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Lighthouses of New South Wales


State Indexes > NSW > Montague Island Lighthouse

The Montague Island Lighthouse

Montague Island was originally a fertile hunting ground for the local Aboriginal people.

Since 1881, European visitors have landed here to inspect the Island's renowned granite lighthouse and enjoy a tour of this scenic area which boasts colonies of seals and fairy penguins.

The Montague Island Lighthouse [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Lighthouse
Photograph: Ian Clifford


Operation

LOCATION: Latitude 36° 15' S. Longitude 150° 14' E (map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
EXHIBITED: 1881
CONSTRUCTION: Dressed Granite
CHARACTER: Flashing 1 in 7.5 Seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 12 v 35 watt Quartz Halogen Sealed Beams
POWER SOURCE: Solar Array
INTENSITY: 120,000 cd
ELEVATION: 80 metres
RANGE: 20 nautical miles (<> kilometres)
HEIGHT: 21 metres
AUTOMATED: 1986
DEMANNED: 1987
DEACTIVATED: No
CUSTODIAN: National Park & Wildlife Service - NSW

The Montague Island Lighthouse and keepers' cottages [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Lighthouse and keepers' cottages
Photograph: Ian Clifford


History

Barunguba...

or Montague Island as it is now known, was a fertile hunting ground for the Aboriginal people of the Walbanga and Djiringanj tribes. Sea-bird eggs, muttonbird and penguins for example could be gathered there in abundance and archaeological sites on the island indicate that the area was an important resource for the local aborigines. Access to the island though was not without its dangers.

Legend has it that an estimated 150 Aboriginal people were drowned in the early 1800s when their bark canoes where swamped in a squall which blew up during their return from Barunguba.

The building of the lighthouse was first advocated in 1873.

Construction of the lighthouse, designed by James Barnet, commenced in 1878. Barnet was responsible for at least 15 major lightstations along the coast of New South Wales in this era.

The Montague Island Lighthouse [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Lighthouse 
Photograph: Ian Clifford 

The Montague Island Lighthouse [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Lighthouse 
Photograph: Ian Clifford

The original contractor went against instructions and damaged the large granite boulder selected for the lighthouse base with unauthorised blasting. As a result the lighthouse was repositioned by several feet.

Due to continued tardiness and difficulties the contractor eventual gave up the contract and in 1880 a new tender given to a second contractor.

Work proceeded quickly under the new tender and finally was completed in late 1881

By then a temporary light set up earlier had been in operation about a year.

Since 1881, visitors have landed here to inspect the Island's renowned lighthouse and enjoy a tour of this scenic area which boasts colonies of seals and fairy penguins.

During the keepers' era, all household and lighthouse stores had to be brought in by sea. The supplies were then brought up from the jetty to the lighthouse complex via a tramway.

The tower is constructed of locally hewn interlocking granite blocks which were quarried on the island. It is fitted with a bronze handrail.

In 1910 the light was upgraded to 250,000 CD and upgraded again in 1923 to 357,000 candlepower.

In 1969 the power was raised to 1,000,000 CD with the conversion to electricity supplied by a diesel generator.

In September 1986, the old light was turned on manually for the last time by keeper John Short.

As part of preparation for demanning, the original apparatus, including the lens was removed and replaced by a lightweight array of sealed beams.

The power was reduced to 120,000 CD but it could easily be powered by an unattended array of solar panels.

When removed, the old lens and lantern was erected in the Museum at Narooma which is now displayed in a short 5 metre tower.

A coin-operated mechanism operates on a slot coin principle. This switches on the light, the lens rotation and the operation of the original beam from the lens.

The whole township of Narooma participated in the expenses concerned.

The remaining keepers were either transferred to the National Parks and Wildlife Service or taken off the Island in December 1987.

The Montague Island Lighthouse [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Lighthouse
Photograph: Ian Clifford


Keepers

Keepers who served on Montague Island
BURGESS John HK 1881 - 1898
TOWNSEND Charles AK 1894
CAMERON Jock AK 1920 - 1923
CAMERON Jock HK 1933 - 1935
PADDON Tom AK 1932 - 1934
COTTEE Albert ?? 1942 - ?
CARMODY Jack HK 1960 - 1967
CONLEY Bruce HK 1973 - 1980
HK=Headkeeeper, AK=Assistant Keeper
Source: The Lure of Montague (2nd ed.) by Laurelle Pacey; Bruce Cameron

We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to Web Keeper.

Please include this lighthouse's name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.

On this bare landscape is a small cemetery.

Some of the residents died under particularly tragic circumstances. An assistant keeper, Charles Townsend, was killed when a horse bolted.

There are two children, John and Isabella Burgess, who died of suspected meningitis in the late 1880s because rough seas prevented them from being taken to the mainland for treatment. Steamers coming from the south ignored pleas for help because it was so difficult to land on the island.

Caring for the graves on Montague Island [Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas]
Caring for the graves on Montague Island
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas
Family members buried on Montague Island
TOWNSEND Charles 1894
BURGESS John (9 yrs, 10 mths) 1888
BURGESS Isabella (1 yr, 8 mths) 1890
Source: The Lure of Montague by Laurelle Pacey

Access

NEAREST TOWN: Narooma
DISTANCE: 12 km (Narooma)
360km (Sydney)
ACCESS: Sea (Restricted)
TOURS: Island and Lighthouse (subject to weather conditions)
ACCOMMODATION: No

The station is located on Montague Island, also known as Barunguba, some 12 km offshore to the east of Narooma.

The Island is a Nature Reserve managed by the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Since it was first declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1953, access to Montague Island has been restricted. Today this tradition is maintained in order to protect, both the seabirds which nest there on the ground surface and the seals which reside around the island's foreshores, as well as the historic lighthouse buildings.

Tours of the area's historic buildings are however organised on a regular basis by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Further information on these tours is available from either the Narooma Visitor Information Centre or from the Narooma National Parks and Wildlife Service Office.

The original lens apparatus onshore, installed in a 5 metre tower at the Narooma Lighthouse Museum attached to the Visitors Centre in the main street of Narooma.

The Montague Island Jetty and Lighthouse [Photograph: Ian Clifford]
The Montague Island Jetty and Lighthouse
Photograph: Ian Clifford


The Narooma Lighthouse Museum

The huge lens from the Montague Island Lighthouse is now on display at the Narooma Lighthouse Museum which also houses many other lighthouse artefacts.

Ed, Malcolm and Deborah at Narooma Museum [Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas]
Ed, Malcolm and Deborah
 at Narooma Museum
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas


The Surrounding Area


Features

Pt Perpendicular Expedition Report: (Part 2 of 2) Bulletin Dec 99
Marguerite & Nick Stephen's NSW Trip: Part 1 Bulletin July 01
Lighthouses From the Air: Part 2 Bulletin Oct 01
US Lighthouse Society Tours Australia - Part 1 Bulletin May 02
NSW South Coast Lighthouse Expedition - Montague Island Bulletin Jun 02
Montague and After - Memories of Ian Cameron Bulletin Jun 03

News

Tourism Awards Bulletin Feb 01
Taking Care of Montague Island Keepers' Cottages Bulletin Aug 01
Montague 120th Celebrations Bulletin Oct 01
Future of Our Lights to Be Featured on Australian TV Bulletin Nov 01
Montague 120th Celebrations Bulletin Nov 01
Lighthouse Plans Now On-line at Archives Bulletin Oct 02
Montague Island Celebrates International Lighthouse Day Bulletin Sep 02

Letters

Montague Island Article From 1950's Bulletin Feb 99
Letter from Jayne Hindle Bulletin Jan 00
Help Plan Montague Island 120th Birthday Bulletin Feb 01
Memories of Montague Bulletin Jul 01
Seeking Information About Emanuel Francis Bulletin Sep 01
Looking for Bernard MacGowan of Montague Island Bulletin Mar 02
Looking for Manuel Francis of Montague Island Bulletin Jun 02
Norah Head Lighthouse keeper - William Williams Bulletin Apr 03
Descendant of Keeper Townsend at Montague Island Lighthouse Bulletin Jun 03
Lighthouse keepers in NSW - Josiah, Fred Sr, Fred Jr & Bill Warren Bulletin Sep 03
Herbert Glover & family - Lighthouse Keepers at NSW lights Bulletin Sep 03

Other Montague Island Sites

An exclusive tour of Montague Island ABC Radio
Montague Island Lighthouse Plans DTD
Narooma Lighthouse Museum TravelDownunder
Montague Island Nature Reserve South Coast
Conservation Management & Cultural Tourism Plan (PDF file) NSW NPWS

Special Thanks to:

  • Ian Clifford for Photographs
  • Mark Westwood for help with revisions
  • Bruce Cameron

Sources:

  • AMSA Brochure
  • Brian Lord
  • The Lure of Montague by Laurelle Pacey
  • NSW National Parks And Wildlife Service
  • The Sydney Morning Herald

Page last updated:
Page created:
14/10/06
13/07/99

Site constructed by: 
Malcolm S Macdonald t/as Lighthouse Computer Training & Development (1997-2001)
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1997-2001 Malcolm S Macdonald and individual contributors as acknowledged.
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