Cape Bruny Lighthouse

The Cape Bruny Lighthouse is the third oldest Commonwealth lightstation in Australia.

The lighthouse is also the oldest continuous lighthouse tower in Australia under Commonwealth control.

History

The Cape Bruny Lighthouse is located on the south-western edge of the cape on South Bruny Island.

The first recorded European history is in 1642 when Abel Tasman attempted to land in Adventure Bay then nameless – but stormy seas prevented him.

Over a hundred years later Tobias Furneaux came in his ship Adventure and gave the Bay its name. James Cook and William Bligh followed in turn, seeking fresh water, fuel, new lands to chart, and a respite from months at sea.

The significance of this respite is outlined in Kathleen Stanley’s book ‘Guiding Lights’ that states:

D’Entrecasteaux, on leaving Tasmania, was within reach of Cape Leeuwin in Western Australia when he decided that his supplies of water needed replenishing. It seems amazing, nowdays, that he regarded the nearest place as Adventure Bay, to which he returned for his fresh water. This belief among navigators of the period 1650-1798 or so, resulted Bruny Island’s being well-known among seafarers long before the East Coast of Australia was sighted by Cook in 1770.

In 1792, Bruni D’Entrecasteaux by an error of navigation, entered the channel and discovered Bruny to be an Island – today the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island bear his name.

continued below …

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Blinking Billy

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Blinking Billy

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John Garrow Shoal

John Garrow Shoal

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John Garrow Shoal

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Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot
Iron Pot, Tasmania, Australia

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

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Tasman Island

Tasman Island

Tasman Island
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Tasman Island

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Cape Bruny

Cape Bruny

Cape Bruny
Cape Bruny Lighthouse Tours, Lighthouse Rd, South Bruny TAS 7150, Australia

Cape Bruny

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Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Maatsuyker Island

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Cape Sorell

Cape Sorell

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Entrance Island

Entrance Island

Entrance Island
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, Australia

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Bonnet Island

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Macquarie Harbour,, TAS, Australia

Bonnet Island

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Bluff Hill Point

Bluff Hill Point

Bluff Hill Point
Bluff Hill Rd, Marrawah TAS 7330, Australia

Bluff Hill Point

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West Point

West Point

West Point
Unnamed Road, Marrawah TAS 7330, Australia

West Point

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Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape
Unnamed Road, West Coast TAS 7321, Australia

Sandy Cape

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Stokes Point

Stokes Point

Stokes Point
Unnamed Road, Surprise Bay TAS 7256, Australia

Stokes Point

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Currie Harbour

Currie Harbour

Currie Harbour
LOT 1 Lighthouse St, Currie TAS 7256, Australia

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Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham
687 Cape Wickham Rd, Wickham TAS 7256, Australia

Cape Wickham

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Councillor Island

Councillor Island

Councillor Island
Councillor Island, Tasmania, Australia

Councillor Island

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Highfield Point

Highfield Point

Highfield Point
Unnamed Road, Stanley TAS 7331, Australia

Highfield Point

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Highfield Point Old

Highfield Point Old

Highfield Point Old
Marine Park, 14 Wharf Rd, Stanley TAS 7331, Australia

Highfield Point Old

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Rocky Cape

Rocky Cape

Rocky Cape
Rocky Cape Rd, Rocky Cape TAS 7321, Australia

Rocky Cape

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Table Cape

Table Cape

Table Cape
Lighthouse Rd, Table Cape TAS 7325, Australia

Table Cape

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Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point
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Round Hill Point

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Mersey Bluff

Mersey Bluff

Mersey Bluff
39 Bluff Access Rd, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Mersey Bluff

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Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights
6 Victoria Parade, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Devonport Leading Lights

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Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights
26 Best St, Devonport TAS 7310, Australia

Devonport Leading Lights

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Low Head

Low Head

Low Head
496 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Low Head

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Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)
180 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Middle Channel (Tamar Rear Leading Light)

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Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)
199 Low Head Rd, Low Head TAS 7253, Australia

Sheoak Point (Tamar Front Leading Light)

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Swan Island

Swan Island

Swan Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Swan Island

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Goose Island

Goose Island

Goose Island
Flinders, TAS, Australia

Goose Island

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Eddystone Point

Eddystone Point

Eddystone Point
Eddystone Light Station, 2986 Eddystone Point Rd, Eddystone TAS 7264, Australia

Eddystone Point

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Deal Island

Deal Island

Deal Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania 7255, Australia

Deal Island

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South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)
Wilsons Promontory, VIC 3960, Australia

South East Point (Wilsons Promontory)

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Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville
Cape Tourville Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia

Cape Tourville

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Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)
Freycinet National Park, Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia

Cape Forestier (Lemon Rock)

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Point Home

Point Home

Point Home
Unnamed Road, Triabunna TAS 7190, Australia

Point Home

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continued from above …

Because of the dangers of the newly discovered Bass Strait many captains preferred to take the longer journey around southern Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and therefore made Hobart a port of call. They used the more protected approach to Hobart via the narrow and poorly charted D’Entrecasteaux Channel between Bruny Island and the main island.

The first suggestion for the lighthouse was that it should be built on the outer island of Actaeon’s Reef, the site of the wreck of the Actaeon in 1822, but the proposal was shelved until 1835. Instead, in 1825, a buoy light was placed on Acteaon Reef.

In 1835, three ships were wrecked in D’Entrecasteaux Channel. They were the ‘Enchantress’ with the loss of 17 lives, the convict transport George III, with the loss of 134 lives and the ‘Wallace’ without loss of life. This lead to action and the lighthouse was established in 1838, three years after the wrecks.

Cape Bruny is the third oldest Commonwealth lightstation in Australia. The lighthouse is also the oldest existing tower under Commonwealth (AMSA) control. The Iron Pot Island Lighthouse at the mouth of the Derwent River, is older by six years but is maintained by the State Government.

The tower was designed by John Lee Archer and was built by convict labour. It was the third tower to be built in Tasmania after Iron Pot and the first Low Head Tower (replaced in 1888).

The work was commenced soon after the wrecks and completed over two years using locally quarried rock to erect the tower, quarters and stores. The apparatus, providing the illumination, consisted of fifteen lamps, consuming almost one pint of oil per hour. Originally sperm (whale) and various other oils were used, but after 1892 the improved colza oil came into use.

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The quality of the oil was important as the poorer the oil the greater the use of consumables such as wicks and glass chimneys, which had to be brought all the way from London. The three lighthouses, Iron Pot, Low Head and Cape Bruny – used three hundred dozen chimneys per annum.

The original staircase was replaced in 1903 by the present cast-iron staircase and the original Wilkins lantern was replaced with a Chance Brothers lantern.

In 1912 and 1913 two reports by the Trades and Customs Department (who regulated Australia’s coastal lights) recommended and acted upon upgradings of this light by:

  • Allotting a new dioptric white light flashing 3 seconds in every 22 seconds
  • Increasing the candelas from 22,000 to 120,000
  • Changing the illuminant from coal oil and wick to kerosene and incandescent mantle.

The light boasts Australia’s longest-serving head lighthouse keeper, Captain William Hawkins having served as Superintendent at Cape Bruny for 37 years and 232 days between 1877 and 1914.

The lighthouse reserve was 184 acres of rough country that was used by the early keepers who fenced paddocks for grazing and grew crops, vegetables, the produced hay for the horses, and trained bullocks to transport stores over the sandy stretches between the jetty and the settlement. There are still the remains of the convict garden on the sheltered side by the beach.

Until 1915, many vessels, both sail and steam, served the Bruny light. Stores and livestock were landed at a jetty on Jetty Beach, a sheltered anchorage, on Great Taylor Bay, often sheltered in huts and brought up the three mile treck on the following day.

In 1899, the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, His Lordship Bishop Montgomery, paid a pastoral visit, spending part of 8-9 June with the lightkeepers and their families.

On numerous occasions, assistance has been given to vessels which have suffered mishaps of varying degrees of severity. Often crews were given stores from the keepers’ private supplies.

Before the installation of a telephone link, in 1902, between the lighthouse and the rest of the island, keepers had to walk or ride to a nearby settlement, usually Mills Reef.

Wireless telephone apparatus was installed in 1930 and a pedal wireless set on 28 March 1938.

In 1931, the first motorised delivery of mail on Bruny Island serviced the lighthouse.

Tragedy struck the station itself with the death of two infants and one adult on different occasions.

It was discovered that, in 1875, the small daughter of Isaac Merrick, then a keeper there, had choked to death on a piece of raw turnip. Christina Merrick was aged two years and three months.

The infant child of assistant keeper A. Williams died at 4a.m. on 2 January 1898, from a severe attack of infant diarrhoea.

In 1937, Rupert Peters, a local farmer who did relieving work when keepers on leave fell while fishing off Trumpeters Rock, adjacent to the lighthouse. Sister Finn, the Bush Nurse for the Island came immediately on horse-back. Seeing the body, appearing to be alive, at the bottom of the cliff she made a difficult descent only to find this was not the case. The body was secured so it could be retrieved the next day. The doctor, who had travelled to the island, on hearing of Sister Finn’s prognosis and having no desire to make the same descent, declared his confidence in her ability and thus she became the only person, not being a medical practitioner, to sign a death certificate and submit it to the Coroner.

The body was brought up from the bottom of the cliff the next day.

The lighthouse has been a popular sightseeing and picnic destination from the middle of the nineteen century. Visitors came by private yacht, steam launches and ferries.

The original 1837 cottages and stores building have since been demolished despite protests for their preservation.

The lighthouse was replaced in 1996 by an automated solar lightstation on the adjacent headland.

The historic Lighthouse, no longer operational, was transferred to the Tasmanian Government in 1998 and the reserve has become part of the new Labillardiere National Park.

Keepers

We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to keeper@lighthouses.org.au.

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.

Technical Details

First Exhibited1838
Permanent Tower
CurrentTower
Architect
StatusActive
LocationLat: 43° 29.6058' S Long: 147° 08.8247' E
Original Optic
Current OpticVRB-25
Automated
Demanned
ConstructionSize 3 double height GRP hut
Height4 m
Elevation93 m
RangeNominal: 19 nm Geographical: 26 nm
CharacterFl. W. 10 secs
Intensity88,000 cd
Light Source12V, 35W, C-8, TH, 2000Hr, NAL-83
Power SourceSolar Powered: 06/08/96
OperatorAMSA
Custodian
NotesAs at September 2015

  NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.

Access

Cape Bruny lighthouse is on the southernmost tip of Bruny Island, off the coast of south eastern Tasmania and 100 km from Hobart.

Access to the station is by ferry from Kettering on the mainland to Barnes Bay at North Bruny, across D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and thence 1 hour by sealed and gravel roads. Tours are available by appointment. The lighthouse grounds are open all year round.

Tours

Tours are available – Bruny Island SafarisExternal link

Accommodation

No lighthouse accommodation is available

Museum

Detail to come.

Links

Keepers of the Light: Cape Bruny Lighthouse  Sept 11 2017  External link