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Bulletin - Vol 8 No. 4
July/August 2005


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Lens rotation - clockwise or anticlockwise?

Green Cape Lens

Photograph: Steve Merson


I have been asked an interesting question and I'm not sure of the answer - which way does the flashing rotation occur? Clockwise or anti-clockwise?

Many thanks

Vivienne Moran
Curator / Administrator
Maritime Museum of Townsville
42 - 68 Palmer St
South Townsville QLD 4810
Tel: (07) 4721 5251
Fax: (07) 4721 5759
Email Vivienne Moran

Pine Islet Lens

Photograph: Pine Islet Lighthouse Preservation Society

This question was put to the Lighthouses of Australia Inc Committee, and the following was the resulting discussion.....

In answer to your question the rotation is clockwise. At least on all the lights I lived on any way.


Peter Braid
QLD State Representative

I agree with Peter, as far as I remember all the lighthouses I have seen rotated clockwise, even though I can not understand why, as making them rotate anti-clockwise would be just as easy. Maybe it has something to do with its beginning as a clockwork mechanism.

Denise Shultz
LoA Inc President

Cape Wickham Lens

Photograph: Paul Shultz

Port Adelaide clockwork mechanism

Photograph: Garry Searle

Are we looking up or down??

If looking down then most I recall are clockwise, but .... I'll lay bets that Cape Schanck and Norah Head are anti-clockwise.

Garry Searle
SA State Representative

There is no standard, most rotate clockwise when viewed from above, Cape Byron, Norah Head to name two but there are some that go anti-clockwise.


Ian Clifford
NSW State Representative

Norah Head Lens Drive

Photograph: Ian Clifford

Cape Schanck lens & lamp-changer

Photograph: Kristie Eggleston

I was wrong,

Cape Schanck, Cape Northumberland, Norah Head, Green Cape and Cape Naturaliste rotate anti -clockwise, Sandy Cape, Cape Leeuwin, Cape Nelson and Cape Byron clockwise, just checked the video Beacons of Hope

No matter how you look at it Garry, it is still the same, I reckon. So in conclusion, I would say it can be both ways.

Denise Shultz
LoA President

Maritime archaeology find - Lightship in Port Phillip Bay

The Breaksea Spit Lightship in Queensland

Photograph courtesy: From Dusk Till Dawn, Gordon Reid

Dear LoA,

My name is Mark Ryan. I am the Vice President of the Maritime Archaeology Association of Victoria & co founder of Southern Ocean Exploration.

We have located what we believe to be a 'Light Ship'. A barge used from about 1860 to 1910 as a directional indicator in Port Philip Bay. The ship lies in 18 metres of water 1 km north of the Hovel Pile. I am trying to source any information on Light ships that I can. We are putting together a report for the Maritime Heritage Unit (MHU).

I thought you or someone from LoA may be able to shed some light on our find (sorry about the pun). Heritage Victoria have checked their archives and they have very little on Light ships. I would very much appreciate any advice or assistance LoA may be able to provide to our project.

Thank you

Kind regards

Mark Ryan
Southern Ocean Exploration
Mob: 0419 881 298
Email Mark Ryan

Hello Mark,

Thanks for your letter and enquiry. What a great discovery. How much of the vessel is remaining? 

I am forwarding your letter to some ex-lighthouse service engineers and technicians in QLD who may be able to provide some information about lightships. We are very interested to learn more about your find.

Keep in touch. This is good news.

Steve Merson
Chief Editor LoA Inc
Email Steve Merson

Thanks for the reply Steve,

It appears that it's a barge with a gas light & several gas cylinder. As far as I can work out it's from about 1860. Heritage Vic dived on it today & we are speaking to them about recovering the light. We will be taking timber samples in the next couple of weeks.

Any suggestions or advice would be greatly received.



LoA footnote: Mid-1800s would be too early for gas cylinders. More info required.

Looking for Cape Don Lighthouse stories

Cape Don Lighthouse

Photograph: John Ibbotson

Dear LoA,

I operate a tourism venture from the historic Cape Don Lighthouse in Cobourg Peninsula NT and I am interested if any of your readers have any stories or images of the early Cape Don.

We have various stories and historic photos scattered around the lodge for guests to read however I am always looking for more information.


John Kerr
Email John Kerr

Single lighthouse keeper - theme for a novel

Lighthouse Keeper at South Neptune Lighthouse

Photograph courtesy: National Archives Australia A1200, L43685

Dear LoA,

I am doing some research for a novel and was hoping you can help me.

It is set in the time of the Second World War, and I have a character who is a lighthouse keeper. 

I am trying to find out if there were any single-keeper lighthouses around at that time. Or did all the lighthouses have three keepers? 

I would appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction to find this out.


Suzannah Butcher
Email Suzannah Butcher

Hello Suzannah,

I personally do not know of any manned lights in Australia which had only one Keeper, although certainly many in Western Australia only had two Keepers. 

I am passing this request onto the rest of our Committee and publishing it in our Bulletin in the hope someone may be able to give you different or more specific information.


Pauline O'Brien
LoA Inc Secretary
Email Pauline O'Brien

Hi Suzannah,

You should look for the novel by Paul Gallico and the enchanting record of the same name "The Snow Goose". This is about a hermit lighthouse keeper in World War II in the U.K who befriends Frith, a young girl who restores to health an injured snow goose and the relationship between the three of them about the time of the Dunkirk evacuation. 


Sally Gaunt
LoA Inc Committee Member
Email Sally Gaunt

Hi Suzannah,

I do not think that there were any stations that would only have one keeper. At least not until the eighties, when the lighthouses were being de-manned.

On the contrary, during WW2, just the opposite would often happen, as lot of them had Navy or other military personnel present on top of regular keepers (Wilsons Promontory, Gabo Island and Sandy Cape are the ones I know for sure).

Good luck with your book, it is good to see that you are doing such a thorough research to get the facts right. Please let us know when you publish, a lot of LoA members would be very interested in reading it, I am sure.


Denise Shultz
LoA Inc President
Email Denise Shultz

Hello Suzannah,

Your email was forwarded to me from the Secretary of LoA Inc. The three keeper watch system was traditional standard procedure for the Australian lights (a system we inherited from the British). In the advent of electrification, manning on some lights was reduced to two keepers. There are instances where a single keeper was responsible for a lesser light or beacon, and there was probably occasion in the past where a single keeper was left to man a lighthouse in extenuating circumstances. 

Are you setting your story in Australia or UK? If Australia, where exactly? 

As it happens, I have just finished reading a novel (The Watcher by Fiona Richmond) about a single keeper. Based on research about the watchers based on the islands in Far Nth Qld during WW2. So it seems again that a good idea occurs to different people in different places at more-or-less the same time. 


Steve Merson
LoA Inc. Chief Editor
Email Steve Merson

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