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Shipwrecks and sea rescue: Lighthouses - increasing the coverage

More lighthouses

Meanwhile the south-east coast got its second lighthouse in January 1872. Building had commenced in late 1868 and been delayed due to poor weather conditions. The lighthouse, of screw pile construction was positioned on the Margaret Brock Reef, off Cape Jaffa. The reef was named for the coastal trader Margaret Brock wrecked there in 1852. The light remained in operation until 1973 when it was replaced by one at Robe. Part of the Margaret Brock Reef lighthouse is maintained on shore by the National Trust in Kingston.

Another lighthouse to guide ships through the entrance of St Vincent Gulf was erected on Cape Jervis and operated from August 1871. It was a fixed white light, subsequently converted in 1927 and operated until 1972 when a new lighthouse was erected nearby.

The need for lights at the entrance to Spencer Gulf was now to be considered. The Register 4 May 1877 called for one on South Neptune Island, but one did not eventuate there until 1901. A lighthouse was however erected on the Althorpe Islands, off southern Yorke Peninsula, and switched on 14 February 1879.

Corny Point lighthouse on the north-west corner of the foot of Yorke Peninsula commenced operation on 1 March 1882.

The lighthouse on Penguin Island began operating 1 February 1878. The island is adjacent to Cape Martin at the northern end of Rivoli Bay. While visible from the town of Beachport, the island was only accessible during good weather. In 1960 this light was closed and relocated on the nearby Cape Martin.

By 1879 the MacDonnell light at Cape Northumberland was found to be dangerously undermined by the sea and a replacement was proposed. This was operating by 1 January 1883 at Cape Banks to warn of the dangerous Carpenter Rocks. It used the light mechanism from the MacDonnell light. A new lighthouse was also built at Cape Northumberland in 1882 some 400 metres to the east of the old MacDonnell light which was demolished.

Point Lowly in upper Spencer Gulf was the next site for a lighthouse in South Australia, and began operations on 1 February 1883. It guided ships safely to Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Port Germein. In 1909 its height was raised a further 7.6 metres. It was decommissioned in 1993 and subsequently purchased by the Whyalla City Council which re-activated the light in 1995.

Lesser lights

No further lighthouses were built in South Australia for some 20 years. However there were a number of smaller lights that were placed at the end of jetties and on breakwaters. These included one on the Glenelg jetty in 1859 and Semaphore jetty in 1860. Port Wakefield at the head of St Vincent Gulf was the next: a light on the Railway Wharf became operational 1 January 1872. Others followed: Edithburgh jetty in October 1879 and Ardrossan jetty 10 September 1883, Port Victoria jetty in October 1887, Moonta jetty in January 1882, and Victor Harbor breakwater in 1882.

There was also a lightship moored off Glenelg - the Harriet Hope and later the Beatrice (formerly a schooner involved in survey work). When the P&O mail steamers switched to mooring at Semaphore the hulk Fitzjames was moored there as a lightship. Semaphore had red leading lights installed in 1888 (replacing the earlier green light) - one on a flagstaff on the jetty, and the other on the time ball tower. Lights were also installed on the jetties at Kingston (July 1880), Rivoli Bay (September 1881) and Robe (July 1895).

The first light exhibited on the west coast was at the end of the jetty at Streaky Bay (January 1902). Another was operating at the end of the Port Lincoln jetty in March 1904.

South Neptune Island at the entrance to Spencer Gulf finally got its light in November 1901. This consisted of the light tower from the Port Adelaide Entrance light. The light from this was placed in the new lighthouse built over the Wonga Shoal off Semaphore. A buoy with an occulting light was moored at the Port Adelaide entrance as a replacement for the tower. The light tower from South Neptune Island was replaced by a small brick tower in 1985, and the original tower was returned to Adelaide to become a major attraction for the South Australian Maritime Museum.

The Wonga Shoal light mentioned above was a screw pile construction and also contained accommodation for the light keepers. Its light operated from 1 July 1901. This lighthouse also bears the rare distinction of being sunk by a ship! On 17 November 1912 the sailing ship Dimsdale, 1887 gross tons, sailed into and destroyed the lighthouse. Both light keepers were killed. The Dimsdale's master was charged with manslaughter, but subsequently acquitted. A lightship was placed over the shoal until a replacement tower could be built. When the lighthouse at Marino Rocks was built in 1962 for the Port Stanvac refinery, it included a light sector of a different colour to cover the Wonga Shoal, at which point the tower was removed.

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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