Wilson’s Promontory

Wilson’s Promontory, commonly called Wilson’s Prom, is the southernmost point of the Australian mainland.  I visited the lighthouse there on 24th and 25th April 1987.

Wilson's Prom in late afternoon 4:45am  24 April 1987 Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 240mm Schneider Xenar f11 1 second Fujichrome 50

Wilson’s Prom lighthouse in late afternoon
4:45pm, 24 April 1987
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
240mm Schneider Xenar
f11 1 second
Fujichrome 50

As an official visitor, I was able to drive as far as the end of the road, well past the point where most people have to walk.  It was just before sunset when I got there and this is the view from where I parked the car.  As you can see, there is still a fair distance to walk.

Building of the lighthouse was recommended in 1853 and construction commenced in 1857 using convict labour and locally sourced granite.  It was lit for the first time in 1859.  It is just under 20 metres high and sits nearly 120 metres above sea level.

Wilson's Prom  lighthouse staircase from below 8:00pm 24 April 1987 Nikon FE 16mm fisdheye Nikkor AI f3.5 6 minutes Fujichrome 50 (?)

Wilson’s Prom lighthouse staircase from below
8:00pm 24 April 1987
Nikon FE
16mm fisheye Nikkor AI
f3.5 6 minutes
Fujichrome 50 (?)

This is the lighthouse staircase seen from below at 8 o’clock at night.  There are two possible explanations here:  either the tower was bending over in a heavy wind or I was using a fisheye lens.  I’ll leave you to work out which it is.

View along road at Wilson's Prom.   7:00am 25th July 1987 (10 minutes after dawn),  Nagaoka Field Camera 5x4",  f22 2 seconds,  65mm Schneider Super Angulon,  Fujichrome 50.

View along road at Wilson’s Prom.
7:00am 25th July 1987 (10 minutes after dawn),
Nagaoka Field Camera 5×4″,
f22 2 seconds,
65mm Schneider Super Angulon,
Fujichrome 50.

Here is the lighthouse and cottages just after dawn.  There is a delightful little village atmosphere around the lighthouse.  Two of the four houses were burnt in a bushfire in the early 1950s and rebuilt.  Originally the lighthouse was painted white but if you visit it now it is unpainted, having been stripped back to the rock.  This process had just started at the time of this picture.  This is one of the lighthouses where you can now stay at a cottage though you have to walk 18km to get there.

Wilsons Prom view from top rail of lighthouse after dawn Nagaoka Field Camera 5x4",  150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar,  f45 2 1/2 seconds + polariser,  Fujichrome 50.

Wilsons Prom view from top rail of lighthouse after dawn
7:15am 25 July 1987
Nagaoka Field Camera 5×4″,
150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar,
f45 2 1/2 seconds + polariser,
Fujichrome 50.

After taking the previous shot of the lighthouses and cottages, I climbed to the top of the lighthouse and took this one looking along the coast to the west.

Wilsons Prom from lookout on walking track 11:00am 25 July 1987 Nagaoka Field Camera 5x4" 150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar  f11 1/30 second + polariser  Fujichrome 50

Wilsons Prom from lookout on walking track
11:00am 25 July 1987
Nagaoka Field Camera 5×4″
150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar
f11 1/30 second + polariser
Fujichrome 50

Here is a view of the lighthouse that I took when I was walking out.  The islands in the distance (behind and to the right of the lighthouse) must be East Moncoeur and West Moncoeur Islands.

When I was going through the image at 100% removing dust and debris deposited from inside the scanner, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before.  The image shows the landing and the crane that originally would have been the sole form of access to the lighthouse.  They are just above the cove which is in turn below the huge rock …

Wilson's Prom landing and crane (detail of previous image)

Wilson’s Prom landing and crane
(detail of previous image)

… as you see here.

Cliffy Island

Cliffy Island is a small island off the coast of Victoria near Wilson’s Promontory, essentially the tip of a submerged mountain.  I flew over in a helicopter on the morning of 21 July 1987 on the way to Deal Island (in the Kent Group).

Cliffy Is from air-Edit

Cliffy Island from the Air
About 10:30am 21 July 1987
Nikon FE
85mm Nikkor f1.8 AI (at a guess)
Fujichrome 50

Cliffy Island lighthouse came into operation in 1884.  The lighthouse is 12 metres high and it sits 52 metres above the sea.  It was converted to automatic in 1971, the keepers transferred out and the cottages demolished.  Today the island’s only occupants are seals.

In the days before helicopters, the logistical difficulties of supply and of getting people on and off the island must have been considerable.  … Not to mention the difficulties of building there in the first place.  The lighthouse is built of granite sourced on the island.

There was originally a stone cottage for the head keeper and a wooden duplex building for the assistant keepers and their families.  The stone cottage burnt down in 1919 and all cottages were later replaced.  This island is not the most convenient place to be burned out of your home.

The sides of the island are so steep that they used a landing 25 metres above the sea.  Supplies were lifted up vertically and then swivelled across to the landing.  Getting people on and off the island involved raising or lowering a boat with them in it 25 metres between the landing and the sea.  Then they used a 350-metre cable railway to ferry people and supplies between the landing and the lighthouse.  You can see the landing above in the near corner of the island and also the railway behind it.  If you click on the image you will get a better, larger view.

Until there was a radio telephone in 1926, communications with the mainland must have been intermittent.  I think it was too far to flash signals to Wilson’s Promontory, the next lighthouse.  I would guess they used carrier pigeons but don’t actually know.

I thought I had a second image of Cliffy Island but I found that it was mislabelled and is of Deal Island, taken later that same morning.  I have added this to the post for Deal Island as the last image, though I have usually kept the images in chronological order and it would have been the first taken.

Point Hicks

I visited Point Hicks lighthouse on 25th to 26th April 1987 and again on 17 July 1987.

Point Hicks Jetty 25 April 1987 Nikon FE 35mm 28mm Vivitar Series 1? Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks Jetty
25 April 1987
Nikon FE 35mm
28mm Vivitar Series 1?
Fujichrome 50

This is the historic lighthouse jetty for Point Hicks lighthouse, clearly no longer in use.  This was their sole lifeline in the nineteenth century and even by the 1920s it took two days by horse to reach the nearby settlement of Cann River, only 20 kilometres away.  Using the jetty may have required the high tide unless it was originally much longer.

Point Hicks lighthouse at sunset Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 5:10pm 26 April 1987 90mm Linhof Schneider Angulon f22 either 1 or 2 seconds plus polariser Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks lighthouse at sunset
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
5:10pm 26 April 1987
90mm Linhof Schneider Angulon
f22 either 1 or 2 seconds plus polariser
Fujichrome 50

Sunset at Point Hicks on a calm autumn day in 1987.  Point Hicks was the first land in Australia sighted by Cook and is named after Lieutenant Zachary Hickes, who first saw land.  However, the location he gave in his log was out at sea and since no-one could determine where he had sighted land it was known as Cape Everard.  Then in the 1970s, some Melbourne schoolchildren doing a project on Cook realised his log was 24 hours out and correcting for this put Pt Hicks at what was then known as Cape Everard.  Consequently the name was restored to Pt Hicks.

It looks calm here but if it were always like this there would probably be no lighthouse.  In 1947, an assistant lighthouse keeper was taken by the sea while tending his lobster pots.

Point Hicks lighthouse, cottage and star trails 9:00pm 25 April 1987 Nikon FE 16mm fisheye f3.5 25 minutes

Point Hicks lighthouse, cottage and star trails
9:00pm 25 April 1987
Nikon FE
16mm fisheye
f3.5 25 minutes

This is a twenty five minute exposure by the light of the full moon and we are looking almost exactly south, which is why the stars are tracing circles.

Point Hicks lighthouse in early morning Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 6:45am 26 April 1987 65mm Schneider Super Angulon (?) f16 either 1/2 or 4 seconds plus polariser Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks lighthouse in early morning
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
6:45am 26 April 1987
65mm Schneider Super Angulon (?)
f16 either 1/2 or 4 seconds plus polariser
Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks lighthouse in the early morning light.  The lighthouse was built in 1888/89 of concrete and commenced operation in 1890.  The cottages are made of wood.  At thirty-seven metres, it is the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland.

Point Hicks Stairwell from below 25 April 1987 Nikon FE 35mm 16mm Fisheye Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks Stairwell from below
25 April 1987
Nikon FE 35mm
16mm Fisheye
Fujichrome 50

This is a view looking straight up the lighthouse from below, with illumination by daylight (from the open door on the ground floor and a window near the top).

View through lens  25 April 1987 Nikon FE 35mm 16mm Fisheye Fujichrome 50

View through lens
25 April 1987
Nikon FE 35mm
16mm Fisheye
Fujichrome 50

Here we are standing inside the first-order lens of Point Hicks lighthouse.  As usual, the view through is upside down, with the clouds on the bottom and the sea on the top.  The glass is red over to the left because if the mariners can see that, they are on a dangerous bearing.

View of lens from top 25 April 1987 Nikon FE 35mm 16mm Fisheye Fujichrome 50

View of lens from top
25 April 1987
Nikon FE 35mm
16mm Fisheye
Fujichrome 50

This is looking down on the lens from above.  We are still inside the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse.

Point Hicks stairwell from below Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 9:00am 26 April 1987 65mm Schneider Super Angulon f32 20 seconds Fujichrome 50

Point Hicks stairwell from below
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
9:00am 26 April 1987
65mm Schneider Super Angulon
f32 20 seconds
Fujichrome 50

This is another view looking straight up the stairwell of the lighthouse but the door is now closed and ground floor illumination is by artificial light.  The lighting further up is still daylight.  This is an image from a large format camera rather than the previous fisheye image on 35mm film.

S.S. Saros, sunk 1937 and wrecked on the rocks 6:00pm 26 April 1987 Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 90mm Linhof  Schneider Angulon f6.8 25 minutes Fujichrome 50

S.S. Faros, sunk 1937 and wrecked on the rocks
6:00pm 26 April 1987
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
90mm Linhof Schneider Angulon
f6.8 25 minutes
Fujichrome 50

The remains of the bow of the S.S. Faros, which sunk nearby in 1937.  All passengers and crew were saved.  The lighthouse keeper told me the ship originally sunk in the sea and the bow we see here washed up some years later on these rocks during another storm.

This is a twenty-minute exposure.  By the time I had finished it was dark and neither of us had brought a torch.  We had to gingerly pick our way back over the rocks.

Looking down Point Hicks stairwell to Keeper on pulley Arca-Swiss 5x4" monorail camera 17 July 1987 90mm Schneider Super Angulon Fujichrome 50

Looking down Point Hicks stairwell to Keeper on pulley
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera
17 July 1987
90mm Schneider Super Angulon
Fujichrome 50

Finally, here is an exposure I took when I came back for the second time.  It took me quite some time to set up the view camera on my heavy Manfrotto 85B tripod, centred in the tower and with the tripod tied in place for good measure.  There was too much light coming in the window from the level just below us so the keeper hung a sheet over it.

You can see him down the bottom of the tower and his name is Chris Richter.  In the early days of the lighthouse, the light was rotated by a clockwork mechanism in turn powered by a weight that slowly dropped down the tower.  Every now and then the keepers had to wind the weight back up again from the lantern room, which may have kept them fit just doing that.  When the clockwork mechanism was converted to electric, a block and tackle was installed instead so the keepers could lift heavy weights up to the top, as we see here.

(Note of trivia:  With this post we’ve passed 100 lighthouse images and 2,000 images for the Blog).

Gabo Island

I visited Gabo Island lighthouse on 23 July 1987.  I infer from my notes that I was only there for a few hours during the day and did not stay overnight.

Gabo Lighthouse Nagaoka 5x4" Field Camera 150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar  f22 1/5 sec + polariser (part of panorama) (Low-res scan from book)

Gabo Lighthouse
Nagaoka 5×4″ Field Camera
150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar
f22 1/5 sec + polariser
(part of panorama now lost)
(Low-res scan from book)

Gabo Island lighthouse was built in 1862 and stood 47 metres high, the third highest in Australia.  As you can see from the colour of the rocks and the lighthouse, the source of the stone was nearby.  The tower has a subtle curve, indicating the design was based on British lighthouses that were directly exposed to the action of the sea.  Usually it would have taken a tsunami for that to apply here, but as we shall see below, there was at least one occasion when that may have come in useful.

Gabo Wharf & Storehouse Nagaoka 5x4" Field Camera Schneider Xenar 240mm f22 1/10 sec + polariser (low res scan from book)

Gabo Wharf & Storehouse
Nagaoka 5×4″ Field Camera
Schneider Xenar 240mm
f22 1/10 sec + polariser
(low res scan from book).

This is the wharf and the storehouse for the island and I presume is where I arrived at and left the island (it was definitely by sea).  These predate even the temporary lighthouse and were built in the 1830s for whaling operations.  The first effort to build a lighthouse was in 1846 but failed because they were expecting to find bedrock for foundations at eight feet but encountered it only at sixty-eight feet.

Then in 1853 the steamship Monumental City sank near Gabo Island with the loss of thirty-three lives. Consequently, the first lighthouse, a temporary wooden structure, was erected near here in late 1853 and the keepers camped in the whalers’ hut which at that time had no roof.  One of the legs of this tower was damaged when brought ashore so the builders adapted the keel of a nearby sunken ship.  They were also left only one-third of the promised rations and had to mainly survive for the first three months on shark meat acquired by fishing.  The keepers again ran very low on supplies in 1854.

Gabo Island lighthouse pano from south Iin rain and spray and haste) 150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar  f22 1sec + polariser

Gabo Island lighthouse pano from south
(in rain and spray and haste)
150mm Linhof Schneider Technika Symmar
f22 1sec + polariser

This is the only image of the three for which I have a scan of a slide, or in this case, three slides which I digitally combined.  My notes indicate that it was starting to rain and I had to complete the exposures in some haste.  Large format lenses have open shutters that do not like rain.  The old lenses I was using were also uncoated and the middle exposure had considerable flare and fogging.  Fortunately I was able to largely recover from this in digital post-processing.

After a huge storm in 1884, the high-water mark was recorded above and behind the keepers’ cottages.  That there was no loss of life would have been because all families took shelter in the lighthouse.  After the same storm at Iron Pot lighthouse, in the harbour outside Hobart, the keepers had to remove kelp from the railing outside the lighthouse lantern room.