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Lighthouses of Tasmania

State Indexes > TAS > Goose Island Lighthouse

The lantern room on the Goose Island Lighthouse [Photograph: AMSA]
The lantern room on the Goose Island Lighthouse
Photograph: AMSA

The Goose Island Lighthouse

The tower has a colourful history that ranges from an attack by pirates to the regular visitation by a ghost on the middle watch.


LOCATION: Lat. 40Ḯ81' S, Long. 147丮21' E (Map)
OPERATOR: Australian Maritime Safety Authority
CHARACTER: Flashing  (2) in 10 seconds
LIGHT SOURCE: 500 Watt 12v, Tungsten Halogen
POWER SOURCE: Solar Panels, Battery Standby
INTENSITY: 60,000 cd
ELEVATION: 36 Metres
RANGE: 18 Nautical Miles
HEIGHT: 30 metres


Built in 1846, the tower is of masonry rubble constructed by convicts.

Goose Island (2.4 x 0.8 kilometres) is in Bass Strait to the north of the Tasmanian Coast and to the west of Flinders Island.

The light was original known as officially termed the Goose Island Road Station since its construction was undertaken by the Department of Roads! Due to problems in the administration of the project it was taken over by the Public Works Department and the name 'Road Station' dropped.

The first light was an oil burner.

Conditions for the early keepers were very poor, occupying the workman's huts that had quickly become dilapidated.

Eventually a new headkeeper's cottage was constructed and the old headkeeper's cottage renovated for the assistant keepers.

Discipline was an ongoing problem and in 1852 one of the assistants is believed to have swum out to a ship sheltering by the island and had the captain take him to Adelaide.

The Goose Island Lighthouse [Photograph: AMSA]
The Goose Island Lighthouse
Photograph: AMSA

Another incident occurred in 1857 and is reported in the Melbourne Argus:


We received the following by Electric Telegraph from Geelong

The cutter Lucy reports that Goose Island Lighthouse was plundered by 3 bushrangers on 31st March, in a square-sterned boat. Left the island steering north-west, supposed bound for the Promontory. No further details have been found."

The original Goose Island apparatus [Photograph Deborah Taylor]
The original Goose Island apparatus
Photograph: Deborah Taylor

The remains of the Goose Island tramway [Photograph: AMSA]
The remains of the Goose Island tramway
Photograph: AMSA

Conditions and rations were an ongoing problem. In May 1858 the Superintendent noted on the arrival of rations:

"The cask of beef ex schooner Flying Fish opened this day was found to be bad and not fit for issue, also the raisins. The beef was very offensive in smell and a great many dead maggots in the pickle. The best has been picked out and fresh or new pickle made for it and if possible to be made fit for issue, having no other."

The men on stations such as this became resourcefully and supplemented their rations with mutton-bird meat and eggs which they pickled for when they were out of season.

The station was isolated and Sister M. Xavier Hickman describes the excitement of receiving the fortnightly mail in the 1920's:

"On this Island we received a mail once a fortnight. It was brought from Launceston by the S.S. Kiltibanks on her fortnightly trip to Flinders Island. She usually arrived off Goose at 2a.m. or thereabouts, rather an unusual time for the postman to call!

The man on duty in the tower always kept a good look out and at the first sign of the boat he signalled the houses. At once everyone tumbled out of bed. The first action was to place a lighted lamp in the glassed-in verandah of each house so that the boat would know we were on the way and also to act as landmarks for the rowers. For the Kiltibanks did not stop at the Island, it merely slowed down as it passed on the eastern side. Having hurriedly dressed, all hands rushed to the boatshed to help launch the boat. Two hurricane lamps were lighted, one to go in the rowing boat so that the Kiltibanks would not run them down, and the other to be placed at the end of the jetty as an additional landmark for the rowers.

Then the two Keepers not on duty would row out to the Kiltibanks, which would slow down as she drew near them, exchange mail bags, and continue on her way to Whitemark. The rowers would return to the Island, where everyone would once more help with the boat, then gather on our verandah to sort the mail. You can imagine the excitement! I remember now special thrills that came out of those mail bags on various occasions - an autographed photograph and a letter from Galli-Curci; the first postal note I ever received from an Editor for a published article."

Actually the mail times varied because the boat from Launceston had to catch the tide at Whitemark so it was not nearly so exciting when she came in the daytime. The same routine was followed but no lamps were necessary.

Later, in 1922, tragedy occurred when two assistant keepers were trying to row their long boat back to the lighthouse jetty, from fetching the mail, were caught in a strong current and carried away.

Despite a search which found the boat in tact and their mailbag the bodies were not discovered for several months. They were returned to the island and buried in the small cemetery on the island.

Also buried in the cemetery is the six year old son of a keeper, who drowned while playing in the rocks pools and got caught by the island's fast tide.

The Goose Island Graveyard
Source: AMSA

The light was converted to mineral oil in 1878 then to acetylene gas in 1931. Further to this the light was demanned at this point, the stores and equipment transferred to Swan Island and the cottages demolished.

In 1985 a wind generator with storage batteries was introduced to power the light but was abandoned in 1990 as the fierce winds caused too many maintenance problems.

Solar panels were used to replace wind and are still in use today.

The lantern room during a rebuild. [Photographs: AMSA]
The lantern room during a rebuild.
Photograph: AMSA
The tower dwarfs a service helicopter. [Photograph: AMSA]
The tower dwarfs a service helicopter.
Photograph: AMSA

The Goose Island Lighthouse when under wind power. [Photographs: AMSA]
The Goose Island Lighthouse when under wind power
Photograph: AMSA

Like many other lighthouses Goose was reputed to have a ghost. Kathleen Stanley in her book states:

"Sometime in the 1920s the lightkeeper taking the middle watch at Goose Island laid down The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and looked absently at the little dog sleeping near the door of the light room. The animal stirred uneasily and the hair on its back rose as it got to its feet and ran to the edge of the top landing, barking furiously. The man heard the outside door of the tower open and close and then the inner one. He heard footsteps on the iron stairs and wondered. If there were trouble on the station either of the other two men could have called him up on the whistle pipe which connected the lighthouse to the attendants' houses. Well, he would soon know the score-the footsteps had reached half way up; he would go to the top of the stairs, quieten the dog and shout down to whomever it was. But as he stepped on to the landing the dog's bark subsided to a growl and the sound of the footsteps began to recede. In a moment the doors opened and closed again and all was quiet. Puzzled, the lighthouse keeper returned to his upright chair and his book. His relief was soon due and would, no doubt, explain. But on being questioned the relief denied all knowledge of the visit as did the Head Keeper the next morning. Somewhat humorously, he suggested that the man on the middle watch had nearly met a ghost. And there the matter rested. Until the next occasion."

This was experienced by several different keepers on the middle-watch so the 'ghost in the tower' legend grew and became generally accepted.

It is interesting to note the daily rations allocated to convicts during the construction of the light.

Ration Cost
1 lb biscuit 3d
1 lb meat 6d
1/2 lb flour 1 1/2d
2 1/2 oz raisins 1/2d
1/2 oz tea 1 1/4d
3 oz sugar 3/4d
1 1/4 pint oatmeal 1/4d
1 1/4 pint vinegar 1/4d
1/2 oz tobacco 3/4d
Total: 1s 2 1/4d

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Goose Island lies off the west coast of Flinders Island in Bass Strait.

Access is only by helicopter or sea. The nearest point of departure is Whitemark on Flinders Island.

Goose Island from the air. [Photograph: AMSA]
Goose Island from the air
Photograph: AMSA

Aerial view of the Goose Island Lighthouse
Photograph: Winsome Bonham

The Surrounding Area

Special Thanks to:

  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority for Photographs
  • Ed Kavaliunas for Photographs
  • Winsome Bonham for Photograph


  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • Brian Lord
  • Guiding Lights by Kathleen Stanley
  • The Children's World, Sister M. Xavier Hickman

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