Home' Caravanning Australia : Winter 2012 Contents 28 • Caravanning Australia • Winter 2012
Built in 1878 opposite Narrung, a small Aboriginal
community, the lighthouse is a good indication of the importance
of the Murray River in the trade route at the time. But by 1930,
other, more modern transport options were available and the
lighthouse was shut down.
Many people visit the Point Malcolm Lighthouse every
year, but it is located on private land belonging to the nearby
Poltalloch Station -- so be a polite traveller and seek permission
from the owners first.
You'll be glad you did, because the lighthouse and surrounds
are great fun to explore. The keepers' cottage and adjacent
buildings, which are boarded up and derelict, but basically intact,
enable you to really picture what life was like when this rugged
location was occupied by just a few tough settlers. The keepers
were self-sufficient and stored extra produce in a small cave near
the riverbank, which was later taken to the town by boat and
sold to locals. Investigate the base of the lighthouse itself, where
a hole in the ground dropped directly down into this cave below!
If you marvelled at this little white tower, you'll be awestruck
when you visit the Robe Lighthouse in South Australia. You'll find
that it's utterly unlike any other lighthouse you've seen before. In
large part, this is probably because it was built fairly recently, in
1972. The towering concrete structure is best described as star-
shaped, and it's curiously wider at the top than the bottom.
The Robe Lighthouse never had a resident keeper, as by this
time most lighthouses were designed to be unmanned, and the
light automated; not surprising given the dangers and tragedies
experienced at other, older lighthouse sites.
Some might suggest that because such modern lighthouses
lack the personal stories of our older towers, they can't possibly
carry the same mystery and romance. But you'll soon discover
that each and every lighthouse holds a grand dignity that carries
through the ages, and after your lighthouse tour of Australia, you
might find yourself, pen in hand, journal at the ready, writing your
very own nautical novel. ●
The tower was designed by John Lee Archer and built by
convict labour using locally quarried rock. The beacon consisted
of 15 lamps, which burned up almost a pint of oil per hour. All of
these lamps were maintained by Australia's longest-serving head
lighthouse keeper, Captain William Hawkins, who served at Cape
Bruny for an impressive 37 years.
As you wander around this quaint white pillar, with its three
cute windows, you'll notice that the lighthouse reserve actually
extends over a large parcel of land -- 184 acres of rough country
that was used by the early keepers for grazing and growing
crops. Search out the remains of the convict garden on the
sheltered side by the beach for a unique insight into settler life;
it's not hard to picture how tough it would have been for the few
hardy souls who settled here over 150 years ago.
Adding to the eerie atmosphere that is often felt within
convict ruins are several tragic stories that visitors will discover
at the site. In 1875, then-keeper Isaac Merrick's two-year-old,
Christina, choked to death on a piece of raw turnip. Following
that, 1898 saw the loss of assistant keeper A. Williams' child
to an attack of infant diarrhoea. The tiny grave sites have been
lovingly maintained and their memorial plaques remain in place
today, side-by-side, overlooking picturesque Cloudy Bay.
Much more recently in the lighthouse's history -- 1937 -- a
local farmer named Rupert Peters fell off Trumpeters Rock
whilst fishing beside the lighthouse. The island's Bush Nurse,
Sister Finn, rushed to the site on horseback, and descended
the cliff face only to discover that Peters was dead. The visiting
doctor was unwilling to climb down himself, so he declared his
confidence in Sister Finn's judgment and she became the only
non-medical practitioner to sign a death certificate and submit it
to the Coroner.
If all that melancholia gets you down in the dumps, you'll
probably prefer a visit to the Point Malcolm Lighthouse on Lake
Alexandria, near Miningie in South Australia. Being Australia's
only inland lighthouse, the comparatively tiny tower is quite a
sight to behold!
Point Hicks Lighthouse, Victoria
Macquarie Lighthouse, New South Wales
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 26
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