Lighthouses of Australia Project - APRIL 00 BULLETIN

VOL 5 No 8
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Dear Friends


Corrugated Lighthouses - Pt 1

Letters & Notices

Department of Scrounge

New Pages & Links

New Pages for Australia
New Links for Australia
New Links for World

Australian News

Removal of Caretakers Threatens Maatsuyker Lighthouse
Why It's Important to Keep Maat's Caretakers
Help Get the LoA and Maat Campaign Moving

Cape Otway Lightstation Inspection
Australian Story to Feature Gabo Island Tragedy
Macquarie to Open for International Lighthouse Day
Penguin Island Head Lightkeepers List
Wollongong Breakwater Re-lit Again
Eddystone Point Gazzetted as National Park
Ian Clifford Interviewed for Italian National Radio

Join Lighthouses of Australia Inc

Thanks To

Text Only eMail

Past Bulletins



Dear Friends

Alert on Maatsuyker>

The Maatsuyker Island LighthouseAs many of you have recieved the alert by email you are aware of the Tasmanian Government's intention to abandon the scheme of voluntary caretakers for the Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse.

This will effectively mean the abandonment of Maatsuker to the elements and vandalism.

The Maatsuyker Island LighthouseFriends, this is a call to arms, and thats what LoA Inc is all about, isn't it? By nipping this one in the bud we are demonstrating to other agencies that this method of balancing there budgets at the expense of our heritage is not publicly acceptable.

If you haven't responded to last week email alert then go to the story in News and make a commitment.

But why not go the next step and get involved in what we hope will become the Tasmanian chapter of Lighthouses of Australia as a permanent statement about your feelings about seeing our lighthouse heritage preserved for the coming generations.

Signs of a Positive Outcome for Cape Otway

Cape Otway Lightstation InspectionOn 14th of August, with FOCOS, we visited Cape Otway to make an assesment of what the real situation is.

This will result in an update of a report done by FOCOS. Once we have done this we can work from the facts rather than hearsay.

Communications with the lessee (TGOR) and National Parks overall were cordial and positive, and I am confident that if there are any problems we can all work together to have them resolved.

2002-2003 Membership is Due

Join Lighthouses of Australia IncIt's that time of year folks. The renewal notices for the 2002-2003 membership year will be sent out in the next few weeks.

The LoA Inc membership runs from July to June each year.

We are going to use a plain format this year where the renewal is in the email rather than an attachment. It may not look as well finished, but too many members had trouble with the PDF format.

For 2003-2004 we hope to have the whole membership process on line.

Lapsed and past members of both LoA Inc and the former ALA will also be invited to rejoin.

Believing and Doing

Many times I have asked "what are the benefits of membership?"

A good question indeed.

My answer is a warm fuzzy feeling that you are assisting to preserve, promote and protect our lighthouses which I make no appology for.

Many of us enjoy the romanticism of lighthouse, but are our lights going to be there for the next generation to enjoy as well? So part of the objective of membership is to generate funds for achieving this purpose.

Though we hope that issues such as Cape Otway and Maatsuyker will be resolved by concensus there will be a time when we may have to go further.

Another vision is being able to contribute to projects such as restoration.

Also, the Lighthouse Trails brochures that have been mooted.

We could add many other actions to the list.

Membership is all about believing in the objectives of LoA and doing something about it even though the broader community also benefits.

What we have discussed though is a membership pack to give members some sense of reward and belonging.

Membership Pack

The membership pack could be something like this:

  • Membership cards. Hopefully we could arrange 10% discount at some lighthouse tours and accommodation etc.
  • Bumper sticker. Logo, LoA Inc & Web Address. To fit in DL envelope. Also can be sold for $2+.
  • Discount coupons for lighthouse stay or tour. Either free night or 3rd person. Will adapt to what is available.
  • Lighthouse trail brochures when/if completed).

Already there is cheaper admission to events such as the Annual Dinner.

Even though you may only be a financial member whilst others give time and resources tirelessly you as a member are still contributing.

A mission statement is on the back of all the printed application forms and is also at <>.

You Can Help Build Our Membership

We need to build our membership and current members can assist here. Members needs to promote membership to people they are acquainted with. It is surprising when you mention lighthouses how many people respond how they feel an affinity with them and show an interest in what the Project is all about.

We are also considering incentives:

Suggested Membership Incentives

  • A draw where every (n)th membership gets 2nd year free
  • One major annual prize. EG: Ibbotson Book, free Gabo flight or overnight lighthouse stay.
  • Prizes for leading members signing up members with major prize for annual leader>.

Corrugate Lighthouses - Pt 1This Month Also Features

Corrugate Lighthouses is the portion of a young immigrant couple story of coming to Australia and going on the Lights. It will serialised over about 5 Bulletins.

This Months News

Removal of Caretakers Threatens Maatsuyker LighthouseHeaps of Australian News this month especially with the Maatsuyker situation. Christian and Malcolm bring us up to date and invite your participation in the campaign to stop the
removal of caretakers
that threatens the Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse.

Why It's Important to Keep Maat's CaretakersChristian goes on to explain why it's important to keep Maatsuykers voluntary caretaker prgram in place.

A further invitation is then given to help get an informal LoA group going in Tasmanaia so we can get the Maatsuyker Campaign moving.

Cape Otway Lightstation InspectionAfter months of speculation the Cape Otway Lightstation inspection by LoA and FOCOS has finally taken place. Hopefully with the report in hand we can work towards an amicable outcome.

Australian Story to Feature Gabo Island TragedyABC TV's Australian Story is to feature Gabo Island and the tradegy of a former keeper's family caused by it's isolation.

Macquarie to Open for International Lighthouse DayToday Macquarie Lighthouse is to Open for International Lighthouse Day. Let's hope this is a beginning for something even bigger for next year.

Wollongong Breakwater Re-lit AgainJohn Nicholson has compiled and posted on the Net a Head Lightkeepers list for Penguin Island.

After being restored earlier in the year the Wollongong Breakwater Lighthouse has been re-lit again, this time for Engineers Week.

Eddystone Point has been Gazzetted as part of a National Park and Ian Clifford was interviewed about our oldest lighthouse for Italian National Radio.

Malcolm Macdonald is the founder and convener of Lighthouses of Australia

Malcolm Macdonald
Bulletin Editor
[Photograph: Marguerite Stephen]


Corrugated Lighthouses - Pt 1

[Margaret Hill <>, Condensed by Steve Merson <>]

Corrugate Lighthouses is the portion of Margaret and Jim Hills' story of coming to Australia and going on the Lights, Corrugates Castles.

Their story was published in the UK in 1999 by Cromwell Publishers. (a review can be read on .

It is still in print and selling, mostly in the UK. Australian sales are taken care of by the Author.

The Cape Jaffa (Kingston) Lightstation on Margaret Brock Reef where Margaret's husband, Jim, was a lightkeeper. [Image: Chris Browne]
The Cape Jaffa (Kingston) Lightstation on Margaret Brock Reef where Margaret's husband, Jim, was a lightkeeper.
[Image: Chris Browne]

Kingston Lightstation was a probationary posting. The keepers were usually stationed there for a year to find out how they coped with the life and the duties involved.

We had to buy all the household items to set up house in Kingston, but after these initial expenses, everything was ‘found’; except for our food, which was fresh and cheap.

At first, I found shopping difficult. Even standard grocery items had different names to those I was used to. Ice creams were Dixies or cones, not tubs or cornets or wafers. Bread came in half loaves, not large or small ones, and it was all shaped differently. A potato was just a potato, and bacon was all the same – it came in a role tied up with string.

I got into the habit of just pointing and asking for ‘some of that’. While most shopkeepers were very helpful, a few seemed to take delight in pretending they could not understand what I was saying and made me repeat myself several times. Sometimes I would walk out of a shop in frustration, and the shopkeeper would shout after me, “why don’t you learn to speak English?”

The butcher was surprised when I asked for liver, known as 'lambs fry' (How did liver come to be called 'lambs fry'?). He said very few Australians ate offal, and he usually threw it out. He would put several in my weekly meat order, free of charge and glad to be rid of them. We did not want a meal of liver every week, so I told him that I would ask for one when I needed it. I think he was offended.

Milk was delivered to the garden gate early each morning, fresh from the cow. A milk pail was left out overnight in a specially built box, which was nailed to the gatepost. We took eight pints of milk each day, and usually a pint of cream as well. Sour cream was free for the asking. The bakery made delicious bread and cakes, but as it was considered bad form to serve bought cakes to visitors, we only bought for ourselves when it was too hot to light the wood stove.

Using the wood stove was an art that I thought I would never master. I wondered how anyone could judge the temperature by just putting their hand in, but I soon got the ‘feel’ of it, and found it cooked better than gas and was more convenient, as it was always lit. In winter, it was the main source of heating in the cottage.

The local fishermen were very friendly and helpful. Fish and crayfish were often left on our back verandahs, after the boats had returned from sea.

There were always two keepers manning the actual light. They maintained the light and kept the structure rust free and painted. The third keeper stayed on shore to rest, maintain the cottages and monitor the radio – keeping contact with the base in Port Adelaide and transmitting weather reports. This system worked well. I had become used to Jim being away from home a lot, and the security of the job and good standard of living more than made up for his absences.

The lighthouse cottages at Kingston 1958. Left to Right our children Kevin, Marilyn and Colin. [Image: Margaret Hill]
The lighthouse cottages at Kingston 1958. Left to Right our children Kevin, Marilyn and Colin.
[Image: Margaret Hill]

The weatherboard lighthouse cottage was large and comfortable. It was furnished with strong and serviceable Government-issue furniture, made for the long use of many families.

The laundry facilities were primitive, but the wood-fired copper was burnished bright and there was always a good supply of dry wood. The concrete wash troughs were scrubbed almost white and the soap powder soaped up well - it was just great to bath and wash in the clear rainwater that drained from the corrugated iron roof. Clothes that had been made dull and dingy from being washed in the brown Adelaide water soon became bright again, and sleeping between our own soft sheets was a pleasure after the hard hostel linen. Just having a clean space of my own to work in was heaven.

We had only been in Kingston a very short time when I became pregnant again. Four months into the pregnancy I received word from England that my parents had split up. The circumstances that my Aunt Zena described in her letters were so distressing to me that I almost miscarried.

Our third daughter, Irene, was born in Kingston in September 1959. Now we had three children in nappies. I had no problem with this fact – I loved being able to hang washing out on the long clotheslines in the garden, to blow in the sea breeze, and not have to worry about it being stolen.

The cottages were built on a rise directly across from the sea – there was a long sloping lawn in front and another lawn at the back. Beyond the back garden, the ground dropped down into thick scrub. Snakes were a worry, and we were warned to keep a sharp lookout for them. There was a strange loop-like wire object on the back porch to catch them with, but I never had to use it, thank goodness.

One sunny spring morning, I was busy pegging up washing with my back to the bushes, enjoying the warmth and a bit of a chat with the ‘keeper’ on shore duty that week, when he suddenly stopped talking and motioned me to keep still. Moving slowly away, he fetched a spade from the shed and returned towards me - I was still wondering what was going on – he made a lightening leap and swung the spade down to the ground with a loud ‘thump’. My laundry basket was splattered with the remains of a large brown snake. I suppose I was lucky to not have been bitten.

Maury and Jim on Cape Jaffa Lightstation 1958 [Image: Margaret Hill]
Maury and Jim on Cape Jaffa Lightstation 1958
[Image: Margaret Hill]

I have always loved the sea. Walking with the children along the shore of Lacepede Bay, just beyond my front garden, was a real bonus. My greatest pleasure was lying in bed at night, listening to the sea and watching for the flash of the light beam from the structure out on the reef. The mood of the sea would change from mirror-smooth, inky blackness that reflected the light beams and moonlight… to huge thundering white-capped waves driven with such force by gale force winds that the spray would reach the cottages. Shrouds of thick fog often blanketed the coast, obscuring the view. The effect of the sea soothed my soul and gave me new strength.

We settled in and made friends. I felt I belonged.

With our children in school, Iris and I took jobs at the local hotel. All went well for several weeks, apart from being confronted by a huge, rock-hard, blue pumpkin, which I had been asked to prepare for lunch. I had no idea how to tackle the job, and stood looking at the thing until the manager’s wife came to the rescue. She got a large meat cleaver, placed the pumpkin on the ground and fetched it a hearty whack, which split it in two. Another few whacks reduced it to bits small enough to tackle with a knife.

But we were in trouble with the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (CLS). It seemed that lighthouse keepers’ wives were not allowed to have outside jobs. We received stern lectures from Head Office and had to write abject apologies, which was a very humiliating experience for us. We were also appalled to find out that we could not leave the town without permission. We had to be available for emergency radio calls, at all times.

Saturday was a big day in Kingston. People came in from outlying properties to pick up supplies at the general store and the stock merchants, do their banking, visit the Post Office, and to socialise. Although it was only a small town - little more than a village - it was on the railway line from Adelaide. From very early morning, cars, utilities and pick-up trucks lined both sides of the main street. Once the shopping was done, families would visit friends or go to the hotel. In the afternoon, there was usually a sporting activity to go to. Some evenings, there was a film show in the local hall.

Towards the end of our first year, two new postings were offered. Iris’s husband, as the longest-serving keeper, got first choice. The Robert’s went to Cape Willoughby, and we went to Neptune Island, about 50 miles off Port Lincoln in Spencer Gulf.

All our goods had to be packed into handmade boxes of prescribed proportions, with rope handles at each end so one person could lift them. We had landed in Australia with five suitcases and five metal trunks. When our packing was complete, we had 95 pieces of baggage!

I did most of the packing myself, as Jim was out on the light structure. He made the boxes out there and sent them home with the fishermen. I packed carefully, numbering each box and cross-referencing and duplicating each list. The head keeper’s wife helped with this task. They had been in the CLS for many years, and had served on most of the stations. So when she told us how easy it was for a box to slip out of the flying fox, or fall from a basket – as had happened to some of their belongings – and how the CLS was strict about lists and paperwork for insurance claims, we took notice of her.

Letters & Notices

Proposed Cape Cleveland Reunion

Hi Malcolm

We are looking to have a reunion and possibly an open day for the
Cape Cleveland Lighthouse situated off Townsville.

The Cape Cleveland LighthouseWe hope to hold it late October early November if we can generate enough interest. The venue is still to be decided but we hope to be able to arrange some boats to take a limited number of people over to the light and if it can be arranged maybe a look over it. We hope that we will be able to utilize the services of one of the local radio personalities and the local independent newspaper.

If any one is interested in helping or just coming along or if you have any photos we could borrow please feel free to contact me on the email address below or on 0417 600 221.

Regards Peter Braid <>

Chasing History on the Sellwood Family


My name is Julie Moore (nee Sellwood) and I am chasing family history on the Sellwood family.

I have been told that they managed a lighthouse in Queensland, up north.

Would you be able to help me or maybe you know who could help me with this information.

This would of happened 50 or so years ago.

Regards Julie Moore <>

The "Post Office" Cave Under Booby Island

Dear Malcolm

The Booby Island LightstationI was interested in the cave that is under Booby Island and was used for storing and exchanging of mail in the very early days of shipping in and out of Australia.

Do you have any information on this, or know where I might find some.

Regards Merrilyn Bowers <>

Hi Merrilyn

Here is an excerpt from a Department of Transport information sheet that will give the background of the cave on Booby Island.

"A port of refuge on Booby Island for survivors of shipwrecks was suggested early in the 1800s. It is arguable who first suggested the idea, but Captain Bligh (1), who became Governor of New South Wales Colony in 1806, officially suggested the establishment of a refuge.

The Booby Island LightstationCaptain Hobson of the "Rattlesnake" which was engaged in botanic observations, proposed that a form of post office operate on the island and placed a logbook with writing materials there for that purpose. Passing ships made entries in the log and passed on information about the ships that had passed. Mail was also dropped off to await a vessel passing in the opposite direction for eventual delivery. Both the post office and provisions were well patronised and saved the life of many a sailor in distress.

MacGillivray, naturalist on the "Rattlesnake" wrote:- "that this supply will be renewed from time to time is most likely, as the Legislative Council of New South Wales, last year voted the sum of fifty pounds for provisions to be left at Booby Island for the use of shipwrecked people. It seemed that the practice of provisioning Booby Island continued until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Passers-by also left food, rum and other useful items.

The Booby Island LightstationBoth the original logbook placed there in 1835 by Captain Hobson, and the replacement log in 1857 had disappeared by the 1880s. A sad loss indeed when one considers the great wealth of irreplaceable historical information gone forever."

(1) Booby Island was a port of call by Captain William Bligh in April 1789, on his epic 6000 kilometre voyage to Timor in a seven metre open boat after the infamous mutiny on his ship the "Bounty'. Interestingly, Captain Bligh named the island Booby Island as well.

Regards Malcolm Macdonald <>

Will There be Celebrations for Norah Heads Centenary?

Hi Malcolm,

The Norah Head LighthouseI often spend a lot of time on the rock shelves surrounding the Norah Head Lighthouse. Each time I walk down the track past the lighthouse it's difficult not to notice the 1903 date emblazed above the entry portico.

Are you aware of any centenary activities that may be being organised next year to celebrate this milestone in this magnificent lighthouse's life?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Geoff Gunness <>

Looking for John Lechte of Deal Island

Dear Malcolm

I have been told that one of my ancestors was once a lighthouse keeper at Deal Island.

The Deal Island LighthouseOne of the distant Lechte cousins told me that a "John Lechte" was once in charge of the Deal Island Lighthouse, but I have never heard this from any other source. Because our name is pronounced LEKTIE, some people confuse us with LECKIE families.

Do you know if there is list of former keepers held anywhere?

Really kind of you to take an interest.

Elizabeth Adamthwaite (nee Lechte) <>

The Taylors of Cape Willoughby

Hello Malcolm,

I have managed to put the following information together about my great great grandfather and would be grateful if it could be posted in the Bulletin, as I am very interested in collecting any further information and photographs that might be out there. I'm not sure whether this article is too long for your purposes. If it is, please feel free to edit as you please.

"John Dun(n) Taylor (25 Dec 1825 - 28 Dec 1894) was 2nd Keeper at the Sturt Lighthouse, now known as Cape Willoughby, Kangaroo Island from 1 Dec 1869 to 24 Feb 1894. In the absence of the Head Keeper, John Taylor undertook the duty of maintaining the Lighthouse Log.

The Cape Willoughby LightstationAt the time of his appointment, John had been married to Elizabeth for 15 years and had six children (William, Elizabeth, Margaret, Mary Jane, Joanna and Samuel).

Frederick was born at Port McDonnell in 1871 and Robina Margaret was born at Cape Willoughby on 20 Mar 1873. Sadly, John's wife died at the Royal Adelaide Hospital on 11 Apr 1875.

According to the Lighthouse Logs held at the National Archives, John continued his duties at the Sturt Lighthouse over the next eighteen years - only leaving the island to take his 3 weeks annual leave each year.

On 14 March 1883 John left the Sturt Lighthouse and took up duties at the Cape Borda Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island. On April 16, 1883 the Log notes that J Taylor returned to the Sturt Lighthouse and resumed normal duties. No reason is given for this temporary relocation.

The Log entry for Monday Dec 11, 1893 notes that the Head Keeper slipped and fell through the hatch of the lighthouse and landed on the first floor, approximately 12 feet. A telegram was sent for the doctor. On 12 Dec 1893 the Log recorded that the Doctor arrived at the Station via the "Governor Musgrave " and evacuated the Head Keeper to Port Adelaide. The 2nd Keeper was left in charge of the Light. An article in the Adelaide Register, dated Wednesday 13 Dec 1893 outlines all of the above details and continues to state that the Head Keeper, William Carter, was one of the oldest men in the Civil Service and well respected.

The Cape Willoughby TowerJohn Taylor continued as acting Head Keeper until 24 February 1894 when the Log recorded that F W Frank and family arrived at Cape Willoughby, and J Taylor and family left via the "Governor Musgrave" for Port Adelaide.

I believe that John Taylor then worked at the Port Adelaide light for a short period of time, before drowning on 28 Dec 1894 at or near Port Germein. He is buried at Port Germein.

John's eldest son, William Skea Taylor, married a daughter of one of the oldest families on Kangaroo Island - Mary Ann Calnan. Their eldest daughter - Clara Robina Taylor - was born at Kingscote, Kangaroo Island. Clara was my grandmother."

I would appreciate any information or copies of photographs which would help me to fill in more details of my great great grandfather and how he and his family lived on the Island. In particular I am still trying to piece together the last 10 months of John's life. If anyone has any information they would be prepared to share, please email me, Anthea Taylor at

Thankyou Anthea Taylor <>

Feel free to post any request, letters and notices here regarding research, events etc for any Australian Lighthouse on this notice board.


Department of Scrounge:

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:

  • Original Colour Photographs
  • Historical Photographs or Postcards
  • History, experiences and anecdotes
  • Technical History

Please eMail <Keeper>

New Pages & Links

New Pages for Australia:

Volunteers needed to research and write up text for New Pages for Australia

New Links for Australia:

Volunteer needed to help with Links for Australia

Also, New Links for World:

Volunteer needed to help with Links for World

If your e-mail does not display in HTML these pages can be accessed from the "New Listing for Month Index" at <>

Australian News:

Removal of Caretakers Threatens Maatsuyker Lighthouse

[<Malcolm Macdonald><> & Christian Bell <>]

The Maatsuyker Tower with the Needles in the background. [Image: Jeff Jennings]The Maatsuyker Tower with the Needles in the background.
[Image: Jeff Jennings]

The Situation So Far

Christian Bell of the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN) was recently contacted by a concerned individual who stated that the caretaker program on Maatsuyker Island (affectionately known as "Maat", pronouced Matt) was being terminated and that when the present caretakers who are due to come off the Island in August would not be replaced.

According to the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS) there was no money left in the PWS district budget to continue with caretaker scheme.

After news was received of the possible withdraw of the caretakers from the Island many phone calls and letters were sent to the responsible state minister and staff of the PWS over a twenty four hour period. It appears that any immediate threat of the removal of the caretakers has receded.

Christian spoke with an officer from the PWS with regard to the volunteer caretaker scheme and he stated it will continue to function as normal for this budget cycle. However he did state that for the next budget cycle this might not be the case.

Christian would like to thank all those who contacted either the Ministers office or the PWS but believes that a long term strategy needs to be formulated to guarantee the human presence on Maat.

Previous Threats

Maat was the last manned light station in Australia before the historic light was deactivated and replaced with a solar powered light. It is Australia's most southerly light and is located in the middle of Tasmania's wilderness southern coastline.

MCCN was part of the successful consortium of interests that opposed the removal of caretakers from Maat when Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) indicated it was going to remove its staff from the lightstation in 1998.

The operation of a volunteer caretaker scheme on the Island generated tremendous community support including from the fishing and the aviation industry. They saw that a continued presence on the Island as essential due to the key role the caretakers have in weather reporting in the southwest as being vital to their interests.

Since 1998 the State Government has been responsible for the operation of the volunteer caretaker scheme and Christian Bell states that this probably has been one of Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services most successful community participation projects. It has attracted much favourable media for PWS.

In 1998 when it appeared for a while the Lightstation might be abandoned (AMSA had given a publicized date for its withdraw) vandals and thieves turned up with sledge hammers and bolt cutters to help themselves to whatever they could take. They were surprised to find a continuing volunteer presence there and were told to leave.

Christian has very little doubt that the important cultural heritage would be destroyed within a very short time should the Lightstation be left without a caretaker presence (as well as much of the natural environment of the island).

A seal swims in front of Maatsuyker and it's lighthouse. [Image: Jeff Jennings]
A seal swims in front of Maatsuyker and it's lighthouse.
[Image: Jeff Jennings]

Failure of Private Sector Tourism

As for many other remote lightstations, tourism does not appear to be an option for such a location.

The two previous expressions of interest process failed. They had some pretty loopy proposals. One guy wanted to turn the tower into a disco and bar!

Access is only possible at present involving a very long and very expensive helicopter flight with sometimes limited opportunities for landing because of the weather!

Transport is certainly the biggest cost associated with maintaining caretakers on Maatsuyker.

The Issue That Confronts Maat

During the last years of operation by AMSA (a Federal authority), of Maat they had an operating budget of over five hundred thousand dollars a year for the island!

Tasmania's PWS are a much more cash strapped organization.

At present Parks Christian thinks they are spending about fifty thousand a year.

Operating costs for a turbine helicopter are about two thousand an hour and it would be a one and a half hour return trip from Hobart to Maat. They make the trip about twelve times a year.

The human presence that has many benefits to the Tasmanian community and Australia at large. [Image: Jeff Jennings]
The human presence that has many benefits to the Tasmanian community and Australia at large.
[Image: Jeff Jennings]

We Need a Long Term Strategy

Christian on behalf of LoA would be particularly interested to hear from people who can offer practical advice, support and assistance in developing a strategy for ensuring additional resources to assist with the continuation of a long term caretaker presence on the Island before the next State budget.

An informal strategy meeting was held 2 weeks ago on Thursday to make a start on some of the issues and to move to form a new support group for Maat and to investigate setting up a Tasmanian Chapter of LoA. As a result there will be a formal meeting on September 16th.

So regarding Maat, as I have expressed in previous issues of the Bulletin, we can be as romantic as we like but there are times we have to get our hands dirty and this is one of them!

However we all have work within our comfort zones and resources. I propose to you 2 options:

  1. Tacit support where you can support this effort by registering your support. This means that you wish to be informed and would help with emails, writing etc.

    If this suits you <CLICK HERE> and send.

  2. 2. Direct involvement where you are prepared to be on a committee or give your time and skills in support of the objective of keeping a manned presence on Maatsuyker.

    If this suits you <CLICK HERE> and send.

Alternatively contact:

Christian Bell
Lighthouses of Australia

GPO Box 567
Hobart TAS 7001


Phone +61 03 6234 7601 or 0427 872670>.

Why It's Important to Keep Maat's Caretakers

[Christian Bell <>]

Maatsuyker is located 15 kilometres off the southern tip of Tasmania. [Image: Australian Geo Magazine]Maatsuyker is located 15 kilometres off the southern tip of Tasmania.
[Image: Australian Geo Magazine]

<Maatsuyker Island, one of a little nest of islands lying about 15 kilometres off the south-west coast of Tasmania, came into the living rooms of Australia on January 26 in 1988 as part of the Bicentennial celebration television broadcasts.

The then light keeper happily announced to the rest of the country that it was so windy down there it could blow the back out of your undies. Maatsuyker was the last Light Station in Australia to have Light Keepers.

Maatsuyker is part of the World Heritage Area, making it the responsibility of both the State and Commonwealth Governments.

The last keeper, Owen Barrett, inside the huge Maatsuyker prism. [Image: Richard Bennett]The last keeper, Owen Barrett, inside the huge Maatsuyker prism.
Richard Bennett]

The Federal Government has been systematically reducing funding to AMSA which has led to the agency scaling down activity at light stations all over the coasts of Australia.

Lighthouses have been shut up, replaced by smaller navigation aids, with the old buildings either being destroyed or left to fall apart in the weather, simply because economic rationalisation demands it.

Direct responsibility for the island was transferred from AMSA to the Government of Tasmania in 1998. There has been a scheme involving volunteer caretakers managed by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS) on the island since the transfer.

Any removal of caretakers would appear to contravene the "heads of agreement" reached by AMSA and the Government of Tasmania in 1998, as there is a clause within the agreement that insists a presence be maintained there.

Checking the weather is a lot more that a set of instruments with a computer link. [Image: Australian Geo Magazine]
Checking the weather is a lot more that a set of instruments with a computer link.
[Image: Australian Geo Magazine]

The benefits of having a human presence on Maatsuyker are many:

  • Weather observations that maintain greater levels of safety for air and sea craft can only be obtained through human observation. While the Bureau of Meteorology has established an automatic weather station, this cannot determine the state of sea and swell.
  • Additionally, commercial flights that operate over the southwest benefit enormously from being able to ascertain the cloud height and type which is information that simply cannot be provided by an automated station.

Other advantages of having someone on Maatsuyker are:

  • Reporting of fire in the south west
  • Reporting of accidents in the Southern Ocean
  • Protection of the buildings and lighthouse which are registered on the National Estate and are National Trust listed; and
  • Protection of the weather and navigation stations.

Organisations that have benefited from the human presence on the island include:

  • Professional fisherman's associations
  • Abalone divers
  • Bureau of Meteorology
  • Tasmanian Marine Police
  • Boating clubs
  • Tasmanian Fire Service
  • National Trust
  • Parks and Wildlife Service, and
  • Australian Customs Service.

A human presence aids the environment and air and sea safety. [Image: Jeff Jennings]
A human presence aids the environment and air and sea safety.
[Image: Jeff Jennings]

From a natural conservation perspective, human presence on the island has aided in the recovery of the populations of New Zealand Fur Seals in this region. It is also occupied by the Australian Fur Seal (the fourth rarest Fur Seal in the world), the Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal and the Southern Elephant Seal.

The island is free of introduced rodents and mammals and is the second largest mutton bird rookery in the State.

Through low frequency of fires (resulting from the presence of a caretaker) Maatsuyker vegetation has been allowed to develop without the human induced high fire frequency.

The island has unusually thick and stunted Smithton Peppermint and Native Pepper trees, as well as the predominant banksia and melaleuca trees.

So, what is left if there is no presence on the island? A skeleton infrastructure made of an automated navigation aid and weather system, which doesn't provide all the information to facilitate safe operations in the Southern Ocean.

The lighthouse, over one hundred years old with hand-cut crystal pieces and brass mechanisms, will be left to deteriorate in the elements, or be looted by unscrupulous visitors to the island.

The seal colonies too, will become more vulnerable to shooting. Fishing and recreational boats, as well as aircraft will be venturing into the 'unknown' without being able to get information on demand about local conditions.

In all, through the removal of caretakers from Maatsuyker Island, the Tasmanian and Australian community as a whole has so much to lose. The caretakers must stay on Maatsuyker Island.

At present a PWS officer has recently stated that the volunteer caretaker scheme will continue to function as normal for this budget cycle (till June 30, 2003). However he did state that the for next budget cycle this might not be the case.

If members of LoA or other interested parties could write to:

The Premier of Tasmania
The Hon. Jim Bacon at
Parliament House,
Hobart 7000

And insist that the caretaker scheme on Maatsuyker Island be continued into the future long term.

The Premier has recently become the minister responsible for Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service.

It is better that you write rather than use an email.

For further information contact LoA member:

Christian Bell <>

Help Get the LoA and Maat Campaign Moving

[<Malcolm Macdonald><> & Christian Bell <>]

An informal meeting was held on Thursday 8th August to discuss the upcoming caretaker crisis on Maatsuyker (Maat).

The meeting resolved that 2 steps should be taken to demonstrate to the Tasmanian Government the community feeling about retaining the caretakers on Maat.

Maatsuyker and it's needles are buffeted by 200 kilometres winds from the Roaring 40s. [Image: Jeff Jennings]
Maatsuyker and it's needles are buffeted by 200 kilometres winds from the Roaring 40s.
[Image: Jeff Jennings]

The Wildcare Option

The first option the group considered was that it should work with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) by setting up a Wildcare group for Maatsuyker Island.

This group is to give practical assistance to PWS with regard to the management of Maatsuyker Island.

Wildcare groups are the PWS formal way of dealing with volunteers who wish to be engaged with projects within PWS, however each Wildcare group is a separately incorporated as a community group and has separate board.

Even though this long term goal is to be persued to look after the interests of Maat, there seems to be some resistance from PWS as with the caretaker crisis it may be seen to be too politicised.

The LoA (Tas) Option

The second, and now the most important option is that if it must be political it seems obvious we need to organize a Tasmanian chapter of LoA as apart from Maat there are plenty of other issues regarding lighthouses in Tasmania that need a more strategic and long term approach. We should concentrate on the formation of this group of LoA members and follow afterwards with the formation of the Wildcare group.

As the first priority this group needs to be to address the Maat issue it can start of in a sense as an informal chapter, but still part the LoA structure. From our understanding of LoA constitution it allows for the development of regional groups subject to the approval of the executive. At present the Tasmanian chair at the table is vacant.

Convener of LoA, Malcolm Macdonald has indicated that he willing to attend as the guest speaker, but also emphasised that this is Tasmania's undertaking and must be that way to be successful.

Opportunity to be a Model for Other States

Tasmania has a great history of activism and eventually their lead may become a model for other states to step up to the plate and become more proactive in preserving and promoting their lighthouse heritage.

Even though one of the stengths of LoA is a strong national and international presence using new technology this can actually be alienating to the ordinary member on the ground.

State chapters such as this offer us an opportunity for:

  • A face to face fellowship and friendship over a common cause.
    quick decisive action.
  • Dealing with and targeting the media in local Tasmanian issues.
  • More effective local membership recruiting base.
  • Efficiencies of scale such as local fundraising.

It would be great to see other members outside of Tasmania nominate to be a state organiser to rally their members to give our Tasmanian friends as much support as possible.

Where and When

I encourage all Tasmanian members and subscribers to get behind this move.

Don't just bring yourself, seek out others that you feel may be interested and bring them too.

I would suggest that those of you overseas that have nominated a Tasmanian lighthouse as their Home Lighthouse should get involved too.

The meeting time and place is:

September 16th

Shipwrights Arms Hotel
29 Trumpeter St
Battery Point

Enquiries to:

Christian Bell, Lighthouses of Australia
Phone (03) 6223 7601 or 0427 872670>

Cape Otway Lightstation Inspection

[Deborah Kavaliunas <>]

Wednesday 14th August, 7am set off to the Cape Otway Lighthouse for the combined inspection of Cape Otway.

Once there the group assembled and was made up of the managers of the lightstation , Cheryl Nagel, Supervisor of Visitor Services from National Parks, Stephanie Symes CEO of Tourism Great Ocean Road (TGOR) the lessee, Jenny Bowkers the incoming owner of TGOR, Cyril Mariner and Mike Ferie representing Friends of Cape Otway Station (FOCOS) and ourselves Malcolm Macdonald and Ed and Deborah Kavaliunas representing Lighthouses of Australia (LoA).

The group from the left: -----, Jenny Bowker, Cyril Marriner, -----, Mike Ferie, Malcolm Macdonald, Cheryl Nagel, Stephanie Symes and Ed Kavaliunas. [Image: Deborah Kavaliunas]
The group from the left: -----, Jenny Bowker, Cyril Marriner, -----, Mike Ferie, Malcolm Macdonald, Cheryl Nagel, Stephanie Symes and Ed Kavaliunas.
Deborah Kavaliunas]

The reason for the visit was at the request of LoA and FOCOS as they had been receiving mixed reports about the condition of the lightstation, especially the tower.

The group were invited to view at length the extensive works to date on the once derelict Telegraph Station. The chance to see the multi layers of complexities and the unexpected discoveries involved in renovating such fragility was an opportunity indeed as was the insight into the search for authentic replacements and or techniques.

The group were then escorted to view the out buildings, the original workshop that also housed shipwreck memorabilia and the adjoining Assistant Keepers quarters before moving on finally to inspect the tower.

In the lantern room Jenny Bowker, Cheryl Nagel, Deb Kavaliunas and Stephanie Symes. [Image: Malcolm Macdonald]In the lantern room Jenny Bowker, Cheryl Nagel, Deb Kavaliunas and Stephanie Symes.
Malcolm Macdonald]

The discussion started mainly around problems such as removing ancient paintworks and replacing it with appropriate paint that specifically meets the requirements of this particular structure - all very complicated indeed.

Then, over a cup of tea and coffee, each representative was able to put forward the view from their perspective.

The discussion concluded with the general agreement that what was needed was an active program of maintenance and that it would be in the best interests of the heritage and tourist value of the lightstation for all parties present to work towards this.

FOCOS and LoA will compile a condition report from their visit and hope to be able reconvene the group in several months to see how we can move forward in addressing the issues raised in the report.

Just like starting to renovating an old building, one must remember to consider the whole picture and also to expect the unexpected.

Australian Story to Feature Gabo Island Tragedy

[Leo op den Brouw <>]

Gabo Island where Alex Lyall has returned to to uncover her family secrets. [Image: David Armstrong]Gabo Island where Alex Lyall has returned to to uncover her family secrets.
David Armstrong]

ABC's Australian Story has just finished filming a story on a lightkeeper family on Gabo Island.

It is the sad story about Alexandra Lyall's search for the story surrounding her grandmothers death and the subsequent splitting up of the family culminating in the suicide of her grandfather.

The Age weekend magazine featured a story on Alexandra some 6 or so months ago.

Her grandfather was James Duncan Beaton Stewart, Assistant Lightkeeper.

His wife Ethyl became quite ill while stationed at Gabo. After signaling a passing ship the "Katoomba" a doctor came ashore and tended Mrs Stewart but due to inclement weather and her condition she could not be taken off the Island.

Some days later a small ketch from Eden took her to Pambula Hospital in NSW where she subsequently died.

The family, 3 daughters and 1 son were fostered out and Keeper Stewart was stationed at Cape Schanck and Cliffy Island.

After about 6 years he could no longer take the separation of his children and his isolated existence and committed suicide by drinking Lysol while on leave in Frankston.

Alexandra's mother was 3 years old at the time of her mothers death and associated Gabo with doom and gloom.

It will probably be screened on the 19th August at 8pm and will be well worth a look.

Alex Lyall and story producer John Millard will join an internet forum on Monday evening. The forum is set to start at 8.30pm eastern time.

Shortly after the program concludes a transcript will be available at <>.

Also, if you miss it on Monday night it will be repeated on Saturday 24th August at 12.30pm

It should also be noted that this is the day after International Lighthouse Day.

Macquarie to Open for International Lighthouse Day

Macquarie Lighthouse on one of it's rare Open Days. [Image: Rose Eagleton]Macquarie Lighthouse on one of it's rare Open Days.
Rose Eagleton]

Macquarie Lighthouse will open for International Lighthouse Day on the Sunday 18th August between 10am and 4pm.

Celebrate the day by and exploring Australia's first and longest operating navigational light.

Macquarie is located on Old South Head Road, Vaucluse.

As well as regular tours to the top, experience the breathtaking 360 degree views.

At the base of the tower inspect the unique relic lighthouse equipment

Refreshments will be available.

The really amazing part is that admission is free.

Last time the tower was open many were turned away so bookings will be essential due to limits on how many visitors can climb the tower at a time.

Call (02) 8969 2131 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, for further information

The next Open Day is scheduled for Sunday, 20th October 2002. Dates and booking details to be advertised and listed at <>.

The old Penguin Island Lighthouse. [Image: Grant Maizels]Penguin Island Head Lightkeepers List

The old Penguin Island Lighthouse.
[Image: Grant Maizels]

John Nicholson, local historian and Honorary Editor for the South East Family History Group in Millicent South Australia has posted a list of the Headkeepers for Penguin Island Lighthouse to their web site.

The link is <>.

Wollongong Breakwater Re-lit Again

Engineers Celebrate With the Flick of the Switch

The Old Wollongong Lighthouse was lit for one night during Engineering Week to celebrate the achievements of past and present Illawarra engineers.

The lens and flasher unit inside Wollongong Breakwater. [Image: Ian Clifford]The lens and flasher unit inside Wollongong Breakwater.
[Image: Ian Clifford]

The historic lighthouse, recently restored by the Department of Land and Water Conservation, sent its bright signal from sunset on Saturday 20 July to sunrise the following morning.

"We hope it prompted people to think about the valuable contribution that engineers have made to the Illawarra," Mr Dooley, manager of resource access and compliance with the Department of Land and Water Conservation said.

As a symbol of engineering achievement in the Illawarra, the elegant lighthouse which has stood at the entrance to Wollongong Harbour since 1872 rates as one of the most prominent. Even though small in stature (it stands at 14 metres) it has withstood the tests of time and is one of the Illawarra's lasting links with the great engineering achievements of the 1800s.

Wollongong Breakwater was lit previously to coincide with our Annual Dinner. [Image: Illawarra Mecury]Wollongong Breakwater was lit previously to coincide with our Annual Dinner.
[Image: Illawarra Mecury]

The lighthouse was designed and constructed by the NSW colonial government under the leadership of the prominent engineer E O Moriarty. Moriarty was Engineer-in-Chief of the Harbours and Rivers and was the inspiration and designer of many great engineering works in NSW.

Moriarty was also responsible for the expansion of Wollongong Harbour and Belmore Basin in the 1860s and 1870s.

"It is a fitting tribute to the colonial engineers who designed and supervised the construction of the harbour and lighthouse that much of the work is still in use and can be visited by the public.

"Having the lighthouse working is a symbol of the lasting effects that engineers have on society and highlighted their achievements during this years Engineering Week," Mr Dooley said.

The Eddystone Lighthouse and Grave. [Image: Ed Kavaliunas]Eddystone Point Gazzetted as National Park

[Christian Bell <>]

The Eddystone Lighthouse and Grave.
[Image: Ed Kavaliunas]

The Eddystone Point Lighthouse Historic Site was gazetted as a historic site under the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1970 on 26 June 2002.

The site comprises the 10.43 hectares of the former lightstation reserve but does not include the coastal strip which remains Crown land.

Ian Clifford Interviewed for Italian National Radio

Ian Clifford was interviewed by RAI (Italian National Radio) for a program that was broadcast on Sunday 4th of August as part of a program dedicated to lighthouses around the world.

The original Macquarie T.ower next to today's tower. Macquarie is the oldest lightstation in Australia. [Image: AMSA]The original Macquarie T.ower next to today's tower. Macquarie is the oldest lightstation in Australia.
[Image: AMSA]

The focus of Ian's interview was the Macquarie Lighthouse because it is our oldest lightstation.

The interview covered the history of the light right up to issues including modern maintenance and also the lights role in European immigration to Australia.

An interesting aspect of the interview was that the questions were asked in Italian, translated to English and visa versa with the answers.

If you know of any news or event effecting an Australian Lighthouse please forward it to us so we can publish in the Monthly Bulletin.

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The AUGUST 02 BULLETIN was published on: 18/08/02

The Bulletin is prepared in Dreamweaver 4 and tested on Netscape Messenger 4, Outlook Express (IE 5) and Eudora 5.

Lighthouses of Australia Web Site First Published: 3/12/97

Photographs & Contributions:

Australian Geo Magazine for Map and Photographs
Chris Browne for Historic Photograph
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David Armstrong for Photograph
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