours to travel the distance. The construction gang employed on the tower consisted of a foreman, two engine drivers/fitters and seven labourers. The labourers were paid one shilling and nine pence an hour, the fitters two shillings and threepence, and the foreman received one penny an hour more than the fitters.
Other works in the far north included six new buoys for Clarence Strait (N.T.) and new lights at Emery Point (N.T.) and Escape Island (W.A.).
Over £36,000 was spent in District No 3 (Victoria). While most of this work was completed in 1920, the most important projects were undertaken in 1913. In May 1913, Wallach completed the supervision of alterations to the Wilsons Promontory Light. The total cost of this project was £1,930, and this was the first money expended by the Commonwealth in the alteration of a lighthouse.
The first lighthouse built with Commonwealth funds was Citadel Island, which was first lit on 13 November 1913. If, because of the existence of a watchman, Citadel Island is classified as a manned light, then the lighting of Cape Liptrap on 17 November 1913 was the first fully automatic light financed by the Commonwealth. Jackson supervised the site works for both these projects.
Apart from a new buoy at Yatala Shoal, work in South Australia was limited to minor alterations of existing lights.
Lights built during the "Golden Age" of Lighthouses
By 1920, the Golden Age was ending. Many of the urgently needed lights and modifications recommended by the naval surveyor (Commander Brewis R.N. Retired) had been completed. Brewis had been commissioned by the Commonwealth Government in 1909 to report on the condition of the existing lights and recommend any additional ones.
Detailed work programmes and procedures were established. When compared with the programmes of the present day lighthouse service, the work completed in these years is significant. Many new engineering procedures and applications were introduced. When it is considered that this work was completed under wartime restrictions, it is truly monumental. Perhaps those that go down to the sea and marvel at the fascination of lighthouses will spare a thought for those who pioneered the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service.
Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Gail Higginbotham and wife, Sandra, for typing the manuscript. Mr Greg Jones drew a map that does not appear here. The author is also indebted to Dr Stephen Murray-Smith for much helpful advice. However, the author accepts responsibility for any errors that may be found.
LoA Committee member profile - Denise Shultz, President
Born in the mid-fifties in a landlocked country formerly known as Czechoslovakia, I was fourteen years old before I saw the sea.
My very first experience of a flat horizon uninterrupted by hills or houses was from the end of a wharf in the Port of Varna, on the Black Sea. I remember walking down to my first "lighthouse" and listening to the switch inside the flashing beacon at the end of the breakwater, watching the ships passing out to sea.
Later, I became a chemical engineer, specialising in water technology and environment. My hobbies were mountain climbing and dog training.
I met my husband Paul at university and we came to Australia together. A trip along the west coast of Victoria in 1983 introduced me to Cape Otway Lighthouse. I fell instantly in love with the whole place and we returned every year to stay at Cyril Marriner's Bimbi Park.
As our family grew, we had less time to travel, so lighthouses had to wait for things like making a living, paying the mortgage and assuring good education for our two daughters. Once the girls were older, we started to travel around the Australian coast a little bit more and lighthouses became more and more the focus of these trips, particularly for me.
I became associated with LoA in 2000 when I contacted Malcolm about helping with the website. I felt like I needed to do something more substantial to save the endangered species called lighthouses.
After meeting Malcolm, I have gradually progressed from writing articles for the LoA Bulletin to becoming a member of the committee, then LoA Vice-President and then the Prism editor.
I love editing the Prism, which is possibly the only periodical magazine concerned with lighthouses that exists in Australia. I feel I can achieve something useful by publishing the stories, and old articles as well as current news.
A lot of people asked me why I love lighthouses. My answer is, for their romance. Although I have heard it said by ex-keepers that there is no such thing in lightkeeping, and that it is only hard work and heavy responsibility, I do not believe it. Why else would every former lightkeeper feel so nostalgic about the times gone, and why would they want their job back if it were still possible? Not for the hard work, I am sure.
Update on the condition of Deal Island light tower
The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service is the land manager responsible for the light station buildings on Deal Island. Community groups have assisted the Parks Service in maintaining the islands of the Kent Group, in regard for their natural and cultural heritage values.
The Friends of the Kent Group National Park is now the main vehicle for volunteers who wish to work within the park. National Parks in Tasmania often have volunteer community groups giving assistance with the management of the park. Friends of the Kent Group National Park is incorporated through Wildcare.
The Deal Islanders are an informal group of people who are mainly ex-caretakers, and they operate together as a social network.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT) has undertaken some extensive projects on Deal Island with regard to the natural and cultural heritage, and they have spent several thousand dollars on the conservation and maintenance of the Superintendent's Residence. The TCT will probably withdraw from activities on Deal, as the Friends of the Kent Group National Park are possibly better placed for undertaking conservation projects on the island.
The Australian Bush Heritage Fund used to have the lease of Erith Island (also part of the Kent Group of Islands) and for a number of months they were the interim leaseholders of Deal Island. When the National Park was created, all leaseholds were cancelled. The Bush Heritage Fund approved of this move and they no longer have an ongoing role in the management of the Kent Group.
The Marine & Coastal Community Network assists with projects in the Kent Group from time to time. This group is likely to be involved again in the future.
Over the last five years, the volunteers, caretakers, project officers and the Parks Service have invested time and energy into maintaining the Deal Island Lighthouse tower.
Dampness in the tower is always going to be an issue in a non-functioning light. The caretakers regularly open both tower doors to give it an airing - in good weather, keeping them open all day before closing them again at dusk. The onset of mould inside the tower is kept at bay by cleaning with bleach, four to six times a year at least. About two weeks after a cleaning, it starts to return and makes the cement render look unsightly, but does not cause any structural problems.
The caretakers regularly rotate the light mechanism to stop it from seizing. The ironwork will always be subject to corrosion - rust never sleeps. When it was a working light the painted surfaces were spotless and the brasswork gleamed. By comparison, it might appear to the casual observer that it is unloved and falling into disrepair these days. The ongoing maintenance may not be obvious, but there are people who are attending to it. An unoccupied lighthouse can always use more TLC.
Since last January's Wildcare maintenance and repair working bee on the generator shed, the power has been used to run a blow heater on a fairly regular basis to help dry out the inside of the tower. During Stuart Dudgeon's period of caretaking, he freed up some of the previously blocked ventilator holes that had apparently been sealed up after the 1995 fire.
The next proposed Wildcare working bee on Deal Island will be in January 2004. The first objective will be rust treatment and internal painting of the metal work inside the tower. Professional painters have offered their services as volunteers.
The caretaking project is in conjunction with the Cultural Heritage section of Parks, and the second objective will be track maintenance - the weed species selected for treatment will be those that are most vulnerable in terms of their growth cycle and in small enough quantities at selected sites to be tackled.
This update was provided by Christian Bell
Jarman Island Lighthouse - great news!
The lighthouse is a heritage listed structure and is built from cast iron. The Western Australian Museum and a heritage architect passed the structure integrity of the lighthouse for restoration.
Once restored, the lighthouse would provide a significant tourism opportunity.
Barry Haase, Federal Member for Kalgoorlie, congratulated the Shire of Roebourne.
"The refurbishment of the lighthouse will occur in stages, with the first stage to address the external condition of the building", said Mr Haase. "By restoring the structure to its former splendour, visitors from far and wide will be able to appreciate the glazed windows and striking red-and-white of the lighthouse, then enjoy an unadulterated 360 degree view of the island.
Tourism in Roebourne will focus on the Jarman Island Lighthouse as result of the restoration, aiming to attract a wide audience.
"Regional tourism is so important to communities in the Pilbara, and funding under the Regional Tourism Program can help to upgrade facilities, making them more attractive to Australian and overseas visitors," Mr Haase said.
The Regional Tourism Program provides funding for the development of tourism attractions, facilities, special interest markets and cultural and heritage attractions in regional and rural centres.
Robynn Offer & Jo Pritchard
Source: Newspaper article "Pilbara News"
New book from John Ibbotson
to be launched in October:
This will be an A5-size (210mm x 160mm), high quality, 264 page, throw-in-the-car guide to 150 of Australia's 'classic' lighthouses, with 180 colour photos, 8 maps, and information on how to get there, services available, cost and contact info (if applicable) and whether there is accommodation available in the keepers' cottages. It will retail for about $35.
John says it will be of a similar quality to his last book, Lighthouses of Australia - Images from the End of an Era - and classier than a typical travel book. He has not included all the classic lighthouses in Australia, purposely keeping the size of this book smaller to make it more affordable.
As it contains how-to-get-there info, prices and phone numbers, the book will eventually become dated. Updates will be listed on his website: http://www.lighthouses.com.au
John also intends to reprint Lighthouses of Australia - Images from the End of an Era soon. We ask our readers to forward any corrections or changes for John to include before it goes to press. He will require a verifiable source to support any information that he receives.
Another project under way is a 'complete' record of all first order lenses that have been used in Australia. This includes technical data, when they arrived, a history of where each one has been installed and where it is currently located.
John would appreciate any information about these lenses that readers can send to him. All information can be sent via email John Ibbotson.
d.m. press in Canberra is producing a number of high quality Australian calendars and diaries for 2004. In one of the calendars will be photos from Lighthouses of Australia - Images from the End of an Era, and they should be available some time in September, from places that sell calendars.
John Ibbotson endorses our work in the Bulletin, stating, "It's a great publication that you people are putting together."
Book review: The Alphabet of Light and Dark
The Alphabet of Light and Dark
A Review by David Hurburgh
Lighthouses are starting to loom large in Australian literature. A few years back, the madcap children's author Paul Jennings gave us Round the Twist, which was set at the Split Point light at Airey's Inlet, Victoria. Last year, Joanna Murray-Smith's Judgement Rock took us to Deal Island in Bass Strait, where the lighthouse, and its keeper, played a central role in her book.
This year's winner of the prestigious Vogel Literary Award for the best novel by a young Australian unpublished author is Danielle Wood, with her novel The Alphabet of Light and Dark. The Cape Bruny Light, at the southern tip of Bruny Island off Tasmania's south-east coast, is the pivotal setting of this remarkable new book.
The novel has a strong sense of being part-biographical and, in part, a deliberate semi-fictionalised family history. The author's great-great grandfather Captain William Hawkins was Superintendent of the Cape Bruny Lightstation from 1874 to 1914. The lead character of the book is a twenty-ish woman, Essie Westwood, who is unashamedly on a voyage of self-discovery. She is an oceanographer and aspiring author who goes to Cape Bruny to research her family's past and at the same time look for meaning in her own life.
Danielle Wood uses the clever device of having a book written within a book. In italicised script, we read fragments of the story that Essie is writing. This is the tale of her forebear's experiences on Bruny in the late 1800s, written as a first-hand contemporary account. It captures the sense of period: the incredible hardships that lighthouse families endured, the isolation and the challenging physical environment.
Romantic interest in the novel is introduced when Essie crosses paths with part-time sculptor, feral cat-hunter and (most importantly) lighthouse caretaker Pete Shelverton. We learn that Essie and Pete knew each other briefly as children, but now as adults, they recognize each other as lost soul mates. The author manages the difficult task of taking us convincingly inside the minds of both characters.
This book will reward lovers of lighthouses. The author captures the atmosphere, the sense-of-place and the beauty of the location of Cape Bruny light. Some details on the light itself are a bit askew. She describes "... a column of leadweights descended, hung in counterbalance to the lantern above." These of course are the weights (not counterweights) that are wound up by the keeper's hand, in order to operate the clockwork drive that rotates the light.
Lighthouse buffs will love the reference to an artefact that Essie inherited from her great-great-grandfather. It's a small bottle containing layers of brown and white guano that spell out LADY ELLIOT ISLAND, 1869. Lady Elliot is one of Queensland's oldest lighthouses, located at the southern tip of The Great Barrier Reef.
Some readers will find the author's style, particularly in the first sixty pages of the book, a bit overloaded with adjectival descriptions - there is barely a noun that doesn't get two or more (and often hyphenated) qualifiers.
In her acknowledgments, Ms Wood thanks her editor for her "gentle" editing. The editor should have picked up some glaring bloopers. At one stage, we have Pete listening to the news on ABC's Radio National in his car. The reception fades to static near his house and Pete reflects that he likes to be "... out of range, out of touch." A chapter or so later he "reached a hand towards the remote control of his television." We also hear Essie's ex-boyfriend, David the geologist, describing how the moon was formed. It was plucked away from the earth, driven by the sun's "magnetic force". Surely this is a matter of some gravity?
Danielle Wood's achievements as a writer shine through when you appreciate how effectively she adopts the different voices of her characters. She can range from the convincing gentility of her Victorian-era female forebears to the brusque, blokiness of Pete.
The most powerful scenes in the book have an almost dream-like quality. The author was evidently inspired by Gaelic folk-tales of water sprites and storm-girls. In this book, the link between the transcendental and the tangible world is the lighthouse itself.
The topical issue of lighthouse preservation is gently touched upon in this book. When we are told that a modern automated beacon has replaced the historic light, we learn:
"... the lighthouse is now dead, but perfectly preserved; a monument marking the intersection of nature and man's attempt to tame it."
The Alphabet of Light and Dark is recommended reading for people who want to be transported to one of the wildest and most windswept outposts of southern Australia. For lighthouse lovers, it's almost as good as being there.
© David Hurburgh 2003
Macquarie Lighthouse open to the public
Since The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust took over the management of Macquarie Lighthouse a couple of years ago and has completed repairs to the building, they are now able to open the tower to the public every second month on a weekend day, following the recent negotiation of a tourist access licence with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
"The lighthouse provides a key focal point along the coastal walk between South Head and Maroubra, and the Harbour Trust is keen to provide greater public access and awareness of the site", said Geoff Bailey, Executive Director of the Harbour Trust.
The Harbour Trust's team of dedicated volunteers will take groups of ten to the top of the lighthouse every 15 minutes between 10:00am to 4:00pm.
There are many historical features to see and learn about, including remnants from the original tower and the 1883 De Meritens generator and switchboard that used to generate electricity to power the lighthouse.
Macquarie Lighthouse was built in 1883, and it closely resembles the original Greenway-designed lighthouse, which stood only a few metres away. The original lighthouse started to erode only 50 years after it was built and for a short time, the old and new lighthouses stood side-by-side on South Head.
Today, the lighthouse is still used for its initial intended purpose - as a guiding light to show sailors the way to the harbour entrance.
The last lighthouse staff left in 1989 after the light became automated. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority operates the light and has issued the Harbour Trust with a licence to run regular tours. The former head lighthouse keeper's cottage and the assistant lighthouse keeper's quarters on the site are privately leased.
Macquarie Lighthouse is one of seven properties around Sydney Harbour that are managed by the Harbour Trust. In December last year the Harbour Trust exhibited a plan for all its lands, including Macquarie Lighthouse, which will be implemented over 10 years.
The plan proposes the ongoing conservation of the lighthouse and adjacent buildings, and improved interpretative activities and tours to explain its history, architecture and technology. Intrusive elements on the site will be addressed and relationships to the coastal walk and adjacent parks improved.
Macquarie Lighthouse is located at Old South Head Road, Vaucluse.
Take a tour to learn about the history of this remarkable place - Australia's first and longest operating lighthouse - and enjoy the magnificent harbour and city views. Macquarie Lighthouse will be open to the public on Saturday 23 August from 10am-4pm.
Bookings essential and limited:
Check out details online at http://www.harbourtrust.gov.au
For more information, contact Kate Langford Email Harbour Trust
The lure of lighthouses at the South Australian Maritime Museum
Whether itís their distinctive architecture, their splendid isolation, or the romantic associations they conjure, it seems almost everyone has a soft spot for lighthouses. With this in mind, the National Archives of Australia has produced Beacons By The Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses, a touring exhibition on show at the SA Maritime Museum until 23 November 2003.
The exhibition traces the history of lighthouses in Australia from the time of European colonisation through to automation. It looks at lighthouses from inside and out, recalling the humorous, sad and sometimes tragic stories and experiences of lighthouse keepers and their families over the last 100 years.
Featuring lighthouse plans, letters, log books, photographs and film, the exhibition highlights the architecture and design of lighthouses, their role during war, shipwrecks, myths and changing technology.
There's an interesting array of objects including nautical flags, a lighthouse spittoon and even the original optic (glass lens, prism and revolving pedestal) that shone faithfully on Little Fitzroy Island from 1927 to 1973 when it was replaced by a solar electric light.
The South Australian Maritime Museum is located at 126 Lipson Street, Port Adelaide and is open 10am to 5pm every day. Admission charges are $8.50 adults, $6.50 concession, $3.50 children or $22.00 for a family ticket.
For further details contact the South Australian Maritime Museum on 08 8207 6255.
Australia From the Sea - Exhibition by Dacre Smyth
Commodore Dacre Smyth AO, former Royal Australian Naval Officer in Charge, Chairman of the War Memorial Foundation and Life Governor of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, is a well-known artist, author, and publisher of twelve books of paintings. His published works include:
His thirteenth book, Australia from the Sea, is to be launched at his 26th exhibition and sale of paintings. His wife, Jennifer Smyth, will also be launching her first book, Reminiscences of Ages Past.
The exhibition will be held at:
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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