|In this Issue|
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the December Bulletin, edition 8/2003.
This Bulletin marks a milestone for Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc) - it is the sixth anniversary of the Lighthouses of Australia Project (LoAP) - and the Bulletin has been in production for six years, with the first issue published in January 1998.
Congratulations to Malcolm Macdonald and the rest of the founding members of the LoAP team, and to all past and present LoA Inc Committee members for the work over the last six years in running LoAP and LoA Inc, maintaining the website, preparing and publishing the Bulletin and the Prism, and striving towards preserving, promoting and protecting our lighthouses.My involvement with LoA Inc this year has been very enjoyable - whilst preparing the Bulletin has been challenging work, it is a privilege to be involved with such a great group of people, and the opportunity to be immersed in lighthouse issues, stories and photographs has been fantastic.
I have published eight editions of the Bulletin this year, and hope to continue doing so throughout 2004 and perhaps the years beyond. Thank you to all the readers who have sent me feedback about the Bulletin - it makes it all worthwhile to find that people are enjoying reading about Australian lighthouses.
I would not be able to do the Bulletin without the help of three people - Steve Merson, Denise Shultz and Malcolm Macdonald. I particularly want to thank Steve for his assistance in sourcing and preparing material for the Bulletin, as well as his proof-reading, writing and editing. Thanks to Denise for providing material and photographs, and proof-reading drafts of the Bulletin. Denise, Steve and I make up the LoA Inc Publication Committee, and it seems our like minds and similar objectives for LoA Inc work together extremely well.
Lastly, I want to thank Malcolm for his advice and assistance in preparing the Bulletin in a suitable format for distribution to both our email subscribers and online readers, and for his seemingly infinite knowledge about Australian lighthouses.
Have a safe and happy Christmas, and see you in 2004.
Christmas messages from the LoA Committee
NSW South Coast lighthouse trip
by Kristie Eggleston, LoA Bulletin Editor
My sister Jen and I visited Sydney in August 2001, and saw most of the lighthouses in Sydney Harbour and environs, with Barranjoey the furthest seen to the north, and Kiama to the south (a report on this trip will be documented in a later Bulletin). We had always intended to see the rest of the lighthouses along the NSW South Coast, but work and other commitments had delayed it for some time.
The "lighthouse" trip along the NSW South coast finally went ahead in October this year. We set off early on Sunday 5 October, driving up the Hume Highway, turning off 100 km south of Sydney to reach the coast at Nowra. Over the next two weeks we would head south along the coast back to Melbourne.
We saw the "best" and the "worst" lighthouse in the one day.
The Crookhaven Heads lighthouse at the head of the Shoalhaven River is a very distressing sight for lighthouse enthusiasts. The tower and attached building are covered in graffiti, the glass in every window has been smashed, and the safety structure around the lantern room is rusting away, and is only attached at one point.
Barbed wire inside the tower to prevent climbing of the stairs is all pushed aside, and the vandals have conveniently left a pile of wood in front of one of the broken windows in the tower to aid unlawful access.
There is little or no evidence of the restoration efforts of a few years ago. One hopes that the local council and other bodies responsible will work out a way to fund restoration of the lighthouse and prevent further damage. With our spirits somewhat deflated, we wandered back to the car, overwhelmed by the sad start to a lighthouse trip.
Early that morning we had checked with the Shoalhaven Visitors Centre as to whether the Point Perpendicular lighthouse was going to be open that day. The Point Perpendicular lighthouse is located within the Department of Defence Beecroft Peninsula Weapons Range, and is not always accessible to the public due to gunnery practice. Access to the lighthouse is generally available during school holidays, but it is always wise to check – contact the Beecroft Peninsula Ranger Station on (02) 4448 3411 or confirm with the Visitor Information Centre in Nowra on (02) 4421 0778.
At the gatehouse Ranger Station, a Navy personnel officer took details of our surname, car numberplate, the number of passengers, and the purpose of our trip. We were handed brochures about the lighthouse, a Visitor’s Guide to the Area, and "Health & Safety when Visiting the Beecroft Weapons Range". Subdued by the seriousness, we carefully drove out the rough dirt road to the lighthouse, noting the all the signs regarding the dangers surrounding us.
We walked the last 250 metres to the lighthouse, with not another soul around, and spent the next couple of hours photographing the lighthouse and other buildings in the lightstation from every conceivable angle.
The Point Perpendicular lighthouse is beautiful – it is painted in the most dazzling white with blue trim, and the lens is magnificent. The portico is enchanting, although it appears that the glass above the door with the waratah flower is no longer there. The bright white paint was painfully glary up close in the brilliant sunshine, and it was impossible to open your eyes long enough for a photo in front of the tower.
The new solar-powered lattice light is very stark and unattractive compared to the old tower. Whilst the new light does not require lightkeepers, caretaker staff live in the lightkeepers cottages, and they collect weather data & undertake general maintenance. Access to the tower and the keeper’s cottages is prohibited.
The difference in the amount of care and attention spent on Point Perpendicular compared with Crookhaven Heads is significant – and a simple reminder of how vital protection and maintenance of lighthouses really is. After having seen the best and worst in lighthouses, we headed back to Nowra for the night.
The next morning we drove through the Booderee National Park to the Cape St George Lighthouse. I had wanted to visit this lighthouse for many years, after having seen the photos on the LoA website. The Cape St George Lighthouse was built in the wrong location, and the Point Perpendicular Light was constructed to replace its function. The Cape St George Light was then deemed obsolete, and in fact could be confused with the Point Perpendicular light during the day, so the Navy demolished it by using the tower for target practice in the early 1920s. It is difficult to imagine that the senseless destruction of such a magnificent structure would occur in today’s climate of heritage conservation.
Despite the crowds of tourists, the sense of isolation of the lighthouse is evident. The headland on which the light is located has impressive sheer cliffs, although a stone fence surrounds the entire complex. Metal railing fences prevent visitors from climbing on the piles of limestone blocks that lie where they fell after the tower was demolished.
The lighthouse has obviously become a popular tourist attraction, with interpretive signage onsite, and much documentation available from visitor information centres and maps. It is lighthouses like this that you wish only enthusiasts knew about, so that you could visit it and quietly appreciate its beauty, history and surroundings without having to fight your way through picnicking crowds.
After watching an enormous storm roll in at Hyams Beach, we drove to Ulladulla for the night. It poured with rain overnight and was still overcast the next morning – the Warden Head Lighthouse at Ulladulla hardly stands out against the pale grey sky. It is a shame that the road has been constructed around the base of the Warden Head Lighthouse, allowing drivers to do wheelies around the tower - the skid marks mar photographs, and potential for a crash into the tower must be great.
Leaving the Warden Head light, we drove south through Batemans Bay and Mogo, and took the turnoff to Tomakin, searching for the Burrewarra Lighthouse. The lighthouse is not signposted in any way, but by a process of elimination, one finds oneself at the end of the road, with a walk of unknown destination and length heading off through the forest. A casual stroll of about 500 metres eventually leads to the lighthouse, which is an unusual elliptical shape, with a barely discernible light source on the top of the tower.
For a relatively modern lighthouse (1974), it is quite photogenic. The sea is not easily visible from the light due to the vegetation, but there is a great lookout on a sheer cliff halfway along the sandy track leading to the light. Despite its remote location, it does not appear to be suffering much damage at the hands of vandals, although the AMSA sign on the front door is completely gone.
The afternoon was slipping away, and we still had to get to Narooma by that night. The first thing we saw in Narooma was the replica lighthouse at the Narooma Lighthouse Museum/Visitors Centre in the late afternoon sun. Details of the charter boat tours to Montague Island were available on the front of the Visitors Centre, so we left to find our motel, and ring up to book a tour for the next day.
Two places were booked for us on the Sea Eagle, which was going to leave at 9am the next morning. We saw the weather report on the news that night – 5 metre swells and 30 knot winds – not a good sign. Next morning we presented ourselves ready for the tour, only to find that all charter tours, even the "safer" whale & dolphin watching ones, had been cancelled.
We then spent the next couple of hours in the Lighthouse Museum, putting in a couple of dollars to make the lantern from the Montague Island Lighthouse rotate, and reading and absorbing all of the lighthouse material on display. There was really too much, and it would be good if the Narooma Museum could prepare a printed version for sale of all the information, photos and displays so that visitors could take it away and read at their leisure.
By 10am, we had "lighthouse overload", and sought advice from the Visitors Centre on other things to do around Narooma. We undertook some of the tourist drives in the hinterland, and returned late in the afternoon to Narooma, to wait out another night in our Narooma motel. The weather report was equally as bad, so we assumed that the tours would be cancelled again.
The next morning, extremely disappointed after hearing that there were still 40 knot winds around Montague Island itself, we set off south through Bermagui, and then headed inland again for some scenic drives, eventually coming back out to the coast at Tathra, with its historic steamboat wharf. That night was spent at Bega, and then we meandered to our motel for the next three nights at Pambula.
Mindful that the Green Cape Lighthouse south of Eden might not be open on certain days, we contacted the NPWS at Merimbula on 02 6495 5000 to confirm. Tours are conducted daily (except Tue & Wed) at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm – at other times, visitors can view the tower and cottages from the perimeter of the property. As it was Monday the next day, our plans were set.
We rushed a few photos of the new replica lighthouse at the Eden Killer Whale Museum, purchased a significant amount of lighthouse merchandise from inside, and continued on to Ben Boyd National Park, in which the Green Cape Lighthouse and Boyd’s Tower are located, and self-pay park entry fees apply. The roads leading to the Green Cape Lighthouse were some of the roughest my 2WD car has experienced, but we eventually got there, just in time for a quick lunch before the 2pm tour.
Green Cape is the only lighthouse I have been to where the public are allowed into the lantern room as part of a tour. This was the closest I had ever been to a fresnel lens in situ, and it was the most amazing and beautiful object.
The tour as conducted by NPWS officer Alan Roadknight was exemplary – informative without being too much information, entertaining and evocative of what life would have been like as a lighthouse keeper in days gone past. The balcony, with its classic James Barnet curved balustrade, brought on a case of shaky knees, but Jen bravely stood back against the railing to take photos of the lens, and nearly ended up locked outside while the rest of the tour headed back downstairs.
Returning back over the rough roads, we decided to bypass the turnoff to Bittangabee Bay, in the hope that we would get to Boyd’s Tower with sufficient daylight hours left. The tower was constructed by Ben Boyd, an entrepreneur of the 1840’s, who wanted to build a private lighthouse. The tower was never finished, and never used as a lighthouse, but served as a whale-watching lookout.
Located in a thick patch of tea-tree scrub, it emerges out of the bush like an out-of-place office building. The views from the cliff below the tower are superb, and we spent the rest of the late afternoon gazing out to sea, spotting a pair of dolphins swimming close to shore, and some large birds which looked like albatrosses.
The next day we passed through Eden again, stopping to have a look at the modern light-on-a-pole beacon at Lookout Point, before driving through still-smouldering bushfire country on either side of the NSW/VIC border.
Lakes Entrance was jumping with hundreds of people, so we quickly stopped to walk out along the breakwater to the magnificent 90 Mile Beach, before heading up to the lookout to see the Mount Barkly Navigational Light. We then continued home to Melbourne - although bitterly disappointed at having missed out on Montague Island - satisfied with the long trip in which we saw seven real lighthouses, two replica towers at museums, several modern lattices towers & beacons and a lighthouse tower that never was.
Hampson family returns to Montague Island Lighthouse
by Mark Westwood, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
"Where were the palm trees and the golden beaches that the family had dreamed of and discussed? All we could see was rock and grass! The smell!! The birds were nesting everywhere and the noise and the smell was incredible." Ann Hampson recalls her shocked children's faces, as they steamed closer to the barren island that was to become their home - for who knew how long?
The year is 1971 and it is your family's first posting as a new employee of the Department of Transport. You, your husband and four children and all your worldly goods are venturing out five nautical miles from Narooma over the sea to Montague Island off the NSW south coast. What expectations would you have as you left your old life for this new one?
Jump forward more than thirty years to 2003 - this time it is the grandchildren who have all the expectations, as three generations of the Hampson family head out to Montague Island. Ten family members accompany Ann, her twin sons Anthony and Chris, and daughter Louise for a day of reminiscing and revelations.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW now manages the island as a Nature Reserve, and they recognize the special nature of such visits by giving their full support - providing a boat, Narooma Charters Sea Eagle, and a Montague Island Tour guide.
What was to become a unique part of their lives began in the 1960s for the Hampson family. On a holiday at Seal Rocks, north of Newcastle, John became friends with the lighthouse keepers there. Back at home, he rang the Department of Transport and applied to become a keeper.
Montague Island was their first posting as a lighthouse family. They came to the island late in 1971 with four children aged from six to eleven years, packed onto the Emjay, a local fishing trawler.
Their disappointment at the barren appearance of the island was soon replaced with wonder as they explored their new world.
To everyone's delight, there were now eight children on the island - four Hampsons and the four McCabes, whose father was the head keeper, so the youngsters had plenty of company.
The two families got on famously and comfortably, although morning tea with the Head Keeper was remembered as a somewhat formal occasion. Uniforms were worn, perhaps to maintain tradition and preserve the official relationship of head keeper and assistant keeper. Mr McCabe was the type of person who preferred his own company, which was ideal for isolated postings, but he did have a friendly manner.
To communicate with each other, they learned to use the special wind-up phones scattered throughout the buildings. The system in the houses was to crank one ring for their house (the northern one), two rings for Head Keeper's house, three rings for the tower, and four rings for the engine room. A single phone line served for communication with the mainland.
No one was ever bored according to Ann:
The Hampson children all remember running bare-footed, wild and free over the entire island. To the extent that Louise developed a painful spur on her heel and had to spend several months with her foot in a plaster cast. The doctors thought it had developed by constantly climbing over the rocks with bare feet. Shoes were only worn when parents insisted.
So much freedom on the island caused problems when they occasionally went ashore to the mainland. Ann remembers being worried about the children crossing roads, as they had no traffic sense. They all took many days to become accustomed to the much more restrictive and hectic environment "on the mainland".
One of the children's favourite things to do was to have barbecues way down at the south end of the island - away from the adults. Louise particularly remembers cooking the shellfish she collected from the rocks. She tried eating all the different types and loved the little periwinkles the best.
Correspondence school was done in the Head Keeper's cottage, out on the bench where the First Aid kit is now kept. Louise remembers the windows looking south and how difficult it was to maintain concentration. Mrs McCabe was a wonderful cook, and Louise was given her "home science" training in the McCabe's kitchen.
The children would swim at Old Jetty Bay with one of the keepers sitting on the rock with a rifle, keeping watch for white pointer sharks. The south end of the island was known as "white pointer territory" in those days, and Anthony remembered jumping out of the water in the nick of time as a shark snapped at his heels.
Sometimes the dolphins would come into the western "gut" between the north and south ends of the island (now Yellowtail Bay). The children would all rush down the rocks and yell and cheer and the dolphins would oblige by leaping and performing tricks for the delighted watchers.
Seafood featured heavily on the menu. You needed to be creative, to catch plenty when the opportunity arose, and work out how to keep it fresh for later. There's some brickwork in the crevice just east of the current jetty, which is all that remains of a holding pond built by the two boys and their father to hold the lobsters they had caught but weren't ready to eat. If someone felt like lobster, down they'd go and grab one!
The small number of crested terns beginning to nest in front of the island's solar panel surprised the family considerably. They remembered the birds used to nest much further down, close to the western shore between Jetty Bay and the old jetty. Every square foot was covered with terns - perhaps tens of thousands nested there. The children also often raised orphaned gulls, and Chris had a pet penguin called "Percy".
The family was oblivious to their isolation; that is, until medical emergencies dramatically reminded them. The nearby port of Narooma could be closed if the swell and the tide made the bar at the entrance too treacherous, and the trip from Bermagui could be impossible in big seas. The wharf at the island often had waves breaking right over it as well.
Marc, the youngest Hampson boy, became ill one day with stomach pains. They phoned the doctor in Narooma, who decided it could possibly be appendicitis. There was a tremendous sea running and no skipper could risk a crossing of the Narooma bar to motor out. In the end, desperation meant Ann was ready to perform an emergency operation with the RFDS first aid kit and instructions over the radio from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She was saved from doing so when a trawler risked the journey from Bermagui. The men literally had to throw the young Marc from the jetty to the boat, as the big southerly surge was so strong. He was taken to hospital and during the operation, the doctors found that it was not appendicitis at all, but a much more dangerous bulge in his bowel that was only an hour or two from rupturing. Lucky day!
The twins remember another emergency when a fellow named Kel Grundy had part of his finger chopped off when the balcony door in the tower slammed shut on it during a strong wind.
Ann was deeply moved by the return to the island: "It's great to see most things are as they were back then... the light, the rocks, the houses. The few changes that we notice have not altered the character of the place at all. The buildings are so crisp and clean and well maintained. Great work, NPWS."
Next time we will read about other aspects of their time on Montague Island, and how much Ann and her children appreciate the nature of lighthouse life.
Port Adelaide shining bright
by Garry Searle
I heard a whisper recently that the Port Adelaide lighthouse was "lit" at sunset every Saturday evening. Keen to take some photographs, I arranged to visit the keepers in charge of the light.
The 134-yr-old tower has had three previous lives, and it's been almost twenty years since the lighthouse last beamed its light seaward, for the benefit of anxious sailors.
First erected at the entrance to the Port Adelaide River, it was lit on the 1st of January 1869 and displayed its light through a fixed, fourth order lens. On the 3rd of February 1875, this was upgraded to a revolving first order lens, showing a bright flash every thirty seconds
The tower was moved to South Neptune Island, at the entrance of Spencer Gulf, on the 1st of November 1901, and fitted with a new lantern with a second order dioptric lens. The original lantern was installed on the new screw-pile Lighthouse on Wonga Shoal, eight miles south of Port Adelaide.
Matthew Flinders named the Neptunes - "for they seemed inaccessible to man". A visitor in the late 1920s commented, "This is a dreadful station for loneliness, it is just a bare rock with a tower and three cottages. No vessels of any sort call except the Yandra and Lady Loch which land stores, one monthly, the other quarterly. The island receives the full price of all bad weather and literally trembles under the shock of great waves that strike the weather side."
The tower stood on Neptune Island until 1985, when, in a bad state of repair, it was decommissioned and acquired by the South Australian Maritime Museum. Restored and re-assembled on the dockside at Port Adelaide, it was opened to the public on the 13th of March 1986, in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II. The light had returned home.
Rob Lincoln and Fritz Bronner, members of the museum have attended the light every Saturday evening for the past three years. They are the new "keepers", passionately cleaning, polishing, undertaking general maintenance and lighting up for an hour or so.
The lighthouse is open to the public - Monday-Friday 10am to 2pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Although the Saturday sunset sessions are not open to the general public, come down and take a look, you may even catch the keepers for a chat.
It was lovely to see the light in all its glory. When decommissioned, interior lights were powered by generated electricity, but the light itself used pressurised kerosene and the original clockwork mechanism was wound every 2 hours. A 1000w globe has been positioned next to the original burner, but I would suggest that this is one of the few lights in Australia that still has the original working clockwork mechanism.
LoA Committee member profile - Steve Merson
Born 1953, Mentone, Victoria, Australia
After standing on deck for years, working on all sorts of boats around Australia and occasionally overseas, it was a big change to ease into family life and be home for dinner every night. The two years on Thursday Island, co-managing the service company for the then Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service, was a formative introduction to a more settled and ordered way of living.
Since leaving TI in 1994, I explored a variety of administrative roles, delivered a few boats up and down the coast, managed a schooner restoration project in New Zealand, and for a period of time, even reverted to driving ferries up and down the Yarra River in Melbourne. But my interest in research and writing began to divert me from boats into books.
Now living on the Mornington Peninsula with wife Lynda and young daughters, Effie and Stella, I have completed two years of study in professional writing & editing, and begun a new career in publishing. I have edited and self-published a local history last year and currently working on another book. Since Malcolm Macdonald asked me to do some sub-editing and produce a press release or two back in 2001, my involvement in LoA Inc has slowly increased.
I recognized Malcolm's invitation to join LoA Inc. as an appropriate way of repaying the service that many lighthouses had given me over the years of plying the coast. I could develop my writing and editing skills, as well as help protect, preserve and promote our historical lighthouses. When Malcolm stepped back from his previous role, I was happy to assume the responsibility of corresponding with ex-keepers and lighthouse personnel, and all the other readers who send in wonderful stories, photos and queries.
The role of Chief Editor is mainly to correspond, collate and edit material for the Bulletin and Prism, and to respond to all the enquiries in a helpful way. My reason for volunteering (not fully realising that it was a full-time job) came from wanting to contribute to the cultural and social heritage of Australia, by communicating with people who are willing to share a wealth of personal experience and offer it to the public domain.
I encourage everybody who has an interest in Australian lighthouses to join LoA Inc and find a way to help protect, preserve and promote them, because it is a worthwhile thing to do.
A Big Country Revisited - Keepers of the Light
by Malcolm Macdonald, Webmaster, LoA
All the respondents are subscribers to the Bulletin, if not financial members of LoA Inc. We may have some information in a later issue about Barbara Caldicot's lecture series.
Web cams at Point Lonsdale
There are four cameras set up in the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse area. These cover views of The Rip, Queenscliff, the South Channel and Point Lonsdale/Barwon Heads. The web cam images update automatically every 60 seconds.
Camera 1 - View of Point Lonsdale beach.
Volunteer painter wanted for Deal Island
We are looking for one volunteer with trade skills in painting, rigging or industrial ropework, to assist at our next proposed working bee on Deal island - presently scheduled for late summer or autumn 2004.
The main focus of the work will be painting the steel work inside the lighthouse tower. If subscribers to LoA have any suggestions that can assist us to find some volunteers with these skills, we would like to hear from you.
We will pay one person's travel costs from the Tasmanian mainland via Flinders Island.
The Friends have secured funding from the Heritage Section of Parks & Wildlife Service, and Wildcare, to make this working bee possible.
Cape Naturaliste Centenary
It is up to those of you who believe in the Preservation, Protection and Promotion of Australia's lighthouse heritage to throw your hat into the ring, whether it just be a financial member or direct involvement on the committee, web pages, the Bulletin or some other aspect that could enrich the site.
Application for Membership Form
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