Cape Willoughby Lighthouse
Cape Willoughby was the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia, and lights the Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and the mainland.
Unfortunately much of the aesthetic appeal of this light was lost in 1974 when the lantern room was replaced.
Established in 1852, the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, originally known as the Sturt Light after Captain Charles Sturt, is the oldest in South Australia. It is set on the eastern extremity of Kangaroo Island.
The light provides assistance to shipping through the Backstairs Passage – the 11 km wide strip of water between Kangaroo Island and the mainland of South Australia.
It is constructed from granite and limestone quarried from a cleft in the cliff at the base of the tower.
The original keepers settlement was in a valley, ½ km from the light. Here a spring provided fresh water and it was close to the beach where supplies where landed. Due to deterioration and the hardship of reaching the lighthouse in bad weather in 1927 new keepers quarter were built at the lighthouse.
The original apparatus was a Deville lantern comprising of a revolving parabolic reflectors powered by a clock work mechanism. The illumination was provided by multiple wick burners.
In 1912 the wick burners were replaced by incandescent vapourised kerosene burners.
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The whole lantern apparatus was replaced in 1923 by a large Chance Bros. dioptric revolving lens which floated in a bath of mercury on a pedestal. This lantern had previously been in use at the Tipara Reef Lighthouse. Illumination was provided by a pressurised kerosene mantle burner.
The light was converted to electricity in 1959 when two diesel 110 Volt DC generators were installed.
In 1974 major alterations were made to the lighthouse. Up till then the intention had been to replace the lighthouse, the thinking at the time being that this was not an important light and not worthy of the cost of preservation because it was not aesthetically appealing.
The original elegant timber stair was removed, due to rotting, and replaced by steel stairs with three landings.
The lantern room and apparatus were removed and replace by an aluminium and fibreglass lantern room and an apparatus comprising of banks of sealed beam lamps. 240 Volt main electricity was connected, with a diesel standby generator.
One of the reasons the lighthouse was saved is because despite official opinions at the time, the value of public relations in preserving the tower was realised, as a result of the volume of tourists visiting the light.
The Chance Brothers lantern which was removed from the tower was donated to the National Trust of S.A. together with the lens and operating machinery. The equipment has since been re-erected on a short tower adjacent to, Hope Cottage, the National Trust Museum at Kingscote. It has since been into the “Register of the National Estate”.
Another point of interest is the bulge in the side of the tower. It seems that this is not due to deterioration, but came about in the original construction.
It was reported that during World War II, a RAAF bomber type aircraft crashed into the sea in the immediate vicinity while attempting a crash landing in the dark of night. However, apart from the fact that all the crew perished no other details are available.
NOTICE TO MARINERS
Colonial Secretary’s Office, Adelaide, 30 December 1851.
NOTICE is hereby given by the authority of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, that on and after the 10th January, 1852, the light in the Sturt Lighthouse, lately erected on Cape Willoughby, Kangaroo Island, will be exhibited from sunset to sunrise. This Lighthouse is situated on the eastern extremity of the Kangaroo Island, in lat. 35°49’20″S., long 138°12’30″E., and is a revolving light, appearing at regular intervals of half-a-minute. This light is elevated 241 feet above the level of the sea, and can be seen 24 nautical mile, illuminating 259 degrees of a circle, from N. by W.½W., round to S.W. by W.½W.
By His Excellency’s Command,
[The South Australian Government Gazette, 1 Jan 1852]
|Keepers who served at Cape Willoughby|
|PERRYMAN||Charles Percival Elliot||AK||1935|
|GRENFELL||Howard E B||AK||1936|
|GRENFELL||Howard E B||AK||1938|
|PERRYMAN||Charles Percival Elliot||AK||1940|
|TURNER||James Charles Patrick||AK||1944|
|BOYLE||Brison John Gurney||AK||1945|
|PERRYMAN||Charles Percival Elliot||AK||1945|
|HARTLEY||T J F||HK||1991|
|HK=Headkeeeper, AK=Assistant Keeper|
|Source: Parks SA|
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Please include this lighthouse’s name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.
NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.
The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.
Tours of the lightstation including the tower are available.
There is a small museum in the Keepers cottage. The 1st order lens from Althorpe Island is also stored here.