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Letter from the Editor

Kristie Eggleston
Online Editor - The Bulletin/Prism
Email Bulletin Editor
Photograph: Dominic Angerame

Welcome to 2003 and the new look online Prism/Bulletin!

Visitors to the site and readers of the December 2002 Bulletin would be aware that Malcolm Macdonald, the Project's founder, stepped down from the Lighthouses of Australia Inc. Committee and as editor of the online Bulletin.  As a result, the bi-monthly printed newsletter Prism became the only official publication of Lighthouses of Australia.  In the 1/2003 edition of Prism, the editor Denise Shultz indicated that the Committee was searching for someone who could fill Malcolm's shoes in publishing the Bulletin - so I volunteered.

My name is Kristie Eggleston, and I am a member of Lighthouses of Australia Inc.  I have been interested in lighthouses for a long time, and have developed my own amateur lighthouse website at http://au.geocities.com/aust_lighthouses/.  I enjoy photographing lighthouses, and when I found very little information and photographs available on the Internet back in 1999, I decided that I should make my mark, and display my own collection of photographs of Victorian Lighthouses.  I have since gone on lighthouse photography trips in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, but have not had a chance to expand the site to include the photos from these States.

When I first set up my own site, the only other website I could find detailing lighthouses in Australia was this one - the LoA website.  The monthly Bulletin was always an informative and interesting read, and when I heard that it could no longer be continued as a online news resource for lighthouse enthusiasts, and that the LoA was searching for someone to help - how could I refuse?

At this stage, the online Bulletin will be a reproduction of the existing Prism, the bi-monthly printed newsletter of the LoA, which is produced by Denise Shultz.  As the changeover of Bulletin editors is settled down, the online Bulletin might return to its monthly format, and will be a separate newsletter from the Prism. 

However, the LoA is still seeking the services of a volunteer news/story manager, to source, prepare and edit material for both the printed Prism and online Bulletin.  If you can help, please contact LoA at keeper@lighthouses.org.au.

Your comments and feedback regarding the new look Prism/Bulletin are welcomed.  Email Bulletin Editor or email Prism Editor.

Kristie Eggleston
Online Editor
The Bulletin

Cape Wickham Lighthouse
At the northern tip of King Island stands the tallest lighthouse in Australia - the 49 m tall Cape Wickham light. Named after Captain J.W.C. Wickham of H.M.S. Beagle, it is surrounded by dangerous reefs, the most famous ones being Harbinger Rocks and Navarrine Reef. Despite this, it was argued that New Year Island, off the north-west coast of the island would be a better place to build a lighthouse. The mariners were worried that these very islands could obstruct the lighthouse from view for the ships approaching from the south-west, which was the usual route of the ships coming from Europe.
Photograph: Denise Shultz

King Island Lighthouses

by Denise Shultz
Email Denise Shultz

Sitting next to a pilot in a ten-seater Piper Navajo airplane, I remember thinking: "How does he know where we are?" Examining all the numerous dials in front of me I fail to find anything resembling a GPS or at least a compass. There is nothing but "greyout" outside, since we left behind the familiar shape of Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale fifteen minutes ago. If it was not for the roar of the two propellers and the slowly receding sea down below we could be sitting motionless amidst the grey opaque cloud. I should have trusted the pilot a bit more. A few minutes later a hint of darker shade appears in the southwest. As we draw closer, the shape of the land comes out of the mists. Soon a tiny white stick becomes discernable on its northern outpost. There is no doubt. It is our destination - King Island!

This Bass Strait island, situated 80 km south of Cape Otway attracts visitors who like to experience its beauty, friendliness of its residents and the taste of its delicious cheeses, beef and crayfish. The tragic history of countless shipwrecks and many lives lost during 19th century only adds to its mystery. Where there are shipwrecks, there are also lighthouses. King Island has five of them and they are the main reason for our visit here during the Christmas holidays of 2002/3. We have already managed to visit or see some of them during our first visit in June 2000, but this time we are hoping to have another look at them with more time and knowledge on our hands.

The two newest lighthouses are from the seventies and are nothing more than a "bulb on a box" or more appropriately, GRP cabinets with a beacon on top. They are also very hard to get to. Councillor Island (1974) lies 3km off the eastern coast of King Island, but we were able to see it with binoculars from the dune above the beach near Sea Elephant. The Cumberland light (1972) is also located on the east coast south of Naracoopa, but in the middle of a farm. Previously, when we attempted to find it, our efforts were thwarted by a water soaked, boggy farm access road. We took our 2WD car as far as we could and walked the rest of the way, sometimes during heavy rain. We combed the coast but the light eluded us. To this day I do not know what went wrong, perhaps we should have looked bit further inland. Although we should have been really close to the beacon according to the map, we never found it.

Stokes Point Lighthouse

The light at Stokes Point is almost identical to Cape Liptrap in Victoria, from the bottom to the railing. A bare beacon replaced the original 1951 lamp room.
Photograph: Paul Shultz

More interesting and much easier to visit is the Stokes Point Lighthouse, that marks the southernmost part of the island. It is a concrete tower built in 1951, which originally must have looked similar to Cape Liptrap lighthouse (also built in 1951), except it was altered in 1971. The lantern room was totally removed and what is now left is a bare beacon surrounded by railings, all sitting on top of the rectangular concrete tower. What this lighthouse lacks in appearance, though, is made up by its surroundings. Totally isolated and sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the rocky, rugged shore, it has a very lonely and forbidding feeling about it, especially during bad weather. 

It is the King Island's two oldest lighthouses that are its real treasure, pleasing to the eye and historically valuable. The contrast between them is truly amazing.

Currie Harbour Lighthouse
Currie Harbour is one of only a few lighthouses that made a comeback from being switched off. It dominates the landscape around Currie, visible from far away. Photograph: Denise Shultz

Currie Harbour Lighthouse, which is an iron lattice tower prefabricated in England, sits right next to Currie Harbour and is surrounded by fishing boats, houses and civilization. Cape Wickham, at the lonely and shipwreck stricken northern end of the island, has not only the distinction of being the oldest on King Island, but also the tallest in Australia (some say even the Southern Hemisphere). Like the island, they both have a dramatic history and therefore hold irresistible attraction to tourists and especially lighthouse enthusiasts.

Currie Harbour Lighthouse Lens
The Currie Lighthouse lens, a 4th order Chance Brothers, was installed in 1879. Photograph: Paul Shultz

There is a sense of excitement, concerning the Currie lighthouse. It is a pride and joy of most of the King Island inhabitants. The iron tower dates from 1879, when it was shipped from England and assembled by Johnstone & Co. It was lit for the first time in 1880. When it was switched off in 1988 after 108 years of service, considered no longer relevant to the shipping traffic, the local people felt that something should be done about it. They formed the King Island Historical Society, determined to save the lighthouse and its surroundings. They did it with the help of the Tasmanian government. The one remaining original cottage, dating from 1880 was renovated and converted to a museum which displays artefacts recovered from the numerous shipwrecks, as well as memorabilia concerning the history of the island and its people. As for the lighthouse - it took a while, but after some heavy lobbying the Historical Society and a few other enthusiastic organisations achieved the improbable. During a ceremony on 15th March 1995 the light started to shine once again from the top of the old lighthouse. And the success story continues. As was reported in the last issue, the local council recently received a grant of more than $100 000 for the necessary repairs and restoration work on the lighthouse. Perhaps it could even open to the public in the future? At the moment the lighthouse is inaccessible to ordinary tourist and only opens on special occasions but during our last visit in June 2000, Paul and I became one of the lucky few, who were able to get to see its inside.

Currie Harbour Lighthouse
The 21 m tall Currie tower casts a shadow over the surrounding grassland.  Photograph: Paul Shultz

We meet Frank Cullen during our visit of the kelp factory in Currie. Frank is its former manager who showed us around this very resourceful enterprise. It processes the heavy, wet bull kelp, so plentiful on the beaches after the storms, into fine dried particles that are then exported to Scotland where they are further refined into much used alginate gums. While we talked, it turned out that Frank was looking after the Currie lighthouse on behalf of the port authority and was therefore in possession of a key to it. When he saw my enthusiasm, he kindly offered to meet us both at the lighthouse and take us in. I could not believe my luck. Half an hour later he was opening the heavy iron door to show us inside.

Currie Harbour Lighthouse staircase
There is plenty of room inside the slender Currie tower. Enough to fit a spiral staircase with room to spare. Photograph: Paul Shultz

Judging from the slimness of the tower's central column, I prepared myself for a long, steep climb along a steel ladder. It looked impossible for anything more elaborate to fit in. But there was no ladder; instead a spiral staircase winded its way up, even with some room to spare. Up in the lantern room, the view of the harbour, Bass Strait and Currie Township including our Wave Watcher, was not the only admirable sight. An original Chance Brothers 4th order bull's eye was the centrepiece. The walls were unadorned and the iron plates were painted white from the inside, just like the rest of the tower. Apart from a few rusty spots, the lighthouse looked clean and well looked after. I felt very happy that this lighthouse was in such good hands and its future seemed so bright.

Cape Wickham Lighthouse

The Wickham lighthouse as it appears from the site where the granite was cut for its construction. Cape Otway is 80 km to the north. The ships were safe if they could spot either flashing Cape Otway or fixed Cape Wickham light and navigate accordingly between the two. Photograph: Paul Shultz

We were very lucky to be able to get inside the Currie lighthouse. I did not believe that I would ever manage to do the same at Cape Wickham. Paul and I visited it many times during both of our stays at King Island. We saw it during the day in good and bad weather, even during the night, when it sent its beams far across Bass Strait. Though not as elegant and colourful as for example Gabo Island, it is a work of art. Its turbulent history of shipwrecks, human suffering and lives lost and saved makes it extremely interesting. The first time we saw it, it was surrounded by a formidable high fence, which, nevertheless, had a few gaping holes in it. It was supposed to be a work site, though there were no signs of activity there. A thick iron mesh obstructed the lower windows but it was possible to see inside through the hatch in the door. It was also possible to smell the lighthouse and hear it when you made your voice resonate and echo through the tower. The last little house that was left of all the buildings that ever surrounded the tower was still opened and it looked like the workers have left in a hurry. A raincoat was still hung up on the rack in one of the rooms, the plumbing was still intact and amazingly, there was still a roll of toilet paper hanging in the loo, however, the inside of the house was thoroughly soiled by an unidentified species of birds. The feeling was decidedly eerie. 

Cape Wickham Lens

The 4th order lantern with shades is the centrepiece at the top of Cape Wickham. Photograph: Denise Shultz

Two years later, the fence was gone. The windows were still barred but the door was changed; no more porthole and instead, two sturdy locks. The lighthouse looked like a fortress. The little house that used to be full of interesting relics was also locked and had a warning sign on it telling everybody that the place is an asbestos ridden death trap. I could not help feeling a little dejected. Can a place get any more forbidding?

But sometimes miracles do happen and a few days later, we found ourselves inside the Cape Wickham lighthouse. When we entered the tower, we could see at once that the lighthouse was different. Thought it looked very robust from the outside, it had no more room inside than a lot slimmer lighthouses. The walls are 3m thick at the bottom, slimming down to around 1m at the top. Because it was originally built as a fixed light (to distinguish it from Cape Otway’s flashing one) it was not necessary to put in the central column that would contain the weights for the clockwork mechanism. As a result, the staircase was anchored to the outside walls with very little space in the centre. Basically, unlike other lighthouses of this type, you could not see all the way up. At the very bottom of the tower was the engine room containing the backup Lister diesel generator with its exhaust pipe aiming out of the window. Eleven flights of stairs led up to the lantern room. I did not count the stairs and as I run up I noticed that the steps and the railing were in bad need of another paint job. It was not that they were rusty but there were splashes of mysterious white paint all over the place. Also I wished I could get my hands at some broom to clean up a bit.

Cape Wickham Lighthouse staircase
The interior of the Wickham lighthouse is very dark. The windows are small and deep letting in little light from the outside. The electric bulbs are permanently switched on casting shadows on the inside walls that were never painted.  Photograph: Paul Shultz

Up in the lamp room was another surprise. Instead of the plastic “tupperware” lens I expected, there was a proper 4th order crystal glass lens, separated by three canvas shades. Originally, there used to be a much bigger first order one, part of which could still be seen in Currie Museum. Outside on the balcony we could see Victoria Cove where the supplies for the lighthouse were landed and as far as the surrounding landscape was concerned there was not a single inhabited dwelling in sight. If it was not for a prominent microwave repeater on the hill nearby, we could have been in the19th century. A testament to the lighthouse loneliness was the crow’s nest out on the upper walkway. No one was home but the nest looked inhabited. I wondered how the birds coped with the beams at night but it is said that a “shadow reigns under the candle” and they might not be bothered by it. Then again, later on I found a muttonbird dead on the ground under the lighthouse. Perhaps it was attracted to the light, hit the glass and stunned plunged 49m to its death on the ground.

Cape Wickham nest
Photograph: Denise Shultz

Crows had made their home outside the lantern room. The nestlings must endure flashes of light as well as strong wind.

When we left the lighthouse we drove into a nearby paddock. After we scattered a group of grazing wallabies, successfully avoided a number of treacherous boulders hidden in a tall grass and drove up an incredibly steep dune, we found ourselves on top of a hill overlooking the lighthouse with its surrounding meadows. But the view was not the reason why we came here. Overgrown with grass, there was an indistinct cavity on the side of the nearby rocky slope – the place where granite was cut for the building of the lighthouse. The route of the tramway, which transported the stone to the building site could still be seen with a bit of imagination. It was heavily eroded and sometimes bulldozed but at places the embankment was still distinguishable to the educated eye.

Before we drove off I looked back at the lighthouse. How things have changed during its life. From a bustling lightstation of four houses, chapel and a few utility buildings in 1915, to a lonely tower with nothing but a derelict little house for company in 2003. Since the light was automated in 1918 the surrounding buildings had disappeared one by one, the last some five years ago. The tower has been standing alone for a long time, a landmark and a shining eye warning of dangerous reefs surrounding the northern outpost of King Island. Despite everything, it still radiated an air of indestructibility and defiance.

Early in the morning of our last day on the island , Paul and I were invited to join two cray fishermen Andrew and Neil aboard the fishing boat Warringa M. It was still dark when we were leaving Currie Harbour at five in the morning. The lighthouse, brought back to life thanks to a few determined people, was symbolically guiding us out into the ocean. The fishermen seemed to hardly notice it, being busy navigating their trawler through the narrow channel. Neil's attention was on the screen of an on board computer and Andrew was busy preparing the baits and getting everything ready for the exchange of their fifty or so crayfish baskets. But during our return five hours later, when there was time to talk, Neil the skipper agreed, that though it might seem they take them for granted, somehow, working at sea would feel less safe if the lighthouses were no longer there.

Corrugated Lighthouses

Corrugated 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, and is still in print and selling, mostly in the UK. See below for details of sales in Australia by the Author.

About Corrugated Castles

Margaret Hill's book Corrugated Castles was first published in 1999.

The author's autobiography starts in England, where the very young mother of three is finally convinced by her husband George to emigrate to Australia. Little she knows that such life, at least in the beginning, means poor food, hot rooms made of corrugated iron and primitive facilities.

After living for a while in Finsbury hostel for migrants in Adelaide, the young family decide to improve their fortune by working for the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service. After a years' stay in Kingston, they ultimately finish at Neptune Island. Margaret, by now a mother of five, loves the island even though it means constant struggle with water rationing and mountain of laundry backlog. When the supply ship runs aground and George is worried about being blamed for the wreck, the family of seven has to look for another "accommodation".

Later, when the family finally finds a place to live, it has a bright shining corrugated iron roof and high corrugated fences. So different from England, it is their "Corrugated castle".

Margaret writes with authority, compassion and humour about her experiences as a new migrant to Australia in the 1950's.

The true account of survival against the odds, personal growth and refusal to be beaten, this book is a document of social importance. This book should not be missed by readers whether they like lighthouses or not.

Corrugated Castles can be obtained from the author - contact Margaret directly, or visit the publisher's website at http://www.seaviewpress.com.au

Margaret Hill
2/42 Keith Avenue
Phone: (03) 9772 8208
Email Margaret Hill
Website: http://www.transformasia.com.au/corrugated.html

Being a Lighthouse Kid

By John Kernot
Email John Kernot

Cliffy Island Lighthouse

Photograph: John Kernot

My father, Loyd Onlsow Kernot, was a lighthouse keeper on Cliffy and Deal Islands.

My father ran away from home when he was 15 years old and worked on a ship as a cabin boy. He spent the next 25 years at sea as an able seaman. In the war he was frequently torpedoed and sunk by the Germans in the North Sea. During the Spanish Civil War, he met and married a Spanish woman. They had a child but both wife and child were killed when their house was hit by a bomb. In revenge, my father joined the Spanish Resistance and fought the Franco regime. Apart from telling his story, he never thought about it much more, but my sister and one of my daughters are named after my fathers first wife and daughter; Leone and Juanita.

My dad had no proper social conditioning and never related to other people in an urban situation as he developed on boats going from port to port. My mother a nursing sister, came from a religious family in Western Australia and was very innocent and protected.

Us Kernot kids on Cliffy
Photograph: John Kernot

I grew up on Cliffy Island in Bass Straight and later on Deal Island which is north of Flinders island.this was in the 40s and 50 s.

Myself, my brother and my sister grew up not only very socially isolated but with parents who were outside the normal social experience so we developed much closer to nature. Monetary transactions, organised sports and even shoes were literally foreign to us. When we went to the mainland for higher education, we were different in every aspect of our social behaviour and as such we suffered the teasing of the other children. We had no interest or understanding of any organised game like football or cricket. Our toys were trigger orchids, spiders, lizards, shell fish and penguins. Football heaps of other kids were foreign to. I still feel a little different now. Some people I meet pick this up and are either fascinated or develop a fear and react with apprehension. Its been with me ever since we left the lighthouse. 

Looking back, the social isolation has given me a completely different outlook to life. When I came to Broome for a week in 1982 I got a job as a taxi driver. Most of the passengers were aborigines and I found that I had a peculiar empathy with them. For the next ten years I lived with them and I am still involved with them through the mail run. They even say that I have a "black spirit" and I put it down to growing up in such a natural environment. In a way I'm psychologically mutant in a social sense. I wonder if any other children who grew up in similar circumstances have experienced the same.

I now deliver the mail three times a week to isolated places and I see people waiting for their letters. Just like our family waited on the beach for the mail boat.

Wildcare Kent Group Working Bee

By Christian Bell
Friends of the Kent Group National Park CARes
& Stuart Dudgeon
Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service

Email Christian Bell
Email Stuart Dudgeon

The Kent Group National Park is Tasmania's newest National Park. Deal and Erith are the two main islands, the other being Dover Island. Deal and Erith have been the focus of considerable activity both from community groups and DPIWE over the last four years. Much work has been done and a large amount of money has been spent to protect and preserve the natural and cultural values of the Kent Group. Deal Island has extremely high cultural heritage value because of its lightstation, The work that has been done to date is beginning to pay off, with the built environment, in particular, looking much better than it had for many years.

Alan Sanderson replaces window in Generator shed. Photo: Christian Bell 

However, during a period of nearly eight years in the 1990's before transfer to the State Government, virtually no money was spent on maintenance of the cultural estate and there is still considerable backlog of maintenance to be done to make up for those years as well as regular maintenance that would be required every year. The natural environment is in much better shape now, though it still has its problems mainly with weeds.

On Saturday, December 17, 2002 a party of nine in the Wildcare contingent departed Bridport for Kent Group on the Furneaux Explorer. They were: Christian Bell, Paul Clark, Steve Cronin, Sarah Lovibond, Alan Sanderson, Stuart Lennox, Ian McKendrick, Nathan Males and Esther Staal. The team contained a good mix of carpenters, electricians, track workers and experienced project officers. Ranger Stuart Dudgeon was already on Deal Island supervising the caretaker changeover and assisting with a Coastcare weeding project.

The trip was briefly broken when it was necessary to shelter behind Prime Seal Island due to an unpleasant slop and also to time our arrival at Deal for the high tide. After a quick offloading, the vessel departed carrying the caretakers and the remainder of the Coastcare crew. After quickly settling in, the Wildcare team immediately commenced an extensive program of activity.

Tasks our field visit undertook:

  • New windows and frames had been installed in the generator shed next to the lighthouse. (These had been destroyed in a 1995 fire.) Some cement sheeting and capping had been replaced. The floor was painted and the generator shed cleaned. Repairs were also made to the switchboard and generator set.
  • Culverts were rebuilt, drains were cleared or created on the track leading to the light, to control its erosion. Vegetation was also removed from the drains. 
  • The Erith Island hut was completely re -roofed.
  • New display material was installed in Superintendents Residence Museum and the interior of the building was cleaned.
  • Power and light were restored to the jetty.
  • A water tank was installed to serve as header tank, replacing the previous pressure system. As a result, the water supply can be now accessed for 24 hours a day, without running the generator.
  • Donated supplies were delivered to the visitor's house (No.1) on Deal Island, while rubbish and unserviceable equipment (white goods) were also removed from the quarters. Empty gas bottles were returned to Flinders Island on the way back to Bridport.
  • The Wildcare crew assisted caretakers with the unloading of a barge with cargo of gas and fuel for the island.
  • Ranger Stuart Dudgeon undertook a management visit to Southwest Island.
  • Euphorbia (Sea Spurge) was removed from the East Cove and Wallabi Cove on Erith Island as well as Winter Cove on Deal.

Highlights of the visit included more sightings of a mouse species that is yet to be formally identified, on Deal Island. One individual was collected (dead from natural causes). Steve Cronin would be following up the identification of this species, which could prove to be something completely unique to Deal Island.

Paul Clark, Sarah Lovibond and Esther Staal work on the Lighthouse Track. Photo Christian Bell

Some of the team were witnesses of an unusual killing of a Wedge-tailed Eagle by a Peregrine Falcon off Southwest Island. The peregrines seem to be distressed by the presence of the immature eagle with regard to their nesting site. A peregrine struck the eagle mid flight in the back of the head. The eagle then hit a cliff and, stunned, tumbled into the sea. The eagle was recovered from the sea for examination by the staff of the Nature Conservation Branch of DPIWE.

On December 17, our Wildcare team departed the Kent Group to return via Flinders Island to Bridport. After the rather unpleasant voyage to the island group, the return trip took place in ideal conditions and the crew was in very good spirits by the time we arrived back in Bridport.

We would like to thank the current caretakers of Deal Island, Shirley & Dallas Baker for their assistance while we were at the Kent Group and Wildcare for their support in providing the funds to pay for the transport of our Wildcare team to the Kent Group.

We look forward to organising our next working bee later in 2003, as there is still much to be done on the lighthouse track maintenance as well as a lot of scraping and painting of the buildings on the island. Further interpretation needs to be undertaken particularly on the Museum, with regard to the natural environment.

Margaret Brock Reef Platform in Danger Again

By Denise Shultz
Email Denise Shultz

Things are going wrong for the former Cape Jaffa lighthouse platform again. 

The Cape Jaffa platform on Margaret Brock Reef with the solar powered beacon in 2001. Photograph Courtesy: David Hurburgh 

The whole sorry saga started two years ago, when AMSA decided to demolish the structure. 

The platform, together with the lighthouse was built from prefabricated materials imported from England between 1868 and 1872. The construction was hindered by bad weather and budget blowout, but despite the difficulties, its unique design, developed by Englishman George Wells and unprecedented in Australia, was considered the masterpiece of marine engineering. The structure stood at Margaret Brock Reef about 8km off the coast near Kingston. Though the original screw pile lighthouse was dismantled and relocated to Kingston in 1975, an automatic light was attached in its place and the platform still fulfilled its function as navigation aid, marking the reef. 

During 2001 it seemed like the expenses associated with the maintenance of the old platform were too great to bear and the platform itself too dangerous for the AMSA maintenance crew and the decision was made to demolish it. First it was offered to the South Australian National Parks and even though it was ecologically important as a breeding place for a colony of gannets as well as being a resting place for seals, it was considered to be too much of a financial burden, and the National Parks declined the offer. Nevertheless, the demolition was postponed.

Rather than maintain the old structure with its light, the AMSA built a new solar powered navigation aid on a single pile platform about 50 m from the old one in April 2002.

The fact that the old platform still stands today can be attributed as much to the perceived high cost of its demolition and associated building of a replacement beacon as to the intense lobbying of the local group of people, led by Mrs. Pat Barton back in 2001.

The Margaret Brock Reef (named after an 1852 shipwreck) at low tide and adorned by Cape Jaffa lighthouse.

Two years later, it seems that time is up for the beleaguered platform once more. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority last month called tenders for the removal of the iron and timber structure on Margaret Brock Reef. The reasons mentioned are: 

  • It's in poor condition with heavily corroded cast iron piles and rotted timber deck.
  • There is a high probability that the timber decking and rusted iron structural beams will soon fall into the sea posing a threat to the boating public and transiting vessels.

While AMSA is willing to go to great length to avoid killing any of the nesting birds by consulting the ornithologists about the best timing of the destruction of their home, it seems determined to demolish the platform before May this year.

When the Cape Jaffa lighthouse was finished, the people of Kingston presented the building supervisor F.W King with the silver cup, as a mark of respect for his determination and perseverance. What took three long years to build in 1872 can be lost in three weeks in 2003. The decision makers no longer have the same respect for the results of someone else's ingenuity and hard work as 19th century folks used to have. Perhaps the ordinary people like us still do! Can we save the Cape Jaffa platform?

ABC Radio Interviews - Stuart Buchanan

By Denise Shultz
Email Denise Shultz
Contact Stuart Buchanan

ABC Radio's Peter Scott interviewed Stuart Buchanan on the morning of Saturday 11th of January. While Peter was in Sydney, Stuart answered his questions from Bustard Head lightstation on the phone.

Stuart (an architect by profession) and his wife Shirley spent nine years working as lightkeepers for the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service in the seventies and early eighties. 

Their experiences as lightkeepers at Bustard Head are entertainingly described in Stuart's book "The Lighthouse Keepers". His second book "The Lighthouse of Tragedy" features history of Bustard Head.

In the interview, Stuart mentioned how important it was for him to save the cottages at Bustard Head from destruction. Stuart and his partners leased the Bustard Head lightstation from Queensland Government for the next 20 years and now are undertaking the reconstruction of the cottages, vandalised after it was demanned in 1988.

The group already managed to build the new road suitable for LARCs, the amphibious vehicles which deliver tourists as well as supplies to Bustard Head from the town of 1770.

After the cottages are restored the plan is for a caretaker to live in one of them and the other would be available for short term rental. This way, Queensland would follow the other states in putting the historic lightstations to use as a tourist attraction.

World Lighthouse Society Establishes Optic Work Group

By Egbert Koch 
Email Egbert Koch
World Lighthouse Society

The first order Fresnel lens at the focus of the Cordouan Lighthouse in France has a focal distance of 920mm. Photographed by Egbert Koch

World Lighthouse Society (WLS) has established an Optic Work Group (OWG) with interest in Fresnel lenses. The aim of the work group is to list "classical" Fresnel lenses which are still in use in lighthouses or displayed in museums world-wide. 

At first, we do not want to include buoy lenses yet. We want to describe all the existing Fresnel lenses in as many details as possible. For example we would like to know the name of the manufacturer, the year the lens was built, its order, exact focal distance, number of prisms, diameter of the bulls eye, height of the lens, etc. 

So far Al and Helen Gademsky, Mike Vogel and Thomas A. Tag from the US, Peter Williams, publisher of LEADING LIGHTS, and myself joined the Work Group. Esbjörn from Sweden is not sure whether he can join us because of time problems, but he offered his help regarding Swedish lighthouses.

I am ready to act as a Coordinating Officer at the start.  Once the work group has been established we may decide who is going to be the Coordinating Officer.

Anybody who is interested in Fresnel lenses, please let me know. I think that the OWG needs assistance from Australia, South East Asia, Africa, and South America .

Best wishes and keep them shining.


Destruction of Moreton Bay Pile Light

Friends of mine who visited Australia in August/September 2002 found a photograph showing the Pile Light, Moreton Bay. Attached to the photograph was a short note: 

Pile Light Moreton Bay, Brisbane circa 1910.

The pile light was first positioned on the original mouth to the Brisbane River in 1882 and moved when the new channel was cut in 1913. On a beautiful calm afternoon on Monday 17th October 1949, the duty keeper Bob Emett was watching the 15 000 ton British tanker "Wave Protector" prepare to enter the channel when it became obvious that it was going to hit the lighthouse. With nowhere to go, Bob watched in horror as the ship's bow tore into the structure, even thought the captain had dropped both anchors and the engines were roaring full astern. It finally managed to stop and make way astern as it reached the centre of the lighthouse and doing so, dragged the building and crew down to the water.

I looked at your web page but could not find any information. What was the original name of the lighthouse at the old and new location?

Egbert Koch
Email Egbert Koch

Morton Bay Pile Light

American bomber that crashed near the Moreton Bay Pile Light

I noticed on your web site that you wanted some info about the Moreton Bay pile light.

I am currently looking for some information on an American bomber that crashed near the pile light on 3.9. 1944 and have gathered some info on its location. What I would like to know is how I can track historical records from the keepers of the pile light and who would be likely to have kept these records. Any help would be welcome. So far I managed to get this information:

1882 Old Pile Light begins operation
1913 New Pile Light built
1949 Pile Light wrecked

Both are now gone but the original locations were:
Pile light: S27.18.45 E153.12.36
Old Pile Light: S27.19.28 E 153.10.12

Peter Ludlow is a local amateur historian who has published several books on Brisbane and Moreton Bay and I am sure he mentioned the pile light wreck incident in his books.

Thierry Tomczak
PO Box 214
Alderley QLD 4051

Compiled by Denise Shultz from the information on the Moreton Pile Light provided by Thierry Tomczak

Moreton Pile light at the mouth of Brisbane River was built in 1882. The river, obstructed by a shoal before, became open when a channel was dredged through the bar. The lighthouse fulfilled two functions. 

The first was to mark the seaward entrance to the port of Brisbane through the newly dredged Francis Channel. The channel was also marked by two other lighthouses on Fisherman Islands, by beacons along its whole length and by a light boat at its port end. The lighthouses were manned by keepers who lived in adjacent living quarters.

The second function was to keep the record and signal the state of the tides to the passing ships. Different colours were designated to specific levels of the tide and changed manually. Floats in tubes attached to graphs recorded the tides and when replaced every 31 days, the results were sent to Greenwich for keeping.

When the bar became blocked once again, a new cutting was opened in 1912 and the pile light had to be moved to a new position. The original platform was left where it stood with a new small light attached to it. It was eventually destroyed in the 60s. The 4th order light was moved with the lighthouse and continued to signal the state of the tides; red during ebb and flashing during flood tides.

On 3. 3. 1945 the pile light was severely damaged when a US refrigerated barge in tow of a tug collided heavily with the pile. Though some damage remained on the steel structure, the lighthouse was soon repaired and returned to service. Its end came about four years later on 17.10. 1949. The 15 000 ton British tanker "Wave Protector" failed to stop and crashed through the lighthouse. Its three inhabitants were thrown into the sea but escaped drowning when they were saved by the tanker's crew. The damaged structure remained at its place until 1966/ 67, when it was removed by a barge Hammerhead. 

LoA Issues

By Ed Kavaliunas
President LoA Inc
Email Ed Kavaliunas

Thank you to Malcolm

Malcolm Macdonald
Email Malcolm Macdonald
Photograph: Marguerite Stephen

Malcolm Macdonald has recently announced his resignation from the committee and the role of editor of the Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin published, until December last year, monthly on the internet. I would like to thank Malcolm on behalf of the Lighthouses of Australia Inc. and the committee.

I first met Malcolm many years ago when he first moved to Ocean Grove from Maldon. From the beginning, we shared a lot of similar ideals and viewpoints. It was not for a few years that the lighthouse project was born. Malcolm approached me one day about the prospect of doing a trip to photograph and document a number of South Australian lighthouses. The idea appealed to me immediately, primarily because here was an opportunity to pursue a passion of mine (photography) and at the same time see some more out of the way parts of Australia. This was the first of many journeys and adventures. We have travelled extensively throughout Victoria, SA, NSW and Tasmania; we have seen extraordinary locations, met extraordinary people and heard many amazing stories. Malcolm's' amazing energy and retention of information has seen the Bulletin develop into a wonderful vehicle for news and information, current issues, and a point of contact. In some ways, I think, our subscribers have been a little spoiled by the production of such a publication almost single-handedly by someone so disciplined and motivated.

Unfortunately, due to health issues and maybe a sense of frustration, the project has perhaps not evolved as me might have expected. Malcolm has elected to stand aside. I fully support his decision as I have seen first-hand the time and energy he has given to the project. I believe that Malcolm will still contribute to, and support the project in the future and his advice will be invaluable. This is a new chapter in the evolution of the project, and I hope that our membership responds to the challenge. Denise Shultz is editing our current bulletin under the format of PRISM as a bi-monthly publication. I am sure she will do a wonderful job as she has already done with the hardcopy version of PRISM. 

Heartfelt thanks to Malcolm for his years of work, and best wishes for the future.

Now more than ever, I would like to get some feedback from the readers and contributors, as to what they would like to see or what they could contribute to the project in the future.


By Liz Brewerton 
Association of Lighthouse Keepers
Email Liz Breweton

Advanced notice to lightstation caretakers, maritime museums and lighthouse enthusiasts. 

This year's

International Lighthouse Day

will be held on

Sunday 17th August 2003

There was such a wonderful response to this event last year that, hopefully, this year there will be even more lightstation operators wanting to be involved in this day and that we can make it an even bigger success.

This is an excellent opportunity for the lightstation operators, and maritime museums with access to lighthouses, as well as ordinary citizens with interest in lighthouses to attain some publicity and popularise our favourite cause. 

It is time to start thinking about interesting activities that would attract the crowds, making advanced arrangements and advertising the event. This year we want to start as early as possible to give everybody more time to thoroughly prepare for the day and gather as much publicity as we can.

By attracting attention to the lighthouses around the world, we can do a lot of good to protect and save them.

Good luck to you all

Join Lighthouses of Australia Inc.

Malcolm Macdonald's parting words after having been at the helm of Lighthouses of Australia Inc over the last five years:

The future of Lighthouses of Australia is in your hands.

It is up to those of you who believe in the Preservation, Protection and Promotion of Australia's lighthouse heritage to throw your hat into the ring, whether it just be a financial member or direct involvement on the committee, web pages, the bulletin or some other aspect that could enrich the site.

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