Lighthouse

The tower was the first established in Bass Strait and is now the oldest tower under Federal control.

The staircase is unique in that it is suspended off the central column, where all other Tasmanian lighthouse staircases are suspended off the tower wall.

History

Many shipwrecks occurred around the island, the first being the brig ‘Brenda’ in 1832.

Built in 1845, the light from tower was the first to be established in Bass Strait being completed before that of Goose Island which had been started earlier.

It is now the oldest tower under Federal control, the previous being the oldest being Cape Bruny, though built seven years earlier, has been decommissioned.

The lighthouse is a round masonry tower built with convict labour. Originally painted white with a red lantern room, it is now completely white.

The staircase is unique in that it is suspended off the central column where all other Tasmanian Lighthouse staircases are suspended off the tower wall.

The lantern revolves in an anti-clockwise direction, and along with a Victorian light are believe to be only ones in the southern hemisphere to turn this way.

The original light source was a new style of single oil wick lamp that consumed a third less oil than its multi-wick predecessors. It was replaced by an incandescent kerosene mantle in 1923.

In 1938, the light was converted to electricity supplied by twin diesel generators.

Wind generation was experimented with from 1986 till 1990 when the light was finally converted to solar operation.

continued below …

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Blinking Billy

Blinking Billy

Blinking Billy
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, Australia

Blinking Billy

Direction

John Garrow Shoal

John Garrow Shoal

John Garrow Shoal
Blinking Billy Point Reserve, 652 Sandy Bay Rd, Sandy Bay TAS 7005, Australia

John Garrow Shoal

Direction

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot
Iron Pot, Tasmania, Australia

Derwent Lighthouse Iron Pot

Direction

Tasman Island

Tasman Island

Tasman Island
Tasman Island, Tasmania, Australia

Tasman Island

Direction

Cape Bruny

Cape Bruny

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

Cape Bruny

Direction

Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island

Maatsuyker Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Maatsuyker Island

Direction

Cape Sorell

Cape Sorell

Cape Sorell
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, Australia

Cape Sorell

Direction

Entrance Island

Entrance Island

Entrance Island
Unnamed Road, Macquarie Heads TAS 7468, Australia

Entrance Island

Direction

Bonnet Island

Bonnet Island

Bonnet Island
Macquarie Harbour,, TAS, Australia

Bonnet Island

Direction

Bluff Hill Point

Bluff Hill Point

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

Bluff Hill Point

Direction

West Point

West Point

West Point
Unnamed Road, Marrawah TAS 7330, Australia

West Point

Direction

Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape
Unnamed Road, West Coast TAS 7321, Australia

Sandy Cape

Direction

Stokes Point

Stokes Point

Stokes Point
Unnamed Road, Surprise Bay TAS 7256, Australia

Stokes Point

Direction

Currie Harbour

Currie Harbour

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

Currie Harbour

Direction

Cape Wickham

Cape Wickham

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

Cape Wickham

Direction

Councillor Island

Councillor Island

Councillor Island
Councillor Island, Tasmania, Australia

Councillor Island

Direction

Highfield Point

Highfield Point

Highfield Point
Unnamed Road, Stanley TAS 7331, Australia

Highfield Point

Direction

Highfield Point Old

Highfield Point Old

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

Highfield Point Old

Direction

Rocky Cape

Rocky Cape

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

Rocky Cape

Direction

Table Cape

Table Cape

Table Cape
Lighthouse Rd, Table Cape TAS 7325, Australia

Table Cape

Direction

Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point

Round Hill Point
Chasm Creek Lighthouse, 1A Bass Hwy, Chasm Creek TAS 7321, Australia

Round Hill Point

Direction

Mersey Bluff

Mersey Bluff

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

Mersey Bluff

Direction

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

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

Devonport Leading Lights

Direction

Devonport Leading Lights

Devonport Leading Lights

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

Devonport Leading Lights

Direction

Low Head

Low Head

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

Low Head

Direction

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)

Direction

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)

Direction

Swan Island

Swan Island

Swan Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania, Australia

Swan Island

Direction

Goose Island

Goose Island

Goose Island
Flinders, TAS, Australia

Goose Island

Direction

Eddystone Point

Eddystone Point

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

Eddystone Point

Direction

Deal Island

Deal Island

Deal Island
Unnamed Road, Tasmania 7255, Australia

Deal Island

Direction

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)

Direction

Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville

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

Cape Tourville

Direction

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)

Direction

Point Home

Point Home

Point Home
Unnamed Road, Triabunna TAS 7190, Australia

Point Home

Direction

continued from above …

Early living conditions were harsh with buildings being sandblasted by the prevailing winds. Fresh water was scarce and barely fit for drinking.

There was inadequate housing for the convict watchmen who often sheltered in the base of the tower.

Discipline was difficult as the men resented the solitary life and the Headkeeper had no authority to turn to reprimand the men. At one stage the convicts even hatched an escape plot. Another time they raided a wreck and plundered its provisions.

Despite this there was one occasion where the convicts redeemed themselves as found in a letter written in March 1850 to Lieutenant Walker, RN, by Thomas S. Downes:

I do myself the honour to report to you as head of the Marine Department, the meritorious conduct of two prisoners of the Crown attached to the Light Station at Swan Island under the Superintendence of Mr Johnson on the melancholy occasion of the wreck of the schooner Mystery then under my command on the 2nd inst. The men in question exerted themselves on perceiving the wreck of the vessel in the most exemplary manner for the preservation of the ship’s cargo, spars and gear although with imminent peril to themselves in which noble conduct they were assisted and cheered on by Mr Johnson to whom in particular I respectfully beg leave to tender my warmest thanks.

As however the men to whom I have first alluded are in situations which call for encouragement and reward of a different kind I trust that you will bring their meritorious conduct under the notice of His Excellency the Governor in the hope that he will be pleased to bestow upon them Indulgence!

Eventually it was agreed that employing convicts as assistants was unsatisfactory and allowances were raised to attract free men to the positions.

The island was connected to the Tasmanian mainland by telegraphic cable in 1886. The cable link was not strong enough to withstand damage from the reefs and seawater and was closed in 1893.

With the construction of a new Georgian-style 4-roomed superintendents cottage in 1850, the assistants who had previously been sheltering in the base of the tower were able to shift into the original 1845 house which was also used for stores. The new 1850 house became know as Eliza’s Cottage.

A new five-roomed brick cottage was built for the Headkeeper in 1908. At this time additions and alterations were also made to Eliza’s Cottage.

In 1927, a fibro assistant’s cottage was built. At this point the 1845 house was abandoned and has since fallen into ruins. The 1927 house was renovated in the 1990s.

The island was found to be more infested with snakes than swans with a keeper in 1930 reporting that he killed 1,000 in that year. More recent reports claim that one a day ‘would be about average’.

In 1936, radio communication was established with twice daily reports being relayed to Wilsons Promontory.

The 1950s saw the delivery of provisions being made by air.

The boat shed and the jetty were destroyed by fire in 1982.

The light was demanned in 1986 and all the land except that which the light stood on was sold in 1987.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority only owns the light, an out building and the small plot of land it stands on. The island is privately owned.

Technical Details

First Exhibited1845
Permanent Tower
CurrentTower
Architect
StatusActive
LocationLat: 40° 43.6713' S Long: 148° 07.5403' E
Original Optic
Current OpticVega VRB-25
Automated
Demanned
ConstructionWhite masonry tower and lantern
Height27 m
Elevation30 m
RangeNominal: 19 nm Geographical: 19 nm
CharacterFl. W. 7.5 secs
Intensity60,058 cd
Light Source12V, 50W C8 Halogen LP PR30s
Power SourceSolar
OperatorAMSA
NotesConversion to PRB 24/4: 16 November 1985

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

Access

Swan Island is privately owned, so there is no access to the lighthouse.

Tours

No

Accommodation

No

Associated Lighthouses

Goose Island

Keepers

Charles Chaulk Baudinet was the longest serving keeper on Swan Island. He took over as Superintendent in March 1867 and retired 25 years later in 1891.

Charles’ wife, Eliza, died of dropsy mortification and is buried in the only marked grave on the island. However, two children who drowned on the island are buried on either side of the grave their wooden crosses having long since disappeared.

It is also believe that there are several unmarked graves of Aboriginals forcibly resettled on the the island from the Tasmanian mainland.

Andy Gregory, the last keeper left in 1986.

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.