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Cape Leeuwin
Admiralty Reference # 1758
1896 - present

Open to the Public

1998

2004

 It was interesting to note that on our latest trip down south, that the Lighthouse has now been painted white.

Designer :
William Douglass (British)
Built by M.C. Davies and J Wishart
First Lit :
1896 December 1
Tower structure :
Round, conical masonary tower. Originally unpainted, the tower had the natural stone colour of Tamala limestone.
Tower Height :
35m
The walls are 2m thick at the base.
Elevation :
56 m
Range :
26 n  miles
Illuminating apparatus :
Chance Bros 3.7 m lantern floating in a bath of mercury (the first example of this in Australia), originally driven by clockwork mechanism
Fuel :
  • 1896 Heavy mineral oil
  • 1925 Vapourised Kerosene
  • 1983 Electricity - the last working light converted from kerosene
  • Light Character :
    Flashing every 7.5 seconds for .02 of a second,  with the intensity of 1 000 000 candlepower.
    Latitude :
    Longitude:
      34 22.5 S 
    115 08.2 E
    Open to the Public : 
    Yes Tours are conducted daily
    Accommodation :
    The Keepers cottages are currently not available. One is now used as a visitor's centre and Museum.


    Source: Panairama

    The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is as close to being my "Home Lighthouse" as I can get. Our family (Spencer and 'Mic' Stanley) had a dairy farm in Forrest Grove, just 20 miles north of Augusta. We did our holiday swimming lessons at Flinders Bay, holidayed at Augusta and on those rare days off on a dairy farm, would head for the Cape for a family picnic or barbecue.
     


    Shine Forth

    Margaret River Senior High School had the lighthouse as its emblem and our motto was 'Shine Forth'. On a recent trip 'back home', we called into the High School and I was thrilled to discover that Toddy's (Mr Todhunter's) model of a lighthouse was right where I remembered it being 34 years ago.


    Source: Australian Hydrographic excerpt of Chart 116 - 1981

    High rainfall, foggy weather, strong onshore winds and sometimes ferocious gales, means that most ships stay 15 to 20 miles out to sea to be on the safe side as they round the Cape.

    Timeline

    1622 - area named Leeuwins Land by Dutch navigators when the "Leeuwin" ("Lioness") rounded the cape
    1801 - Named Cape Leeuwin by Matthew Finders
    1881 - initial proposal to errect a light
    1895 - initial delays experienced when instead of the planned 2.44 metres of excavation for the foundations they had to go to 6.7 metres until they reached bedrock.
    1896 - Lighthouse completed and first illuminated Dec 10th
    1900 - Trinity House 6 wick oil burner  replaced by an 85mm kerosene lamp
    1915 - AMSA assumed responsibility for coastal lights
    1925 - the kerosene mantle was replaced by a cluster of three 55mm mantles
    1982 - light converted to electrical operation
    1955 - radio navigation beacon commissioned
    1974 - when the tower was painted, they found names and dates carved by the original stone masons at various levels of construction.
    1975 - auto alarm system reacting to radio distress calls was installed
    1992 - the light was automated
    2000  - AMSA transferred 26 Lightstation properties, many with heritage listed buildings (Cape  Leeuwin included), back to Western Australia.
      The original lantern and lens are still in service The light designed for but never used on the lower light at Cape Leeuwin was later used on the second Rottnest light at Bathurst Point. The Light was built using State funds via the persistence of the Premier, Sir John Forrest as the Eastern States were unwilling to. The Light provided an essential guide for ships travelling to Albany which was then the Major Port for Western Australia
     

    Photo by Myles Moran 1960s. 

    The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stands as a solitary sentinel, 
    watching over where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet. 

    As a child, encouraged by my Uncle Myles, I believed that the line of surf you can see directly off the Cape, were the two great bodies of water crashing together, sometimes in great anger.

    Lighthouse Images
     

    This is the view which first meets you as you start the walk up towards the Lighthouse. It is so majestically tall and the closer you get, the more you have to crane your neck to see the top of the tower. 

     

    Now its only a matter of counting the steps as you slowly climb your way via the circular staircase to the top.

     

    It never mattered what the season or weather was like when we showed visitors around. On a balmy summer's day it was glorious while on a rough winters day, it was spectacular.
     

     

    While the images below show the less familiar back view!

     


    Source: Tour brochure, plan originally Dept of Works.
    An interesting plan drawing simultaneously showing both the North and the East elevation, featuring the second light which was never actually installed.

       It would appear that if built, the tower for the second light would have risen from the back section of the store room.

    Lighthouse Keepers Cottages
     

    Nestled together in the slight protection offered from the elements, these three of an original four cottages remain. The fourth was made of weatherboard.  Of the remaining cottages the two southern houses are made of the local limestone, while the northern house is made of local granite. There are plans for these to become available for accommodation in the management plans.

    The Water Wheel
    When showing off the beauties of the south west to city folk or overseas friends and relatives, Cape Leeuwin was always on the agenda. Either before or after a visit to the Lighthouse, we would first call into the waterwheel and picnic area. Even though they are no longer there, I can still vividly recall the pebble encrusted cement tables near the Barbecues at which many a meal was eaten.

    The Water Wheel was an ingenious solution to providing fresh water to the Lighthouse Keepers. Water was drawn from a fresh water swamp above sea level and carried by a timber channel to a water wheel which as it turned operated an hydraulic ram that pushed a steady supply of water up to the Lighthouse and the Keepers Cottages.
     


    Photo by Myles Moran 1960s

    The wooden wheel was calcified by the continually running fresh water, which in turn meant the wheel could no longer turn. The water was always sweet to drink after your barbecue or take away fish and chips. 

    The hydraulic pump mechanism can be seen just to the right of centre in this photo, although there are none of the original pipes visible which would have transported the water to the light and cottages.

    A 1963 family snap (showing a less environmentally aware attitude than today!) whereby we would all clamber to find the best position on the wheel, being sure to also have a something to hold onto as it was incredibly slippery. More than one of us ended up with a wet backside.
    1982 and time to introduce the next generation to the family tradition of having your photo taken at the water wheel. Still some water running, but not as much and the calcification did not seem so slippery or beautiful in its colours.
    ... and in 2002, 20 years later, amidst much laughter and cries of "You've got to be joking!", from our youngest, we pose again. 

    With water no longer running, the wooden wheel has become even more exposed without the continual laying down of calcium and the wooden channel that carried the water to the wheel quite deteriorated. Sadly, it would appear that the water is no longer able to be drawn from the swamp.

    I believe that in this photo, our daughter is balancing on what is actually the remains of the hydraulic pump.

    The windblown vegetation with its gnarled and stunted trees and shrubs was an exciting setting as we invented all sorts of games and stories while waiting for the adults to be ready to go for a walk.
    The weather smoothed rocks were considered far too dangerous for the young ones to go exploring by themselves. This photo taken about 1985, shows the red and white banded communication masts which have since been removed.

    References:

    • Cummings, Glasson & McCarthy, Lighthouses on the Western Australian coast and off-shore islands Publ: 1995

    • Admiralty List of Lights and Fog Signals Vol K Publ: 1999

    • Register of the National Database


    •     Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse - Database # 009399
          Cape Leeuwin Light Keepers Cottages - Database # 009491
          Water Wheel - Database # 009412
    • Ayris, Cyril, Leeuwin Lighthouse a brief history Publ: 1996

    • Brochures from the Tour Guides/ Augusta Margaret River Tourist Bureau

      See also the following sites which feature Cape Leeuwin

      Lighthouses of Australia Inc. Cape Leeuwin

      Augusta and Cape Leeuwin Birding Sites