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Shipwrecks and sea rescue: Lighthouses

Port adelaide light

Before lighthouses could be built there had to be a body or organization both to build and then to manage them. By South Australian Act 5 of 1851 Trinity House of Port Adelaide was established. This was responsible for the creation and maintenance of lighthouses, lightships and buoys and other navigational aids, and was responsible as well for pilots for the various ports and harbours in South Australia. Trinity House of Port Adelaide was modelled on Trinity House in Great Britain. Trinity House of Port Adelaide was dissolved in November 1860 with the creation of the Marine Board of South Australia.

First lighthouses

The first lighthouse constructed in South Australia was at Cape Willoughby on Kangaroo Island. Originally called the Sturt Light, after the explorer Charles Sturt, the lighthouse covered the approach to Backstairs Passage and Gulf St Vincent. It was illuminated for the first time on 16 January 1852. The next lighthouse was established on Troubridge Shoal or Island. This point had been a hazard to navigation since the earliest years of South Australia: in March 1838 the brig Dart was wrecked there, and in November the barque Passee; in 1849 the ship Sultana was stranded on the reef and subsequently destroyed by storms. The emigrant ship Marion struck the reef, but no lives were lost, the brig Charles Carter ran aground in February 1854. Finally a lighthouse was constructed in 1855 and began operation from 1 February 1856.

The third lighthouse in South Australia and second on Kangaroo Island was at Cape Borda. It began operations on 13 July 1858 and was originally called the Flinders Light.

In 1855 Trinity House also erected an obelisk as a navigational marker at Cape Dombey near Robe. In 1858 the first lighthouse on the south-eastern coast of South Australia was built, and became operational on 1 January 1859 - this was the McDonnell light at Cape Northumberland. This was also the first light visible on the Australian coast for ships travelling through the Roaring 40s and is the last light in South Australia before moving into Victorian waters. (Cape Otway lighthouse operated from 1848; lights nearer to South Australia were Port Fairy 1859 and another at Portland Bay also in 1859).

Lightships

Lightships were sometimes used in South Australia before the more durable and more expensive lighthouses were built. The first was anchored near the entrance to the Port River in 1840 - the Lady Wellington, followed by the Courier and then by the Ville de Bordeaux, which served this role from 1848-1864 when it was replaced by a lighthouse erected on a platform on piles about 20 feet above high water. This was considered inadequate (Register 1 February 1872) and a new tower some 100 feet high with a more powerful light was erected and operated from 3 February 1875.

Another lightship was stationed over the Tipara Reef near Wallaroo. This was the schooner Alexander, and operated from February 1865 until August 1877 when the Tipara Reef screw pile lighthouse became operational. This was the first lighthouse in Spencer Gulf. It was replaced by the Warburto Point light in 1995. (The tower of the old Tipara Reef light now stands in Wallaroo at the Maritime Museum).

Althorpe Island light station
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Althorpe Island lighthouse and cottage
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Althorpe's ladder
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Cape Borda lighthouse
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Cape Jaffa lighthouse
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Cape Jervis lighthouse
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Cape Northumberland lighthouse
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Cape Spencer lighthouse
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Corny Point lighthouse
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Glenelg jetty 1875
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Lighthouse at Point Lowly
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Lighthouse cottages Corny Point
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