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Bulletin - Vol 9 No. 1
January/February 2006


Features

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The Cape Jaffa Lighthouse gleams after $60,000 was spent on repainting
Photo: Garry Searle

Cape Jaffa 30th Anniversary celebration weekend

by Kristie Eggleston, Webmaster & Bulletin Editor, LoA Inc
Garry Searle, South Australian representative, LoA Inc
Trevor Buckell, South Australian member, LoA Inc

A few months ago, Robert Mock, champion of the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse Platform, mentioned to South Australian member Trevor Buckell that the Cape Jaffa light was going to be lit in celebration of its 30th birthday since it was removed from the platform and reconstructed at Kingston SE in South Australia. LoA Inc received an invitation from the South Australian National Trust to the anniversary celebration to be held on Saturday 21 January 2006, which was extended to all members and readers in the last Bulletin.

Trevor was keen to have a big get-together of lighthouse enthusiasts, and rang Garry Searle, the SA representative of LoA Inc, who in turn duly informed others in the organisation while Trevor began to plan the weekend. The weather prediction for the weekend was very hot, with temperatures expected around 40-45°C (110°F) - this was to have a relatively serious impact on the weekend's activities as we later discovered.


Lady Bay Upper Lighthouse at Warrnambool
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Kristie Eggleston travelled from Melbourne to Mount Gambier, passing five of the Victorian lighthouses along the south-western Victorian coastline. The Lady Bay Upper and Lower Lighthouses at Warrnambool are located within the grounds of the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum, and the Upper Lighthouse is open at set times for tours - unfortunately Kristie had missed the last tour of the day by a few hours.


Griffiths Island Lighthouse at Port Fairy
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The Griffiths Island Lighthouse at Port Fairy is a 1km walk from the township, on a sandy island which is home to nesting mutton birds - the majority of the island is off-limits to protect their habitat.

Back on the road again, and ahead appeared to be an enormous storm descending from the clouds. It hit with 10-cent piece sized raindrops, forcing all traffic off the road until it passed. Parked at the side of the road beside a row of pine trees, the car was covered with pine needles stripped from the trees by the horizontal rain in just 10 minutes. The sky cleared, the humidity re-settled like a blanket, and Kristie arrived at the Whalers Bluff lighthouse in Portland right on sunset to photograph the lighthouse with the storm seen in the distance.

The Whalers Bluff Lighthouse was built in the 1850s, and was originally located on Battery Point in Portland, south of Portland Harbour. It was moved to its current location north of the harbour in the 1880s, to make way for gun placements on Battery Point.


Whalers Bluff Lighthouse at Portland
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The Cape Nelson Lighthouse
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The Cape Nelson headkeeper's cottage stripped back to bare stone
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Next morning, a quick visit to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse, 13km from Portland was a must, to establish what current arrangements were in place. In early 2005, the lease between the incumbent caretakers and Parks Victoria ended, leaving the lighthouse with no onsite managers, tour guides, accommodation providers or signs of human activity. Parks Victoria put out a tender for new caretakers, but to date have not been able to fill that role. 

The lighthouse cottages and stables, previously used for popular accommodation and as a café respectively, were in the process of having the white paint stripped off back to the bare bluestone, perhaps in preparation for repainting and another attempt at tendering the lease. It will be interesting to see what eventuates in the management of the Cape Nelson light; LoA Inc will publish details as they become known.


Cape Banks panorama
Photo: Garry Searle

Cape Banks alight at sunset
Photo: Garry Searle

Kristie arrived at Trevor's house Friday evening and both went on to meet Garry at the Cape Banks Lighthouse. While Garry and Kristie were exercising their camera shutter fingers, Trevor set up champers and nibbles to add a nice touch to a beautiful setting. As the light faded into a magnificent sunset, we savoured the moment that we had been waiting for… the light switched on and out came the cameras again to take more shots from all angles.

Disappointingly, it appears that the old Fresnel lens has been replaced with a small plastic lens. The original lens was fixed, so we couldn’t understand why it needed to be replaced. Where has the lens gone?

We returned to Trevor's house for some dinner and lots of lighthouse talk, including a phone call to Veronica Jenkin, Manager at the Port MacDonnell & District Maritime Museum about the Cape Northumberland light before retiring.

The next morning, Saturday 21 January, some of us were up bright and early while others slept on. After breakfast, we drove to Cape Northumberland via the Blue Lake at Mount Gambier for a photo shoot. We viewed the site of the original Cape Northumberland light, and with some trepidation approached the current light a few hundred metres away to the northeast. The cottages are privately owned, but we met no one there.


Kristie at Cape Northumberland
Waiting patiently whilst Garry takes his photos at the site of the original Cape Northumberland Lighthouse, with the current light in the distance
Photo: Garry Searle

The Cape Northumberland Lighthouse is striking in the sun 
Photo: Garry Searle

The Cape Northumberland light, showing a very small lens in a very large lantern room
Photo: Garry Searle

From Port MacDonnell we followed the coast, dropping in at South End to see the Cape Buffon beacon, a small solar-powered light on a pole marking the southern point of spectacular Rivoli Bay, and onto Beachport at the northern tip of the bay for lunch.

The Cape Martin Lighthouse, a relatively new lighthouse built in the 1960s, has a modern appearance compared to the other lights seen on the trip, and overlooks Beachport's amazingly long jetty and the original Penguin Island Lighthouse.


The Cape Martin Lighthouse stands sentinel over Beachport 
Photo: Garry Searle

The Cape Martin Lighthouse lantern room
Photo: Garry Searle

Garry, Trevor and Kristie pose before the Cape Martin Lighthouse in the early afternoon heat
Photo: Garry Searle

Back to the cars, and it is a 50km drive to Robe, the location of the unusual Robe Lighthouse on Guichen Bay, a star-shaped concrete tower which is narrower at the base than the top. The light was built in the 1970s to replace the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse when it was decommissioned, and has always been automatic and unmanned. Its pale beige concrete has also been recently covered with a coat of white paint, making it stand out even more against the brilliant blue sky. The Robe lighthouse also replaced the function of the obelisk at Cape Dombey, an unlit daymark which was constructed in the 1850s.


The abandoned Penguin Island Lighthouse and jetty stands offshore from the Cape Martin light 
Photo: Garry Searle

The striking star-shaped and tapered Robe Lighthouse
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The obelisk at Robe
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

By this stage of the afternoon, with temperatures hovering in the forties, and us jumping in and out of the cars taking photos every 15 minutes as the next attraction appeared, the heat started to take its toll on Kristie. She left Garry and Trevor traipsing over the cliff edges looking for photo locales, and drove on directly to Kingston SE, the final destination of the day. Heatstroke set in, and an ice cold shower and a couple of hours sleep were required to shake off the dizziness.

Meanwhile, Garry and Trevor re-emerged from the wilds of Robe, and on arrival in Kingston, proceeded to the Cape Jaffa Lighthouse, where they made ourselves known and climbed the tower. Up in the lantern room, there were two members of the South Australian National Trust trying to secure a domestic globe where the kerosene burner should have been, in order to relight the lantern in celebration of its 30th anniversary. Trevor gave them a hand at attaching the globe, and then noticed that the lens was not turning properly as it had not been operated for 15 years. He cleaned out a couple of oil holes that had been missed and oiled them. Before long, the oil had penetrated the bearings and it was off like a steam train, so the weights were wound to the top and went down to ground level just in time for the ceremony to begin.


The crowd listens to the speeches at the Cape Jaffa lighthouse
Photo: Garry Searle

The plaques await unveiling
Photo: Garry Searle

The interior of the Cape Jaffa lens
Photo: Garry Searle

Cape Jaffa lens alight once more
Photo: Garry Searle

A large contingent of people were in attendance - estimates were at least a hundred or so. The crowd was made up of locals from Kingston SE, politicians and council dignitaries, members of the South Australian National Trust, media representatives, descendants of former lighthouse keepers, family members of the people involved in the reconstruction of the lighthouse, and others like ourselves, with an interest in maritime and lighthouse history. Speeches were made, and the Naracoorte Pipe Band struck up a song, stirring an ancient heartbeat in those with Scottish ancestry.


Family members of Verne McLaren, who was instrumental in the relocation and reconstruction of the Cape Jaffa lighthouse
Photo: Garry Searle

Family members of both Verne McLaren, who was involved in the reconstruction of the lighthouse, and John Barnett, who donated the land on which the lighthouse was reconstructed, then unveiled the plaques which had been prepared in their honour, set in the lawn in front of the tower.

The sausages, pancakes and other refreshments ran out quickly in the festive atmosphere, and children ran amok, clambering up and down the stairs of the lighthouse to the outer balcony.

The crowd then waited in the shade of the tower or on the sand dunes opposite until sunset, until the magical moment when the light came on, the weights slowly descended, and the lens began rotating again. A cheer rang out, and cameras were everywhere, capturing the important scene.


Family members of John Barnett, who donated the land on which the lighthouse was rebuilt reveal the plaque honouring his contribution
Photo: Garry Searle

Garry and Kristie took the opportunity to ascend the tower to the lantern room, and obtained permission from the National Trust staff present to take photographs of the lens whilst alight. The fish-eye lens on Garry's impressive digital camera captured the beauty of the lens, despite the presence of the 250 watt domestic light globe instead of the kerosene mantle, and the missing bulls-eye in the lens. The heat in front of the lens was tremendous, but the opportunity was too good to be missed. We exhausted every photo opportunity, and climbed downstairs for the last time, seeking the best place on the beach to take long shots of the tower.


The Cape Jaffa lens captured with a fish-eye lens
Photo: Garry Searle

The magnificent Cape Jaffa lens alight
Photo: Garry Searle

The household light globe seen through a missing bulls eye in the lens
Photo: Garry Searle

We then headed out the jetty, hoping to get photos of the light reflecting off the water - Garry's latest photographic interest. The sea was unusually flat according to the locals, making for a very pleasant evening, and almost perfect conditions for reflection photos. As Garry set up his tripod, many people walked past, enjoying the cool air of the evening after the day's heat. Lots of people stopped to chat, either knowing us, recognising us as being lighthouse fanatics, or simply interested in what Garry was attempting to photograph. Unfortunately, the vibrations of people walking on the jetty caused a slight movement in the tripod, and Garry was not able to achieve the exact photographic effect he wanted.


The relit Cape Jaffa light shines through the trees along the sea front 
Photo: Garry Searle

The sea was unusually flat, allowing reflections of the light and car headlights to shine across to the jetty 
Photo: Garry Searle

Reflections of the Cape Jaffa light across to the jetty 
Photo: Garry Searle

As we had climbed the tower immediately upon its lighting, we had not had an opportunity to farewell Robert & Glenda Mock. We drove to their holiday shack which is a few hundred metres down the road from the lighthouse, only to find the lights on but no-one home. A chance idea, and we found them on the sand dune overlooking the bay opposite their house, glasses of wine in hand, with the lighthouse flashing in the distance. We were invited to join them, and spent an enjoyable hour chatting about lighthouses and gazing at the brilliant stars, watching until the Jaffa light was turned off. We said our goodbyes, and returned to the motel for a good night's sleep. The following morning, after breakfasting together, we went our separate ways. So ended one of the best lighthouse weekends anyone could wish to have.


Email Kristie Eggleston, Garry Searle or Trevor Buckell

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