No 8/2003 - December 2003

Lighthouses of Australia Inc


PO Box 4734 Knox City VIC 3152 Australia

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Letter from the Editor

Welcome to the December Bulletin, edition 8/2003. 

This Bulletin marks a milestone for Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc) - it is the sixth anniversary of the Lighthouses of Australia Project (LoAP) - and the Bulletin has been in production for six years, with the first issue published in January 1998

Congratulations to Malcolm Macdonald and the rest of the founding members of the LoAP team, and to all past and present LoA Inc Committee members for the work over the last six years in running LoAP and LoA Inc, maintaining the website, preparing and publishing the Bulletin and the Prism, and striving towards preserving, promoting and protecting our lighthouses.

My involvement with LoA Inc this year has been very enjoyable - whilst preparing the Bulletin has been challenging work, it is a privilege to be involved with such a great group of people, and the opportunity to be immersed in lighthouse issues, stories and photographs has been fantastic.

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
Kristie Eggleston
LoA Bulletin Editor

Photo:  Jen Eggleston

I have published eight editions of the Bulletin this year, and hope to continue doing so throughout 2004 and perhaps the years beyond. Thank you to all the readers who have sent me feedback about the Bulletin - it makes it all worthwhile to find that people are enjoying reading about Australian lighthouses. 

I would not be able to do the Bulletin without the help of three people - Steve Merson, Denise Shultz and Malcolm Macdonald. I particularly want to thank Steve for his assistance in sourcing and preparing material for the Bulletin, as well as his proof-reading, writing and editing. Thanks to Denise for providing material and photographs, and proof-reading drafts of the Bulletin. Denise, Steve and I make up the LoA Inc Publication Committee, and it seems our like minds and similar objectives for LoA Inc work together extremely well.

Lastly, I want to thank Malcolm for his advice and assistance in preparing the Bulletin in a suitable format for distribution to both our email subscribers and online readers, and for his seemingly infinite knowledge about Australian lighthouses.

Have a safe and happy Christmas, and see you in 2004.

Kristie Eggleston
LoA Bulletin Editor
Email Bulletin Editor

Denise Shultz

Ann Hampson in the Montague Island lantern room

Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse

Deal Island Lighthouse

This final Bulletin for 2003 includes Christmas messages from some of the LoA committee. We hope that all our members, subscribers and other readers have a safe and happy Christmas, and that the New Year brings good tidings for everyone, as well as to all our precious lighthouses around the Australian coast.

I am pleased to share with readers the story and photos from my NSW south coast lighthouse trip, which I undertook in October this year.

Ann Hampson, daughter of a lighthouse keeper, returns to Montague Island with her family after 30 years.

Garry Searle writes to advise that the Port Adelaide lighthouse is being lit up at night by volunteer "keepers".

We document some of the feedback received by the ABC regarding the Maatsuyker Island story which aired a few weeks ago on A Big Country Revisited.

A new book is being launched regarding the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse titled "Very Much on Watch". 

A volunteer painter is sought for the next working bee at the Deal Island lighthouse.

Preparations are underway for the Cape Naturaliste Centenary next year.

Lastly, we have some letters from readers: a reader has queried how Maatsuyker Island got its name; a descendant of an amateur photographer has found some fabulous photos of the Cape Byron & Tacking Point Lighthouse taken in the 1950s; and a journalist from France is seeking information and personal stories about lighthouse keepers in Queensland for a television documentary about the Great Barrier Reef.

Enjoy reading this Bulletin, and if you are not a member of Lighthouses of Australia, and would like to be involved in preserving, promoting and protecting Australia's lighthouses, join now!

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

Port Adelaide Lighthouse lens

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Christmas messages from the LoA Committee

Denise Shultz

To every lighthouse enthusiast - may you have a bright and safe Christmas and may you shine like a lighthouse in everything you do in the years to come, starting 2004.

Denise Shultz
President LoA Inc

December is flying by, and the true spirit of Christmas is shining in our house. Recently, our younger daughter Kate made a considered decision as a young adult to be baptised. Her family and friends are amazed and proud that she has taken this step. This event is not exactly lighthouse news and reflections as such - but there is certainly a light in her eyes and in her heart, that will surely guide others to a safe refuge. 

May the holiday season bring you all the opportunity to interact with your families and loved ones. May it bring you the joy of sharing, and the satisfaction of reflecting on a year of learnings and achievements, and the challenge of planning new adventures for 2004. 

Pauline O'Brien
Secretary LOA Inc.

Pauline O'Brien

Pam Colenso

May the beam of your favourite lighthouse warm your heart over the coming festive season and may it guide you into a safe and happy 2004.

Pam Colenso
Finance Officer LoA Inc.

I am just coming to grips with the fact that Christmas is here again. Where has the year gone? Has something made the world spin faster? Well, it certainly seems that way. Around New Year, we think of a few goals for the coming year - this past year, I am still trying to think of them, let alone achieve them! 

My advice is to take a little time to visit friends and family, visit that special place, enjoy life and allow time for spontaneity. By all means, set your goals, but don’t let them drive you into the ground. I wish you all a merry Christmas - enjoy the festivities and take care in your travels and adventures.

Ian Clifford
Vice President LoA Inc.

Ian Clifford

Sharon Fielden

Wishing everyone a safe holiday, a Christmas full of joy and love and a very peaceful, prosperous 2004. 

Kindest Regards

Sharon Fielden
LoA Inc.

We strive to be happy at Christmas, being with family, participating in traditional festivities and taking a break, however short, from our hum-drum or urgent existence. In Australia, most of us are lucky enough to wholeheartedly enjoy this occasion each year - for this we are grateful.

It might be asked, "What constitutes true happiness?" Certainly, to love and be loved is right up there with the best of life's experiences; good health, a child's laughter, witnessing beauty in nature... For the enthusiast, the perfect symmetry of a lighthouse viewed against a clear blue sky... for the mariner, the glimmer of a light at night... for the keeper, an important job well done. 

Happiness is many things to many people, but it is not attained through self-gratification - but through fidelity to a worthy purpose. LoA Inc appreciate the contribution of stories and news from all the lighthouse people out there. Thank you. We trust that this Christmas will be everything you wish for. 

Cheers from Steve Merson
Chief Editor LoA Inc.

Steve Merson, News Editor


NSW South Coast lighthouse trip

by Kristie Eggleston, LoA Bulletin Editor

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse
Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

My sister Jen and I visited Sydney in August 2001, and saw most of the lighthouses in Sydney Harbour and environs, with Barranjoey the furthest seen to the north, and Kiama to the south (a report on this trip will be documented in a later Bulletin). We had always intended to see the rest of the lighthouses along the NSW South Coast, but work and other commitments had delayed it for some time.

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse lantern room
Crookhaven lantern room

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The "lighthouse" trip along the NSW South coast finally went ahead in October this year. We set off early on Sunday 5 October, driving up the Hume Highway, turning off 100 km south of Sydney to reach the coast at Nowra. Over the next two weeks we would head south along the coast back to Melbourne.

We saw the "best" and the "worst" lighthouse in the one day. 

The Crookhaven Heads lighthouse at the head of the Shoalhaven River is a very distressing sight for lighthouse enthusiasts. The tower and attached building are covered in graffiti, the glass in every window has been smashed, and the safety structure around the lantern room is rusting away, and is only attached at one point. 

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse
Crookhaven Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Barbed wire inside the tower to prevent climbing of the stairs is all pushed aside, and the vandals have conveniently left a pile of wood in front of one of the broken windows in the tower to aid unlawful access.

Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse
Point Perpendicular new and old lighthouses

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

There is little or no evidence of the restoration efforts of a few years ago. One hopes that the local council and other bodies responsible will work out a way to fund restoration of the lighthouse and prevent further damage. With our spirits somewhat deflated, we wandered back to the car, overwhelmed by the sad start to a lighthouse trip.

Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse
My sister Jen (right) and I in front of the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse

Photo:  Jen Eggleston

Early that morning we had checked with the Shoalhaven Visitors Centre as to whether the Point Perpendicular lighthouse was going to be open that day. The Point Perpendicular lighthouse is located within the Department of Defence Beecroft Peninsula Weapons Range, and is not always accessible to the public due to gunnery practice. Access to the lighthouse is generally available during school holidays, but it is always wise to check – contact the Beecroft Peninsula Ranger Station on (02) 4448 3411 or confirm with the Visitor Information Centre in Nowra on (02) 4421 0778.

Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse
The portico entrance to the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

At the gatehouse Ranger Station, a Navy personnel officer took details of our surname, car numberplate, the number of passengers, and the purpose of our trip. We were handed brochures about the lighthouse, a Visitor’s Guide to the Area, and "Health & Safety when Visiting the Beecroft Weapons Range". Subdued by the seriousness, we carefully drove out the rough dirt road to the lighthouse, noting the all the signs regarding the dangers surrounding us.

We walked the last 250 metres to the lighthouse, with not another soul around, and spent the next couple of hours photographing the lighthouse and other buildings in the lightstation from every conceivable angle.

Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse & cottages
Point Perpendicular Lighthouse & cottages

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The Point Perpendicular lighthouse is beautiful – it is painted in the most dazzling white with blue trim, and the lens is magnificent. The portico is enchanting, although it appears that the glass above the door with the waratah flower is no longer there. The bright white paint was painfully glary up close in the brilliant sunshine, and it was impossible to open your eyes long enough for a photo in front of the tower.

The new solar-powered lattice light is very stark and unattractive compared to the old tower. Whilst the new light does not require lightkeepers, caretaker staff live in the lightkeepers cottages, and they collect weather data & undertake general maintenance. Access to the tower and the keeper’s cottages is prohibited.

Cape St George Lighthouse
The Cape St George Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The difference in the amount of care and attention spent on Point Perpendicular compared with Crookhaven Heads is significant – and a simple reminder of how vital protection and maintenance of lighthouses really is. After having seen the best and worst in lighthouses, we headed back to Nowra for the night.

Cape St George Lighthouse
The demolished Cape St George Lighthouse tower

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The next morning we drove through the Booderee National Park to the Cape St George Lighthouse. I had wanted to visit this lighthouse for many years, after having seen the photos on the LoA website. The Cape St George Lighthouse was built in the wrong location, and the Point Perpendicular Light was constructed to replace its function. The Cape St George Light was then deemed obsolete, and in fact could be confused with the Point Perpendicular light during the day, so the Navy demolished it by using the tower for target practice in the early 1920s. It is difficult to imagine that the senseless destruction of such a magnificent structure would occur in today’s climate of heritage conservation.

Cape St George Lighthouse
The eroding limestone blocks of the Cape St George Lighthouse

Photo:  Jen Eggleston

Warden Head Lighthouse
The Warden Head Lighthouse at Ulladulla

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Despite the crowds of tourists, the sense of isolation of the lighthouse is evident. The headland on which the light is located has impressive sheer cliffs, although a stone fence surrounds the entire complex. Metal railing fences prevent visitors from climbing on the piles of limestone blocks that lie where they fell after the tower was demolished.

The lighthouse has obviously become a popular tourist attraction, with interpretive signage onsite, and much documentation available from visitor information centres and maps. It is lighthouses like this that you wish only enthusiasts knew about, so that you could visit it and quietly appreciate its beauty, history and surroundings without having to fight your way through picnicking crowds.

Burrewarra Lighthouse
The Burrewarra Lighthouse

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

After watching an enormous storm roll in at Hyams Beach, we drove to Ulladulla for the night. It poured with rain overnight and was still overcast the next morning – the Warden Head Lighthouse at Ulladulla hardly stands out against the pale grey sky. It is a shame that the road has been constructed around the base of the Warden Head Lighthouse, allowing drivers to do wheelies around the tower - the skid marks mar photographs, and potential for a crash into the tower must be great.

Narooma Lighthouse Museum tower
The Narooma Lighthouse Museum
Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Leaving the Warden Head light, we drove south through Batemans Bay and Mogo, and took the turnoff to Tomakin, searching for the Burrewarra Lighthouse. The lighthouse is not signposted in any way, but by a process of elimination, one finds oneself at the end of the road, with a walk of unknown destination and length heading off through the forest. A casual stroll of about 500 metres eventually leads to the lighthouse, which is an unusual elliptical shape, with a barely discernible light source on the top of the tower. 

Montague Island Lens at Narooma
The Montague Island Lighthouse lens

The lens from Montague Island has been installed in the Narooma Lighthouse Museum.
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

For a relatively modern lighthouse (1974), it is quite photogenic. The sea is not easily visible from the light due to the vegetation, but there is a great lookout on a sheer cliff halfway along the sandy track leading to the light. Despite its remote location, it does not appear to be suffering much damage at the hands of vandals, although the AMSA sign on the front door is completely gone.

The afternoon was slipping away, and we still had to get to Narooma by that night. The first thing we saw in Narooma was the replica lighthouse at the Narooma Lighthouse Museum/Visitors Centre in the late afternoon sun. Details of the charter boat tours to Montague Island were available on the front of the Visitors Centre, so we left to find our motel, and ring up to book a tour for the next day. 

Montague Island Lighthouse
The Montague Island Lighthouse
Photo:  Ian Clifford

Two places were booked for us on the Sea Eagle, which was going to leave at 9am the next morning. We saw the weather report on the news that night – 5 metre swells and 30 knot winds – not a good sign. Next morning we presented ourselves ready for the tour, only to find that all charter tours, even the "safer" whale & dolphin watching ones, had been cancelled. 

We then spent the next couple of hours in the Lighthouse Museum, putting in a couple of dollars to make the lantern from the Montague Island Lighthouse rotate, and reading and absorbing all of the lighthouse material on display. There was really too much, and it would be good if the Narooma Museum could prepare a printed version for sale of all the information, photos and displays so that visitors could take it away and read at their leisure. 

Eden Killer Whale Museum Lighthouse
Eden Killer Whale Museum replica lighthouse
Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

By 10am, we had "lighthouse overload", and sought advice from the Visitors Centre on other things to do around Narooma. We undertook some of the tourist drives in the hinterland, and returned late in the afternoon to Narooma, to wait out another night in our Narooma motel. The weather report was equally as bad, so we assumed that the tours would be cancelled again.

Green Cape Lighthouse
Green Cape Lighthouse

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The next morning, extremely disappointed after hearing that there were still 40 knot winds around Montague Island itself, we set off south through Bermagui, and then headed inland again for some scenic drives, eventually coming back out to the coast at Tathra, with its historic steamboat wharf. That night was spent at Bega, and then we meandered to our motel for the next three nights at Pambula.

Mindful that the Green Cape Lighthouse south of Eden might not be open on certain days, we contacted the NPWS at Merimbula on 02 6495 5000 to confirm. Tours are conducted daily (except Tue & Wed) at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm – at other times, visitors can view the tower and cottages from the perimeter of the property. As it was Monday the next day, our plans were set.

Green Cape Lighthouses magnificent fresnel lens
Green Cape Lighthouse lens

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

We rushed a few photos of the new replica lighthouse at the Eden Killer Whale Museum, purchased a significant amount of lighthouse merchandise from inside, and continued on to Ben Boyd National Park, in which the Green Cape Lighthouse and Boyd’s Tower are located, and self-pay park entry fees apply. The roads leading to the Green Cape Lighthouse were some of the roughest my 2WD car has experienced, but we eventually got there, just in time for a quick lunch before the 2pm tour.

Green Cape Lighthouse
Green Cape Lighthouse clockwork mechanism

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Green Cape is the only lighthouse I have been to where the public are allowed into the lantern room as part of a tour. This was the closest I had ever been to a fresnel lens in situ, and it was the most amazing and beautiful object. 

Boyds Tower
Ben Boyd's Tower

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The tour as conducted by NPWS officer Alan Roadknight was exemplary – informative without being too much information, entertaining and evocative of what life would have been like as a lighthouse keeper in days gone past. The balcony, with its classic James Barnet curved balustrade, brought on a case of shaky knees, but Jen bravely stood back against the railing to take photos of the lens, and nearly ended up locked outside while the rest of the tour headed back downstairs.

Returning back over the rough roads, we decided to bypass the turnoff to Bittangabee Bay, in the hope that we would get to Boyd’s Tower with sufficient daylight hours left. The tower was constructed by Ben Boyd, an entrepreneur of the 1840’s, who wanted to build a private lighthouse. The tower was never finished, and never used as a lighthouse, but served as a whale-watching lookout. 

Eden Lookout Point Beacon
Eden Lookout Point Beacon

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Mount Barkly Beacon
Mount Barkly Lighthouse, Lakes Entrance

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Located in a thick patch of tea-tree scrub, it emerges out of the bush like an out-of-place office building. The views from the cliff below the tower are superb, and we spent the rest of the late afternoon gazing out to sea, spotting a pair of dolphins swimming close to shore, and some large birds which looked like albatrosses.

The next day we passed through Eden again, stopping to have a look at the modern light-on-a-pole beacon at Lookout Point, before driving through still-smouldering bushfire country on either side of the NSW/VIC border.

Lakes Entrance was jumping with hundreds of people, so we quickly stopped to walk out along the breakwater to the magnificent 90 Mile Beach, before heading up to the lookout to see the Mount Barkly Navigational Light. We then continued home to Melbourne - although bitterly disappointed at having missed out on Montague Island - satisfied with the long trip in which we saw seven real lighthouses, two replica towers at museums, several modern lattices towers & beacons and a lighthouse tower that never was.

Email Kristie Eggleston

Hampson family returns to Montague Island Lighthouse

by Mark Westwood, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service

Ann Hampson at Montague Island
Ann Hampson at Montague Island Lighthouse

Ann reminisces through the window of their cottage.
Photo:  Mark Westwood

"Where were the palm trees and the golden beaches that the family had dreamed of and discussed? All we could see was rock and grass! The smell!! The birds were nesting everywhere and the noise and the smell was incredible." Ann Hampson recalls her shocked children's faces, as they steamed closer to the barren island that was to become their home - for who knew how long?

The year is 1971 and it is your family's first posting as a new employee of the Department of Transport. You, your husband and four children and all your worldly goods are venturing out five nautical miles from Narooma over the sea to Montague Island off the NSW south coast. What expectations would you have as you left your old life for this new one?

Jump forward more than thirty years to 2003 - this time it is the grandchildren who have all the expectations, as three generations of the Hampson family head out to Montague Island. Ten family members accompany Ann, her twin sons Anthony and Chris, and daughter Louise for a day of reminiscing and revelations. 

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of NSW now manages the island as a Nature Reserve, and they recognize the special nature of such visits by giving their full support - providing a boat, Narooma Charters Sea Eagle, and a Montague Island Tour guide.

Montague Island Lighthouse
Montague Island Lighthouse

Photo:  Ian Clifford

What was to become a unique part of their lives began in the 1960s for the Hampson family. On a holiday at Seal Rocks, north of Newcastle, John became friends with the lighthouse keepers there. Back at home, he rang the Department of Transport and applied to become a keeper.

"There must have been a vacancy coming up, for he was interviewed shortly afterwards and given the job - on the condition that I would be happy with being in an isolated situation on Montague, teaching the children by correspondence. They interviewed the wives separately to the husbands in those days", Ann remembers.

Montague Island was their first posting as a lighthouse family. They came to the island late in 1971 with four children aged from six to eleven years, packed onto the Emjay, a local fishing trawler. 

"I remember the boat bumping over the bar on the way out and the children being quite frightened - it was all such a new experience to us all", said Ann.

Hampson family on the steps of the Montague Island lighthouse
Hampson family at Montague Island Lighthouse

Three generations of Hampsons gather on the steps to the tower.
Photo:  Mark Westwood

Their disappointment at the barren appearance of the island was soon replaced with wonder as they explored their new world.

To everyone's delight, there were now eight children on the island - four Hampsons and the four McCabes, whose father was the head keeper, so the youngsters had plenty of company.

The two families got on famously and comfortably, although morning tea with the Head Keeper was remembered as a somewhat formal occasion. Uniforms were worn, perhaps to maintain tradition and preserve the official relationship of head keeper and assistant keeper. Mr McCabe was the type of person who preferred his own company, which was ideal for isolated postings, but he did have a friendly manner. 

To communicate with each other, they learned to use the special wind-up phones scattered throughout the buildings. The system in the houses was to crank one ring for their house (the northern one), two rings for Head Keeper's house, three rings for the tower, and four rings for the engine room. A single phone line served for communication with the mainland.

No one was ever bored according to Ann: 

"Never once do I remember hearing 'I have nothing to do.' There were seals to watch and penguins to get close to, and the men and the children never tired of fishing off the jetty or from the little runabout."

Hampson family at Montague Island
Anthony, Chris, Ann and Louise find their feet on the Island.

Photo:  Mark Westwood

The Hampson children all remember running bare-footed, wild and free over the entire island. To the extent that Louise developed a painful spur on her heel and had to spend several months with her foot in a plaster cast. The doctors thought it had developed by constantly climbing over the rocks with bare feet. Shoes were only worn when parents insisted.

So much freedom on the island caused problems when they occasionally went ashore to the mainland. Ann remembers being worried about the children crossing roads, as they had no traffic sense. They all took many days to become accustomed to the much more restrictive and hectic environment "on the mainland".

One of the children's favourite things to do was to have barbecues way down at the south end of the island - away from the adults. Louise particularly remembers cooking the shellfish she collected from the rocks. She tried eating all the different types and loved the little periwinkles the best.

Hampson family departing for Montague Island
On the boat travelling out to Montague Island

Chris and Anthony compare their 2003 departure with the 1971 trip with 
NPWS Tour Guide Mark Westwood.

Photo:  Mark Westwood

Correspondence school was done in the Head Keeper's cottage, out on the bench where the First Aid kit is now kept. Louise remembers the windows looking south and how difficult it was to maintain concentration. Mrs McCabe was a wonderful cook, and Louise was given her "home science" training in the McCabe's kitchen.

The children would swim at Old Jetty Bay with one of the keepers sitting on the rock with a rifle, keeping watch for white pointer sharks. The south end of the island was known as "white pointer territory" in those days, and Anthony remembered jumping out of the water in the nick of time as a shark snapped at his heels.

Sometimes the dolphins would come into the western "gut" between the north and south ends of the island (now Yellowtail Bay). The children would all rush down the rocks and yell and cheer and the dolphins would oblige by leaping and performing tricks for the delighted watchers.

Seafood featured heavily on the menu. You needed to be creative, to catch plenty when the opportunity arose, and work out how to keep it fresh for later. There's some brickwork in the crevice just east of the current jetty, which is all that remains of a holding pond built by the two boys and their father to hold the lobsters they had caught but weren't ready to eat. If someone felt like lobster, down they'd go and grab one!

Ann Hampson in the Montague Island lantern room
Ann Hampson in the lantern room at Montague Island

The view from the lens room is close to the same 30 years later.
Photo:  Mark Westwood

The small number of crested terns beginning to nest in front of the island's solar panel surprised the family considerably. They remembered the birds used to nest much further down, close to the western shore between Jetty Bay and the old jetty. Every square foot was covered with terns - perhaps tens of thousands nested there. The children also often raised orphaned gulls, and Chris had a pet penguin called "Percy".

The family was oblivious to their isolation; that is, until medical emergencies dramatically reminded them. The nearby port of Narooma could be closed if the swell and the tide made the bar at the entrance too treacherous, and the trip from Bermagui could be impossible in big seas. The wharf at the island often had waves breaking right over it as well. 

Marc, the youngest Hampson boy, became ill one day with stomach pains. They phoned the doctor in Narooma, who decided it could possibly be appendicitis. There was a tremendous sea running and no skipper could risk a crossing of the Narooma bar to motor out. In the end, desperation meant Ann was ready to perform an emergency operation with the RFDS first aid kit and instructions over the radio from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She was saved from doing so when a trawler risked the journey from Bermagui. The men literally had to throw the young Marc from the jetty to the boat, as the big southerly surge was so strong. He was taken to hospital and during the operation, the doctors found that it was not appendicitis at all, but a much more dangerous bulge in his bowel that was only an hour or two from rupturing. Lucky day!

Montague Island Lighthouse-keepers Cottages
The Montague Island cottages

The Montague Island Lighthouse Assistants' pair in the foreground and Headkeeper's in the background.
Photo: Ian Cllfford

The twins remember another emergency when a fellow named Kel Grundy had part of his finger chopped off when the balcony door in the tower slammed shut on it during a strong wind.

Ann was deeply moved by the return to the island: "It's great to see most things are as they were back then... the light, the rocks, the houses. The few changes that we notice have not altered the character of the place at all. The buildings are so crisp and clean and well maintained. Great work, NPWS."

Next time we will read about other aspects of their time on Montague Island, and how much Ann and her children appreciate the nature of lighthouse life. 

Email Mark Westwood

Port Adelaide shining bright

by Garry Searle

Port Adelaide Lighthouse at night
The Port Adelaide Lighthouse at night

Photo: Garry Searle

I heard a whisper recently that the Port Adelaide lighthouse was "lit" at sunset every Saturday evening. Keen to take some photographs, I arranged to visit the keepers in charge of the light.

Port Adelaide Lighthouse lens
The Port Adelaide Lighthouse lens

The three circular lens panels beam out the three flashes and the curved section reflects the light back inside during the period of eclipse. Each revolution takes fifty seconds.
Photo: Garry Searle

The 134-yr-old tower has had three previous lives, and it's been almost twenty years since the lighthouse last beamed its light seaward, for the benefit of anxious sailors. 

First erected at the entrance to the Port Adelaide River, it was lit on the 1st of January 1869 and displayed its light through a fixed, fourth order lens. On the 3rd of February 1875, this was upgraded to a revolving first order lens, showing a bright flash every thirty seconds

The tower was moved to South Neptune Island, at the entrance of Spencer Gulf, on the 1st of November 1901, and fitted with a new lantern with a second order dioptric lens. The original lantern was installed on the new screw-pile Lighthouse on Wonga Shoal, eight miles south of Port Adelaide.

Port Adelaide Lighthouse clockwork mechanism
The Port Adelaide Lighthouse clockwork mechanism

The mechanism works on an endless chain. A weight runs free over one side of the chain. The top cog is used to wind up the chain with the weight. The lower cog is turned by the weight and via several gears turns the lens which floats on mercury. This method means you can wind the chain at any time and it doesn't interfere with the revolving lens.
Photo: Garry Searle

Matthew Flinders named the Neptunes - "for they seemed inaccessible to man". A visitor in the late 1920s commented, "This is a dreadful station for loneliness, it is just a bare rock with a tower and three cottages. No vessels of any sort call except the Yandra and Lady Loch which land stores, one monthly, the other quarterly. The island receives the full price of all bad weather and literally trembles under the shock of great waves that strike the weather side."

The tower stood on Neptune Island until 1985, when, in a bad state of repair, it was decommissioned and acquired by the South Australian Maritime Museum. Restored and re-assembled on the dockside at Port Adelaide, it was opened to the public on the 13th of March 1986, in a ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II. The light had returned home.

Rob Lincoln and Fritz Bronner, members of the museum have attended the light every Saturday evening for the past three years. They are the new "keepers", passionately cleaning, polishing, undertaking general maintenance and lighting up for an hour or so. 

The lighthouse is open to the public - Monday-Friday 10am to 2pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Although the Saturday sunset sessions are not open to the general public, come down and take a look, you may even catch the keepers for a chat.

It was lovely to see the light in all its glory. When decommissioned, interior lights were powered by generated electricity, but the light itself used pressurised kerosene and the original clockwork mechanism was wound every 2 hours. A 1000w globe has been positioned next to the original burner, but I would suggest that this is one of the few lights in Australia that still has the original working clockwork mechanism.

Email Garry Searle

Interior of Port Adelaide Lighthouse

On the balcony of the Port Adelaide Lighthouse Interior of the Port Adelaide Lighthouse

Fritz Bronner (in red) and Rob Lincoln, Port Adelaide "keepers"

Fritz & Rob are members of the South Australian Maritime Museum, and have attended the light every Saturday evening for the past three years. They are the new "keepers", passionately cleaning, polishing, undertaking general maintenance and lighting up for an hour or so.
Photos: Garry Searle

LoA Committee member profile - Steve Merson

Steve Merson, News Editor
Steve Merson
LoA Chief Editor

Photo:  Lynda Merson

Born 1953, Mentone, Victoria, Australia

Introduced to island life at an impressionable age, when my parents owned Worthington Island in the Narrows between Curtis Island and the mainland, near Gladstone in Queensland.

After standing on deck for years, working on all sorts of boats around Australia and occasionally overseas, it was a big change to ease into family life and be home for dinner every night. The two years on Thursday Island, co-managing the service company for the then Queensland Coast and Torres Strait Pilot Service, was a formative introduction to a more settled and ordered way of living. 

Since leaving TI in 1994, I explored a variety of administrative roles, delivered a few boats up and down the coast, managed a schooner restoration project in New Zealand, and for a period of time, even reverted to driving ferries up and down the Yarra River in Melbourne. But my interest in research and writing began to divert me from boats into books.

Booby Island Lighthouse
Booby Island Lighthouse

Photo:  John Ibbotson

Now living on the Mornington Peninsula with wife Lynda and young daughters, Effie and Stella, I have completed two years of study in professional writing & editing, and begun a new career in publishing. I have edited and self-published a local history last year and currently working on another book. Since Malcolm Macdonald asked me to do some sub-editing and produce a press release or two back in 2001, my involvement in LoA Inc has slowly increased.

Bustard Head Lighthouse
Bustard Head Lighthouse

Photo:  John Ibbotson

I recognized Malcolm's invitation to join LoA Inc. as an appropriate way of repaying the service that many lighthouses had given me over the years of plying the coast. I could develop my writing and editing skills, as well as help protect, preserve and promote our historical lighthouses. When Malcolm stepped back from his previous role, I was happy to assume the responsibility of corresponding with ex-keepers and lighthouse personnel, and all the other readers who send in wonderful stories, photos and queries.

The role of Chief Editor is mainly to correspond, collate and edit material for the Bulletin and Prism, and to respond to all the enquiries in a helpful way. My reason for volunteering (not fully realising that it was a full-time job) came from wanting to contribute to the cultural and social heritage of Australia, by communicating with people who are willing to share a wealth of personal experience and offer it to the public domain.

I encourage everybody who has an interest in Australian lighthouses to join LoA Inc and find a way to help protect, preserve and promote them, because it is a worthwhile thing to do.

Email Steve Merson

Australian News

A Big Country Revisited - Keepers of the Light

by Malcolm Macdonald, Webmaster, LoA

Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse
Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse

The Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse is Australia's most southerly, located off the tip of Tasmania.
Photo:  Jeff Jennings

It is interesting to note that some of the responses from our members to the story of John Cook were broadcast on ABC's Feedback segment a couple of weeks ago. 

06/11/2003... INDIRA VOICE OVER: 
Back in the 60’s and 70’s ‘A Big Country’ was one of Australia’s most popular programs. Now, almost four decades later, the Reality Bites documentary series is retracing some of the steps of this very influential program

Indira to camera: 
Every Tuesday night at 8 o’clock this eight part series is reconnecting with some of the 'A Big Country’s' most affecting subjects. And there’s been a huge response to one episode in particular called '
Keepers of the Light'. 

Armand, Feedback email: 
Being an ex lighthouse keeper ...I watched with amazement and sadness this extremely well presented documentary ... ... Bravo ABC for a wonderful documentary

Ross Nicholson, Feedback email:
Always wanted to know about the people who looked after the lights and the life they led. This program gave me all the answers along with spectacular video footage

Barbara Caldicott, Feedback email
I have been doing research into Australian lighthouses for a series of lectures. One of the most difficult areas of the history is that about the keepers. Your story brought alive the life of isolation, devotion ... and the special type of person (required) to man the lights ... 

Indira to camera: 
Who knew there were so many lighthouse fanatics out there
? ...

All the respondents are subscribers to the Bulletin, if not financial members of LoA Inc. We may have some information in a later issue about Barbara Caldicot's lecture series.

Email Malcolm Macdonald

Book launch - "Very Much on Watch"
Featuring photographs and memories of Percy Wilmott

by Morgan Eakin

My book is about the real Augusta Margaret River, and contains a stunning collection of early photographs taken around the Cape Leeuwin, Margaret River and Busselton regions.

The book is 142 pages, and features about 80 photographs taken by Percy Willmott, Cape Leeuwin's first lightkeeper, from 1896. The Cape Leeuwin photographs were taken between 1902 and 1908, and include local camels and goats on the cape, the view from the lighthouse looking down on the four cottages, Comical and Tommy (or Minjo) - two of the local indigenous community of 1903, and the barely-believable photograph of Percy in 1907, standing atop the lighthouse on the weather vane, waving his hat and holding on with one hand, the image from which the book's title has been taken - Very Much on Watch.

Jenny was always very proud of her family and its history. Around the time of our marriage in 1984, Jenny and her parents, Jim and Isabel Willmott of Sandilands, showed me their family collection of plate-glass negatives, taken by Jim's grandfather, Percy Willmott. Jenny had hoped to publish the prints from these negatives, to coincide with the centenary of the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in 1995. 

We had visited the lighthouse a number of times over the years, and could recall a guide's excitement at the recent discovery of foundations confirming the exact location of a fourth cottage for the lighthouse. This book's cover (and page 71) is one of the few known photographs of this cottage before its destruction. 

Most lighthouse visitors have been greeted with strong winds, which has invariably left many people wondering about the state of mind of the fellow on top of the lantern room. The full photo is featured on page 67. 

A transcript of his 1910 diary has been reproduced, presenting an insight into his life at that time, and includes his family's return voyage to England. Whilst the Willmott, Brockman and Bussell family trees have been researched back many generations, I have only included only a very simple family. The intention is to give Jenny's children, and her nieces and nephews, a clear indication of their direct connection to their great, great, grandfather, Percy Willmott.

Jenny and I separated, and although her original aim for these photographs never diminished, the timeframe became more open ended. She lost her battle with cancer in January 2000, and we trust that this book does justice to her vision. The publication of Percy Willmott's work and writing is for Jenny and her children, Emily and Declan, and for her parents Jim and Isabel Willmott and the extended family.

Morgan's book will be launched at a 'morning tea and cake' book launch on Sunday 25 January 2004, in one of the vacant Cape Leeuwin lighthouse cottages. 

Pauline O'Brien, Secretary of Lighthouses of Australia Inc. is planning to attend the launch. If you are travelling through the south-west of Western Australia, the Margaret River Visitor Centre and the lighthouse itself will be the only outlets where the book is available in that part of the state. A shop called Fetish in Cottesloe will be the only Perth outlet.

Email Morgan Eakin
Email Pauline O'Brien

Percy Wilmott on Cape Leeuwin tower 1907

Web cams at Point Lonsdale

Point Lonsdale Lighthouse
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

Photo: Ed Kavaliunas

The Port of Melbourne Corporation advises that the web cams at Point Lonsdale Lighthouse are running on their new website.

There are four cameras set up in the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse area. These cover views of The Rip, Queenscliff, the South Channel and Point Lonsdale/Barwon Heads. The web cam images update automatically every 60 seconds.

Camera 1 - View of Point Lonsdale beach. 
Camera 2 - The entrance to Point Phillip (the Rip) with views of Point Nepean. 
Camera 3 - South Channel is the main shipping Channel in the Port Phillip. This camera covers ships as they approach the ports via the South Channel. 
Camera 4 - View of Queenscliff, including the lighthouse which provides a lead through the entrance into Port Phillip.



Volunteer painter wanted for Deal Island

Deal Island Lighthouse
Deal Island Lighthouse

Photo: Kim Shimmin

We are looking for one volunteer with trade skills in painting, rigging or industrial ropework, to assist at our next proposed working bee on Deal island - presently scheduled for late summer or autumn 2004. 

The main focus of the work will be painting the steel work inside the lighthouse tower. If subscribers to LoA have any suggestions that can assist us to find some volunteers with these skills, we would like to hear from you.

We will pay one person's travel costs from the Tasmanian mainland via Flinders Island.

The Friends have secured funding from the Heritage Section of Parks & Wildlife Service, and Wildcare, to make this working bee possible.


Christian Bell
Friends of the Kent Group National Park (Wildcare)
Phone 0427 872 670
Email Christian Bell

Cape Naturaliste Centenary

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Photo: Ian Clifford


Pauline O'Brien, Secretary of LoA Inc, informs us that planning has commenced to celebrate 100 years of illumination at Cape Naturaliste in West Australia. The celebrations are planned for the 18th of April 2004 - the light was first activated on the 21st April 1904. 

Peter Watson is a tour guide for the Cape Naturaliste Light, and he provides the following information: The tower was built during the period 11th Feb to 11th Dec 1903. The contractors took another four months to build the cottages before the whole facility was up and running. 

For West Australian lighthouse lovers, and other people around Australia who are able to travel to attend this event - it may fit into your school holiday plans (the weekend after Easter) so put it on your calendar now and stay tuned to the Bulletin and Prism for more info next year.

Email Pauline O'Brien


How did Maatsuyker Island get its name?


I saw the ABC show on TV about the last keeper on Maatsuyker and searched the Net to see who the island was named after - and picked up your interesting site. 

Would you be able to tell me after whom or what the island was named?


RR Leenders
Email RR Leenders

Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse
Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse

Photo: Jeff Jennings


Dear RR,

There are several accounts as to how Maatsuyker Island was named:

Abel Tasman had named Maatsuyker and the neighbouring De Witt and Sweers Islands after Dutch East India Company officials in 1642.
[From Dusk Until Dawn, Gordon Reid, 1988, Macmillan, 033347709X]

The island was named in 1642 by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman after Johan Maatsuyker, a Dutch Ambassador and Governor of the East Indies.

It is interesting, if fruitless, to speculate that, if Abel Tasman had made his famous voyage of discovery a dozen years later than he actually did (1642), the island that now commemorates his name might well have been named Maatsuyker Island. For Tasman was a diplomat, lavish with the use of his patrons' names - they can be found all over Tasmania. 

Johan Maetsuyker (or Maetsuiker, or any of several other variations) was a gentleman of much consequence in the Netherlands East Indies in the mid-seventeenth century when Tasman was sailing the high southern latitudes. Born 14 October 1600, in Amsterdam, Maetsuyker studied law and began his career in the Indies in 1639 as Consultant Justice.

It was he who established the Batavian Constitution in 1642, the year in which Tasman sighted Van Diemen's Land and named many of its coastal features after important persons in the Dutch Colonial Service. 

In 1644, Maetsuyker became Ambassador to Goa and from 1646 until 1651 was Governor of Ceylon. He became Governor-General in 1653 and held the position until his death in 1678. As it was, in 1642 he was of secondary importance and it was a group of islands lesser than Van Diemen's Land that received his name.
[Guiding Lights: Kathleen Stanley]

There is so much more that could be added to the page on Maatsuyker. Even a nice bit about soured relations between assistant keepers with a bit of inferred shenanigans in the 1920s, which will remain unpublished here until another occasion. 

I think John Cook would have related to this little ditty:

I am monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.

William Cowper,
The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk

Malcolm Macdonald

Email Malcolm Macdonald

1950s photos of Cape Byron & Tacking Point

Cape Byron Lighthouse c1950s
Cape Byron Lighthouse
circa 1950s

Photo courtesy: Hazel Lahey

Cape Byron Lighthouse c1950s
Cape Byron Lighthouse
circa 1950s

Photo courtesy: Hazel Lahey

Dear Steve,

A friend referred me to your site, to match up a few old snapshots from boxes of family material from a deceased estate, with your photos on the website. The snapshots were taken in the 1950s by my grandparents Maurice & Eileen Wood. Grandpa bought his first and only car in 1955 and they went on several driving holidays into northern NSW over the next eight years. They were only sightseeing, and did not have a vocational connection with the lights.

Cape Byron lighthouse is easily identifiable, and the other structure looks like Fingal Light, but there is a large room with a curved roof adjoining the light at the rear, which doesn’t seem to be there now in your photos. Would this be correct? 

If anyone would like these photos I am happy to post them to a supplied address. Otherwise I will probably throw them out.


Hazel Lahey
Email Hazel Lahey

Hello Hazel,

Received your letter today - thank you. We are happy to receive the photos, for two reasons: we are always looking for older photos of the lights to build our library and to see how the changes to the structures have occurred; and Cape Byron Lighthouse Museum is presently appealing for material to create a historical display.

Tacking Point Lighthouse 1952
Tacking Point Lighthouse 
c. 1952

Photo courtesy: Hazel Lahey

As you say, the snaps of Cape Byron lighthouse are clear. The other photo is of Tacking Point lighthouse, which is situated at the end of Lighthouse Parade in Port Macquarie.

The cement-rendered brick tower with the storeroom attached was one of five very similar lights built on the NSW coast. The only other one with a storeroom is at Crowdy Head.

Fingal Head and the Richmond River lighthouse at Ballina Head do not have a storeroom attached.

There was another one of the same design at Yamba, but it was demolished in 1955 and replaced with a much taller concrete tower. I wonder whether your grandparents took any photos of the original Clarence River lighthouse at Yamba in that first year that they owned a car and went driving along the coast? Or maybe a snapshot of the new one being constructed?

They may not have had any vocational connection to the lights, but to have taken photos of them at all, they must have had some emotional attraction to them. And we at LoA understand why. 

Interestingly, your photo shows a chimney on the storeroom, which appears to have gone by the time our website photos were taken. So your photo takes on a certain value. I will forward the photos to the Cape Byron Museum, where they will be kept for display. 

See our pages at:


Steve Merson
Chief Editor
Email Steve Merson

French TV documentary on lighthouse keepers

My name is Jerome Laurent and I am a journalist for a French TV program dedicated to the "world sea", Thalassa (

We are preparing a special program about the Great Barrier Reef. Some documentaries have already been made by our team (Reef rangers, Cairns tourism, Torres Strait pilots, box jelly fish, crocodiles, flying doctors). We have to find four more. I was thinking that something about the Pandora shipwreck could be interesting, something about Mer Island Eddie Mabo's fight for land rights. I need a topic about fishermen, perhaps prawn fishermen. 

And I would like to tell a story about lighthouses keepers, because their stories are often romantic/rough stories. There are also beautiful pictures to do - for us, the problem is to join lighthouses to the coral reef through human stories, personal destiny.

If you can help me, I would be very enthusiastic. 

Thank you very much. 

My best regards

Jerome Laurent
Tel : +33 (0)6 07 45 95 34

Email Jerome Laurent

To the lightkeepers, historians and prawn fisherman of Queensland

Please advise if you wish to have your contact details forwarded to Jerome. He and his team will be coming out with a camera crew next year to film. 

Contact Chief Editor LoA Inc.
Email Steve Merson

Join Lighthouses of Australia Inc.

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. 

Application for Membership Form

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How can you help

If you have or know of material that Lighthouses of Australia (LoA) could use, we would love to hear from you.  Contact LoA with the details, or send us some feedback.

Please email Keeper or fill out the Feedback Form

What you can help with is:  

  • Location and correct names of lighthouses in Australia (currently have 115 on our research list and we believe the figure should be around 200) 
  • Good quality recent B&W or colour photos 
  • A bit of the background of these lights 
  • Technical history or operational data (such as how many flashes, etc)
  • Interesting historical stories or anecdotes 
  • Details of keepers
  • Details of lighthouse graves
  • Old photos or postcards 
  • Conservation and preservation issues
  • Errors or omissions 
  • Other pages on Australian lighthouses not listed here

For more information about how you can help LoA, visit the How You Can Help page.

New Pages & Links

New Pages for Australia:

Hornby Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse
New South Wales

Thanks to

Thanks to the following people for their help with this edition of the Bulletin:

  • Christian Bell, Wildcare (information)
  • Ian Clifford (photos)
  • Morgan Eakin (information & photos)
  • Jen Eggleston (photo)
  • John Ibbotson (photos)
  • Jeff Jennings (photos)
  • Ed Kavaliunas (photo)
  • Hazel Lahey (photos)
  • Malcolm Macdonald (information)
  • Pauline O'Brien (information)
  • Garry Searle (information & photos)
  • Kim Shimmin (photo)
  • Mark Westwood, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (information & photos)

Thanks to all the people who have put links to the site, and those who let LoA use their photos.


Got any news, experiences
or queries about lighthouses?
Steve Merson, News Editor
Email Steve Merson

LoA Chief Editor
Photograph: Lynda Merson

Got any comments
or questions about this Bulletin?

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
Email Kristie Eggleston

LoA Bulletin Editor
Photograph: Jen Eggleston

Past Bulletins:  Past Monthly News, Preservation or Access Bulletins can be accessed from the Bulletin Index.

Contact Lighthouses of Australia Inc:  Contact details for various queries to Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc).

Contact:  Email Bulletin Editor

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