Deal Island Month
Hi folks, this months issue is very much dedicated to Deal Island. First of all we have Denise Shultz recalling her trip in 1999 aboard the Windward Bound with Christian Bell and the crew.
Which is all very appropriate as we have the privilege of having Christian Bell speaking at the Lighthouses of Australia Inaugural Dinner on the 16th of June in Melbourne.
If you wish to attend then join up and become a member and register for the Dinner.
Lighthouses of Australia Inc.
The newly established Lighthouses of Australia Inc. has just concluded its first official Committee Meeting which was done quite successfully by eMail.
The interim committee has been confirmed as the official committee and the Officers are:
If you want to join up and get involved there are a few new subcommittees such as:
We are hoping to form a few special interest groups as outlined in the May 2001 Bulletin as well.
Other Feature and News
Another feature in this issue is the article by Geoff Durham about the new track to Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse and the restoration of the roofs on the keeper's cottages.
Other news is that AMSA has selected a tender and is well on the way to completing the outsourcing of the maintenance of navigational services including beacons and search and rescue.
The end of June will see the 86th anniversary of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service and it winding up being marked by a reunion of the Queensland branch.
A report comes from the Australian Lighthouse Association that the transfer of lighthouse properties in Western Australia to the state has been finalised.
Remote, inaccessible, mysterious, and unattainable - Deal Island is a kind of place you read about but never visit. I wanted to visit this island in the Bass Strait for its reported beauty and its lighthouse, perched high on a cliff, the highest placed lighthouse in Australia. I never thought I would make it there.
Enter the Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin January 1999. There it was - Christian Bell from Tasmanian Marine and Coastal Community Network was organising expedition to the Kent Group of Islands, one of its objectives being the restoration of the historical lighthouse superintendent's cottage. I just could not let this opportunity pass me by.
And so it happened that early in the morning on Friday 2nd of April 1999 I was aboard the Devil Cat on my way to Tasmania and one of the best adventures of my life. In around six hours the super fast catamaran disgorged our cars and us in Georgetown on the Right Bank of Tamar River. I was glad I had my little violet car with me, because the next day I was due to sail aboard a brigantine Windward Bound from Beauty Point almost exactly opposite Georgetown on the other side of Port Dalrymple.
On my way around I had plenty of time to visit Launceston and its spectacular Cataract Gorge. After finding my overnight accommodation in the pub, I decided it would be a good idea to visit the ship and get acquainted with the crew.
When I found them at a wharf called Inspection Head I felt really proud that I would be sailing aboard such a beautiful ship with such friendly, crazy bunch of people. Later we all had dinner in "my" pub and when we met again the next morning it was easy for me to fit right in.
Before we sailed, provisions for 26 people and one dog for 6 days had to be loaded, while there was a TV interview with some of the passengers. All done around midday, and as we motored out of Port Dalrymple we were being introduced to each other and instructed about how to help sailing the ship.
There were eight crew members and eighteen passengers. Among them was Christian, Quentin the carpenter who was to do the repairs on the door to the cottage, Chris Bell - author and one of the best nature photographers in Australia, Mick and Renate, divers, whose purpose was to film their underwater exploits, Joy and Dennys, a sprightly couple in their seventies, Anna the flight attendant from Queensland, environmentalists Renee and Mark, who's goal was to rid the island of the hated weed sea spurge, Ros, who worked for Tasmanian TV, and Brent from Sydney, who was keen to learn about sailing.
We were split in four groups and each group had to do the chores under the leadership of their assigned crew member The leader of my group was Stuart - "The Tasmanian" - as I called him. He showed us how to climb the rigging, check the bilge, tie the rope and keep the course while steering the ship. We had to keep four hour watches in which all the members of the group were required to participate, the most notorious being the midnight to 4am one. Of course our group had to get this shift on the first day of sailing.
The waves in Bass Strait were only moderate and we all took our tablets so no one from our group got seasick. There was little wind and the engine propelled us all the way. After having a go at the helm I climbed to the crow's nest and watched for the lights.
First I saw the Goose Island Light blinking to the right and then far ahead the light at South East Rock - Deal Island's replacement.
I'll never forget the feeling of friendly welcome and the sense of security emanating from these lights. It was as if we were not alone in the middle of dark and scary seas, not knowing whether we are moving or where we were. (Of course we knew that, because we had a GPS and plotted our course on the map every few minutes, but the feeling was still present when outside.)
When I went back to bed at 4am, the tablet wore off and I felt slightly unwell, but I was up at 6am again to film dawn over Deal Island.
We dropped the anchor at East Cove about two hours later.
All except crew went ashore. Christian and Quentin landed the building materials and started the repair work on the door, while other people went weeding or just walking or snorkelling.
After we met the current volunteer caretakers Jenny, Mike and their baby daughter India, Anna and I decided to walk up to the lighthouse. The tower is about 2.5km distant from the houses and it is a steep climb, especially towards the end.
While walking along the road to the lighthouse we could smell an unpleasant odour and soon discovered its cause. There were decomposing cow carcasses lying everywhere. What a sad sight at such a beautiful place. Later we learned that they were the last ten cattle left from the days when the island occupants kept their own stock on the island. They were shot several months earlier to rid the island of an introduced species. I thought it was a bit too harsh and could think about a few less violent methods of how to eliminate the cows from the island. It was too late for these unfortunate animals.
The lighthouse sits on the island's highest hill, which tops at 305 m above sea level. There used to be a paperbark forest around it but now there were only blackened skeletons of dead trees since the place was ravaged by fire in 1996.
There were also ruins of the former cottages from 1911. Only a few bunches of pink lilies growing wild among the ruins were the reminder that people used to live here cultivating their gardens.
The lighthouse itself seemed to be in good shape from the outside. It was freshly painted, all white. We did not have the key to the tower so I looked through the window, set deep inside the thick wall and could see (and I also knew from Christian) that it was not so good from the inside. I hoped I would get in eventually and so I turned my attention to the admirable view.
The Island itself was far larger than I have imagined it to be. It is shaped like an amoeba with tentacles of bluffs protruding in every direction. There are several coves, of which only three have beaches. Precipitous cliffs form most of the island's coast. A few other yachts and pleasure craft were anchored at East Cove and opposite at Erith Island's West Cove.
The Kent Group of Islands contains three major islands and a few rocks and islets. The other two islands, Erith and Dover, were just across the narrow and turbulent Murray Pass to the west. They were separated by the so-called Swashway, a rocky neck that is passable on foot only during low tide and gets flooded during the high tide. In the distance we could see Judgement and South West Rocks and 80 km towards the north we could see the misty silhouette of Wilsons Promontory.
When we returned back down to the East Cove I had a look at the museum, which was set in the old superintendent's cottage. In the front, there were old photographs of former lighthouse keepers, historical documents and the station as it used to be. Also there were some old books, bottles, shell collection and shipwreck artifacts on display.
More interesting was the derelict rear part of the house. Climbing the dangerously worn out and creaking stairs to the upper floor there was what must have been a women's room, the walls of which were completely plastered with magazine pages so old, that some of them dated back to 1880. Now that was a room worth preserving!
That evening the wind increased and the sea became choppy so we moved across the Murray Pass to a more sheltered West Cove on a much smaller Erith Island. We had an uneventful night and went to sleep while being gently rocked from side to side and lullabied by the waves splashing on the outside of our tiny cabin.
The next day we had a chance to explore Erith Island. This rugged and windswept granite outcrop where the vegetation is struggling to keep its hold on scarce patches of soil has no walking tracks. It could hardly be called lush but yet it was until recently subject to grazing. Now there are no alien animal species and the island is slowly recovering.
We decided to push ahead along the rocky coast. After some "high impact bushwalking" we finally reached the Swashway and crossed (it was low tide) to Dover Island but soon the sea started to come back, flooding the pass, and we returned through inland to the West Cove. The rusty shipwreck of a fishing boat dating from 1945 which lay exposed on the beach on our way there was now almost completely under water.
Before we embarked on our journey back to the ship I looked around the shack which was built on the beach by the people who used to lease the island for grazing. It was equipped with emergency supplies of food and water also there were beds to rest on and stove for cooking. Nice thought but luckily we were not in such dire need, yet. However I took the opportunity and had a wash under the tap from rainwater tank. It was desperation. Because there were so many people aboard and only limited volume of water we were only allowed to take a one-minute shower and that only every three days. I still do not know how we managed not to smell.
The next morning the wind started to pick up from the wrong direction so Brian the skipper decided to change the anchorage again. We moved to Garden Cove back at Deal Island and I had another opportunity to visit the lighthouse.
This time I was hoping to get the key and check the inside. Garden Cove is about 2km from the houses and right on the opposite side of the island from the lighthouse. We had a decent walk along the bumpy, wallaby ridden airstrip to the headquarters but we did not find anyone home.
After waiting for a while feeding the hungry wallabies with our own lunches, I together with a few other people, decided to go to the lighthouse again in the hope that we'd find the missing caretakers. Everyone was sorry for me when we did not find them there and I started to lose hope that I would ever peek inside this elusive lighthouse.
The following night was restless. The roar of the engine awakened us in the middle of the night when the strong wind and waves caused the ship to drag the anchor and we got perilously close to the rocks. Luckily the members of the crew took turns watching all night to prevent just such a disaster.
The next morning came my last chance to take a look inside the lighthouse. We were the first group to land at Garden Cove beach that day and were in a hurry to reach the houses before the caretakers disappeared again.
Our small group comprised of Brent, my fellow lighthouse trooper Anna, the ship's first mate Guy, and I. This time we were lucky and caught Mike and Jenny at home. It was their second-last day at Deal and they were preparing to leave the next day to let another couple take their five-week turn at the island. How I understood their reluctance to leave. Jenny and Mike were very nice to us and offered us tea and whatever little they had left of their food. We sipped the tea but had to decline anything else for we were in the hurry ourselves.
It was around nine and we had to be back at Garden cove at 11 to set sail back to Tasmania. With the keys from the lighthouse securely in Guy's pocket we rushed towards the light. We made it in a record time, though not as fast as a certain army man who reportedly made the journey to the lighthouse and back in 23 minutes. I was slacking behind the others and was the last one to reach the tower but those people were my true friends. Knowing how much it meant to me to see the inside of the lighthouse they waited for me beside the open door and let me be the first person to enter and climb the stairs to the lantern room.
The Deal Island lighthouse is not operating any longer. It was switched off in 1992 and the nearest automatic light now shines from South West Rock. Before I visited there were reports that the lighthouse was in a state of disrepair on the inside.
The beams and the screws attaching the spiral staircase to the wall were so rusty that there was danger the whole structure could collapse. Now I could see that the reports were true. Also there was need for some housekeeping. The floors were in bad need of sweeping, the brass vents needed polishing, and the beautiful first order Fresnel lens covered with a canvas sheet was covered with a thick layer of dust as well. Pity I did not have time to do anything about it.
We climbed to the balcony and nearly got swept off by the high wind. The lighthouse is the loftiest in Australia; so much so, that it sometimes gets obscured by clouds (one of the arguments held against it right from the beginning).
The tower itself is only 12.3 m to the base of lantern. Deal is one of Australia's oldest lighthouses. It was finished in 1848 like Cape Otway and in fact is very similar in shape and size to the Cape Otway Lighthouse. Like Cape Otway it no longer functions as a navigational aid. I only wished the similarity would not end there. I felt very sad that such a treasure was now rendered obsolete, its future uncertain, perhaps bleak.
As we ran back down the hill to drop off the key and make it back to the ship in time I thought about what I could do to save this lighthouse. Obviously one person can not do a great lot. But there must be a lot of other people who might have the same goal. Some of them were right around me. If we put our ambitions together we might come up with something useful. Perhaps there is hope for old, obsolete lighthouses.
We made it to the beach right on time and half an hour later we were sailing south towards Judgment Rocks to gaze in astonishment at the multitude of Australian fur seals living and breeding on this bare granite rock stained white with countless seal droppings. We continued around South West Rock with its automatic light, then set course towards Port Dalrymple when the night fell on us in Bass Strait for the last time.
Our group had one more midnight till four shift and when we woke up in the morning the wind was blowing in the right direction and for the first time we could set the sails and shut down the engine. I had the privilege to be at the helm while sailing silently gray waters of Bass Strait.
Life felt pretty good with sun shining on me being in control over such a large, spectacular ship, surrounded by my good mates. My dream had come true. Deal Island did not seem so inaccessible and far away any more.
[PRISM - Winter 2001]
Up until the election of the Bracks Government at the end of 1999, development proposals for the Wilsons Promontory National Park had been the subject of intense debate. The previous government had proposed to permit commercial development in the park. This would have included private management of accommodation at the lighthouse and the provision of private cabins for guided walkers on a new coastal walking trail down to the tip of the Prom. Responding to widespread objections to these plans and to concerns about proposed activities in other parks, the Labor opposition promised that there would be no further commercial developments in our national parks if it gained office. The walking track has been built, but the lighthouse management remains with the Park Service. There are no half-way cabins and instead of commercial guides there is, for a fee, a walk with a ranger naturalist.
Well known conservationist and long-term councillor of the Victorian National Parks Association, Geoff Durham, recently described the walk, without a ranger guide, in the autumn issue of the Association's magazine Parkwatch. Those of you who may be contemplating the walk might be interested to know that Geoff celebrated his 70th birthday early this year at the Prom. The walk was undertaken in November 2000.
"As I panted and sweated up the track from Waterloo Bay on the way to the lighthouse, I should have been thinking about whether the "Hands off the Prom" opposition to the track was justified, but I wasn't. I was thinking - will it never end! It did eventually, at a broad granite slab onto which we collapsed from exhaustion. Adult daughter and I were backpacking the circuit walk at the Prom.
We had set off on our four-day walk from the Oberon car park at about 9.00am on Monday. The track to Windy Saddle was in excellent condition, but the downhill section to the Sealers Swamp board-walk had tacky patches. We lunched under the big banksia at the mouth of Sealers Creek and arrived at Refuge Cove in plenty of time to make camp.
Tuesday morning we made Kersop Saddle without too much trouble, dumped our packs and took the short detour to Kersop Peak. In 1962, this was where I had inadvertently left a canister containing an exposed Kodachrome film. My recollection is that the vegetation was then low heath rather than the present scrub. I didn't find the film.
We rested at North Waterloo and then went up and over to Little Waterloo and on to Waterloo for lunch. The tide was out and we had firm white sand for the walk along the beach. We could clearly see the alignment of the new track on the slopes ahead. This surprised me as earlier in the year when I had come down the coast by boat and later flown over it in a light plane, I had looked for but failed to pick out the track.
From the beach, it didn't look too arduous. We were deceived. It was a long, hard, steady climb, but the coastal views when we reached the granite slab were magnificent. It was then a delightful walk along the new track to the Lighthouse reserve, but the walk up the steep concrete road to the buildings was torture at the end of a strenuous day. We were shown to our pre-booked accommodation in the first of four residential buildings. The smallest one next door was the home of the Station Managers, partners Mat and Kate. The next along was occupied by workers restoring the fourth, the original lightkeeper's residence closest to the lighthouse. The asbestos roofing was being replaced with slate.
Our renovated building had three bedrooms, two with two bunks and one with four bunks, a spacious well equipped kitchen, two bathrooms (with no bath but much appreciated showers), a dining area, an enclosed verandah with luxurious couches and a small library. Our beds had been made up and there were towels and soap.
On Wednesday morning, Mat showed us over the lighthouse. As it happened to be a helicopter drop day, we had the excitement of watching personnel, materials and supplies being brought in and sealed packages of asbestos and other waste being carried out.
We walked to Telegraph Track (which is a two-wheel drive gravel road) up the new walking track, which has tantalising views of the lighthouse. We then took the walking track rather than the road to Roaring Meg camping area where we dumped the packs and walked to South Point (about an hour each way) where we spent an hour. From Roaring Meg we again took the walking track to Martins Hill where the track met the road at a helipad, which was the base for the drops. Then it was down the road to camp the night at Halfway Hut. Next morning was an easy walk along the road back to the car and lunch.
We were lucky - we had perfect November weather. There were no bush or March flies and few mosquitos. We saw two large snakes that quickly slithered across our path. Most of the walkers we encountered were well-behaved school groups. Proud of our achievement, towards the end of the walk we were overtaken by two athletic men who did in one day what took us four!
Opinions will differ on whether the Waterloo Bay-Lighthouse track should have been constructed. It impacts on what was a remote and trackless area. If it is to be, it could not be better. It is on the best possible alignment, taking into account unstable ground which necessitates the long haul out of Waterloo Bay. It is sensitively and expertly constructed with natural materials. It provides a spectacular walk, and completes an interesting circuit. For those with knees that tolerate downhill walking, it is recommended that the circuit be walked anti-clockwise - the opposite direction to the one we took.
The walking track between the lighthouse and the end of the road is on a much better alignment than the old eroded track. This track has also been sensitively constructed. A high standard has been set by these new walking tracks.
The obviously well used Telegraph 'Track' (road) is supposed to be for walkers and 'Management Vehicles Only'. It would greatly enhance the Prom experience if it reverted to being solely a walking track.
Parks Victoria offers two levels of accommodation at the lightstation, including a lighthouse tour. The cost is $40.00 per person per night (Saturday $65.00) which was not available to us because contractors were occupying this building, and ours was more expensive at $75.00 per person per night (Saturday $99.00). Food packs are an optional extra. Available until 30 April, guided walks from Tidal River, with meals supplied and accommodation in the restored residence cost $245.00 for two days and $435 for three days."
At the lightstation Geoff took several photographs showing restoration work in progress. Although our heritage consultants have not been able to see yet what is happening at the Prom., it appears from reports that the lightstation is getting the same standard of careful restoration from Parks Victoria as its sister service in South Australia has given to the lightstations on Kangaroo Island.
On 13 December,
2000, Minister Garbutt
released a Draft
Management Plan for Wilsons Promontory, including the islands, Tidal
River and the lightstation reserve. The new plan will replace the July
1997 Wilson s Promontory National Park Management Plan and the Tidal
River Master Plan.
Some features of the draft plan are:
The plan has none of the contentious roofed accommodation proposals of the previous Kennett Government, although the establishment of a 'Centre of Excellence' is retained. The implications of this are uncertain.
Incremental development remains the insidious danger to the Prom. The park's history is one of periodical political assault, and the Victorian National Parks Association should retain its large 'Hands off the Prom' banner safely in storage.
Looking for Information Relating to Deal Island Grave
Looking For Obadiah Lucas
Hello From a Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter
From Cape Nelson to Gabo Island
Looking for Henry Knighton Toll Lightkeeper of Breaksea Island
Looking for Lightkeeper Le Nepveu
Great Grandfather, My Grandfather, and Three Uncles Were all Lighthouse Keepers
Feel free to post any request, letters, notices here regarding research, events etc for any Australian Lighthouse on this notice board.
If anybody has any of this material on any Australian lighthouses including the ones listed at the Department of Scrounge it would appreciated, especially the high priority ones:
Please eMail <Keeper>
No new pages for Australia this month
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[PRISM - Winter 2001]
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has let a major contract for the provision and maintenance of its aids to navigation and search and rescue equipment.
The contract, worth more than $20m over three years, has been awarded to Australian Maritime Systems Limited (AMS), a Brisbane-based company, after an extensive five-month tender process.
The initial contract duration is three years for maintenance of navigational aids and two years for search and rescue (SAR) equipment, with options to extend in subsequent years.
Some 17 companies responded when expressions of interest in the tender were called last August and eight were selected for the final tender process.
The contract covers the construction and maintenance of AMSA's aids to navigation network around the Australian coastline. This includes over 400 sites comprising traditional light beacons and buoys, radar transponders, differential global positioning system stations and ship reporting radar systems.
It also involves maintenance and logistic support of search and rescue air-droppable equipment including life rafts, pumps, VHF radios', survival equipment and on-site training support.
AMSA Chief Executive Officer Clive Davidson said the issue of a tender for this work had followed a review last year to consider the most effective means of delivering these services and followed the sale of the Authority's vessel Cape Grafton.
AMS will engage a high percentage of AMSA employees and former AMSA employees to work with the company in delivering these services.
Bob Todkill, one of the organisers said this is a particularly important one as it marks the end of an era with all the maintenance of lights now being privatised.
He said "We hope to get as many of the people who were associated with the Service back together as possible. It has been hard work as many have moved on to other occupations, retired and gone travelling an we have lost contact. Others have passed on and we have lost track of their children, many who were born and raised in the stations. At the moment we have about 120 coming."
He also said that if anyone has any memorabilia that can be made available for display he would be appreciative if they could have a loan of it.
The venue will the Brisbane 18 Foot Sailing Club in Bulimba, Brisbane.
If you have a connection
with the service and would like to attend contact Bob Todkill, (07)
3399 6922 Mob 0427 646 337, or Jack Duvoisin, (07) 3396 8559, before
the 16th June 2001 or write to :
They intend to periodically update though as Ahmet says:
The site is located at <http://members.optusnet.com.au/~a_bektas/> but Ahmet said he would like to find a more permanent home for it.
There is a comprehensive photo gallery containing pictures of the Island's flora and fauna as well as the lighthouse.
It is worth visiting and it looks like it might develop into something even better than it already is.
As a result of a well attended meeting held on Saturday, April 28 held in Buckland, Tasmania (hosted by Helen Gee and Bob Graham), a group has been formed with regard to the Deal Island Conservation Area.
It is called the 'Deal Islanders' and it aims to promote better management outcomes with regard to the island and wishes to undertake practical projects concerning both the cultural heritage (of the Light Station) and natural heritage of Deal Island Conservation Area. The organization comprises people who have mostly been caretakers (more than twenty-five people have been volunteer caretakers on the Island since 1999). The group however is not confined to former caretakers and has other members with a strong interest in the management of Deal Island.
Currently the most pressing concern to members of the group is the proposed lease of the island to a tourism operator. It is the Tasmanian Governments position to lease the island for tourism (whether this is some or the entire island is still not yet clear).
The organization has written to the Tasmanian Minister, David Llewellyn (as he is the minister for the Parks and Wildlife Service and has responsibility for the island) stating that we wish to have input into the form of any lease that may occur between the Government and any leaseholder with relation to Deal Island.
We see the island as an important community asset to be protected and conserved. For many years now Deal has attracted a broad range of visitors both from Tasmania and Victoria, visitors who have a keen interest in both the natural and cultural environment of Deal Island.
We would be extremely concerned if the Tasmanian Government was to enter into a lease arrangement with a leaseholder that would restrict the publics' ability to visit, or enter into agreements that would inhibit the community being able to engage in conservation works with regard to either the built heritage or natural environment of the island.
As yet our group may not have a problem with some part of the island being leased. But we do wish to have some say into the scope and nature of the agreement with any potential leaseholder. The best approach to take in regard to Deal would be for a management plan to be done for the island before any agreement is signed so that any lease would fit into a proper management framework. The island is to an important a place not to do otherwise.
If you are interested in the joining the Deal Islanders we are looking for additional members, our group will be using eMail extensively to organize projects and input. We would particularly like to hear from Victorians (as the island is much closer to the Victorian coastline than it is from the Tasmanian mainland). Most visitors are from Victoria and are quite often quite surprised to find that they are visiting a Tasmanian Island. It certainly a lot easier to visit Deal from the Victorian side of the Strait than it is for most of us Tasmanians, so if you would like to contribute to some projects please get in touch with us.
If you wish to become involved you can either eMail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact David Reynolds on (03) 6229 4076.
[PRISM - Winter 2001]
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority transferred 26 lightstation properties, many with heritage-listed buildings, to the West Australian Government late last year.
Among the properties, which mostly adjoin national parks and reserves, are some of the best known lighthouses on the Western Australian coastline.
Transfer properties include Cape Leeuwin, 15.55 ha., three houses, outbuildings and Cape Naturaliste, 8 ha., three houses, outbuildings in the Margaret River area; Rottnest Island, 0.91ha, one house, outbuildings and Eclipse Island, 99.15ha., with outbuildings.
The following transfers are 'land only' in hectares:
Under the transfer agreement, natural archaeological and aboriginal aspects are taken into account through conservation management plans.
The navigational aids (light beacons) at each location will continue to be owned and operated by AMSA.
AMSA Chief Executive Officer, Clive Davidson, said the lights were all fully automated - mostly solar-powered but some mains power.
He said that under
the transfer agreement AMSA had road and/or helicopter access to the
navigational aids and the public would still have access to selected
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