Friday, 8 August 2008

Constancy

1 the quality of being unchanging and dependable: faithfulness. 2 firmness, endurance (OED)

Cape Moreton lighthouse began operation in 1857. At the time Queensland separated from New South Wales, it was the only lighthouse on the Queensland coast.

Built of stone, it is one of five remaining lighthouse constructed prior to 1860. Oil wick lamps were used to provide the light that could be seen for 26 ½ nautical miles in clear weather. Oil lamps were replaced by kerosene burning lamps which were in turn replaced by an AGA acetylene lamp, then electric 110V DC then 240V AC. A tungsten lamp was installed then solar power. Finally the light was fully automated in 1993 removing the need for head and assistant lightkeepers. Today the light can be seen for 27 nautical miles. Progress?

For over 150 years, this light has flashed a warning on the isolated point of Moreton Island. When Queensland was a colony, ships entered Moreton Bay through the south entrance between Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands. Ships had to have permission to pass and the Regulations for Penal Settlement provided that “No unauthorised or strange vessel shall be allowed to come to an anchorage at a penal settlement except in cases of distress or necessity, in which case they shall receive a military guard on board during their stay...” In 1846 Brisbane was declared a Port of Entry and in 1849, a Warehousing Port.

In the 1840s extensive surveys of Port Moreton were carried out and the north entrance around Cape Moreton was decided to be safer and more easily navigable. In 1848 the pilot station was moved from Amity Point on North Stradbroke Island to Bulwer on Moreton Island, becoming the first European settlement on the island. For a while ships used both entrances but shipping gradually shifted to exclusive use of the northern entrance.

This light flashing from the only piece of solid rock on a sand island would have been the first sign of their new home for the Jaeckels. It must have seemed like a mirage, this brightness coming out of the darkness after so many months at sea. At the very least, it would be a reassurance that civilisation still existed in some form in this new land.

I’ve never visited the bay islands. There is a hugely popular resort on Moreton Island – Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. I wonder how many people who visit know of the lighthouse surrounded by national park and its history. The only access is by 4WD on a sand road across the island or along the beaches. The lighthouse itself isn’t open to visitors but there is a small museum in one of the assistant lightkeeper’s residences. I want to visit to get a sense of what the Jaeckels’ first impressions of their new home would have been. I’m just trying to work out if there is some way to get a tour of the lighthouse and whether I can get a tax deduction on research expenses…

[For comprehensive information on the lighthouse and its associated buildings, visit its listing in the Queensland Heritage Register]

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