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Point Cloates (Perth Hill)

Admiralty Reference # 1714
 

  1910 - 1936

 Cloates Hill

1966 - present

Perth Hill

NAA: A6247 A17/2

Photo by John O'Brien

Made of locally quarried sandstone described as being of an excellent quality though difficult to work on because of its hardness, the fine craftmanship demonstrates the importance accorded to the building of lighthouses, even in the most remote locations. (Register of Heritage Places)

The light which was fuelled by vaporized kerosene, was provided by Chance Bros Ltd of Birmingham, and comprised a three-sided optic, with flashes one third of a second duration and eclipses four and two-thirds of a second. (Farrar, G. E.)

Three lights spanning 1910 to the present were linked by the forces of nature each in turn providing safe passage for whalers, pearlers and travellers beyond the Ningaloo Reef and into Norwegian Bay.

 

Point Cloates (Ruin) - earthquake

 

Fraser Island - wave erosion

 

Point Cloates - Current

 

 

Source: Australian Hydrographic excerpt of Chart 745 -1985

 

 

 

1917 NAA: A6247 A17/2

1960's Ralph Meakins

1980 John O'Brien

2003 John O'Brien

The keepers Quarters were of a similar design to those at Vlamingh Head but are now in ruins with the few remaining walls showing the technique used to build them. Each duplex half comprised a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and store room, and spacious verandah back and front, alhough it appears from plans that the central room in one duplex was larger than the other - for the Head Keeper no doubt. As wvisible in the Vlaming Head Keepers Quarters, the central brezeway separating the two dwellings is very evident.

 

The first Keeper was P.E. Stuart, along with Assisitant Keeper F.Hill, both of whom stayed until 1924. Following them was H.J.Fowles as Head Keeper assisted by A. Wood. 1928 H.J. Fowles was replaced by H.T. Pearse. Following Pears'e retirement in 19??, A. Wood was promoted to Head Keeper until he went to Rottnest in 1935 when the light was replaced by the Fraser Island Light. Assistant Keepers in his time were W.G. McColl- 19289-1933 and C. Johnson - 1934-1936. The final Keepers employed at Pt Cloates were C. Johnson and the new Head Keeper J. Turner. Theuir last task apparently was to help with the setup of the unattended light on Fraser Island

 

NAA: A6247 A18/1

Point Cloates Keepers Duplex Quarters c1917

 

The facility (light tower and quarters) once it was replaced with Fraser Island, was eventually sold to the local station owner (Ningaloo), potentially for use as accommodation. Once the lantern house was lifted from the top of the tower, further deterioration of the tower was inevitable. Eventually the keepers duplex and outbuildings were no longer used either and roofing and timber was removed over time for other uses, again increasing the inevitable deterioration of those buildings.

 

It was fascinating walking around the site, trying to imagine what the life of the Keepers must have been like looking for any clues. Standing in front of this fireplace, raising my hand as if to stir a pot on the stove, I couldn't help but wonder what ornaments or cooking paraphernalia might have been stored on the mantle piece that was no longer there. Could this circular concrete form have been the base for a water tank?

Its as though we found more questions than answers! And all the while a curious sea eagle cruised overhead keeping an eye on us ... and the tower?

 

At least the lantern room and central spiral staircase which were designed by the Harbour and Lights Department and constructed under contract in Perth, were recycled - into the Quobba Point Lighthouse. The remnants of the central tube to contain the weights and the gallery floor remains.

 

Certainly still unstable with cracks visible from earlier photos still there and the erosion of the  sandstone blocks appearing to be increasingly worn.

It is really only now as I choose the images to include on this page that I reflect on how a falling piece of masonry such as this section of the balcony rim, could inflict serious damage. As we were walking around and inside the tower, there was no sense of immediate danger for the tower itself still seems so large and impressive. Whilst the sandstone blocks are seriously fretting from the wind and sand erosion,

Following the collapse of the Fraser Island Light (whilst a temporary light showed) this 4m white cabinet initially with a sixth order rotating light, was built in 1966 on Perth Hill about 1 km away from the original tower on Cloates Hill. It came into operation on July 1966 and the temporary light on Fraser Is was discontinued. It was later converted to solar power in 1983

The solar panels to the side, the heli pad to the back left and the turquoise waters of Norwegian Bay in the background which the three different lights have protected over time.

 

 

      

What a wonderful day this was - a long trip over rough roads - NB: you cannot do it without a 4WD - twice I had my heart in my mouth as we slewed through sand drifts! - reaching a compromise with the kids that allowed them to stay at the Caravan Park and have fun with similar aged teens at the pool as it was too windy to go snorkelling, meant that we had the luxury of being able to wander around this wonderful light station site, absorb its history, look for clues, re read our research notes and compare plans with the real thing while we were there. And... what a bonus it was having previously been shown through the Vlamingh Head Keepers Duplex Quarters before we came to Point Cloates, enabling us to visualise what would have been here.

There is a sense of majesty about the tower ruins as you view it from a distance perched on top of the sand dune, certainly a challenge to get there, a great view over the turquoise waters of Norwegian Bay once you do get there and a sense of isolation and silence and even perseverance over time.

I have come to love the search for local history over the last 10 years. Buildings remain, but within their structure and surroundings they hold the stories of ordinary people, just like us, for it is the people who make our State's history relevant to the journey we are all on together.

May this wonderful old ruin of a tower still be there the next time we come back this way, and access to it still be possible.

A wonderful summary from the Heritage Register re the Point Cloates Ruins

 

More from the Ralph Meakins Collection