Montague Island, the largest inshore island on the NSW
coast, is 9km off Narooma. It is now a nature reserve under the control of NSW National Parks & Wildlife
Service. It is the home to seals, seabirds and about 10,000 pairs of
penguins. It is covered with gigantic granite boulders and from one
of these rises the tall, slender tower of Montague Island
When Cook sailed along the coast of NSW in April 1770, he didn't
recognise that Montague was in fact an island. He thought it was the tip
of the cape extending from Mount Dromedary and named it Point Dromedary.
The convict transport "Surprise" in 1790 established that it was
an island and
named it after George Montagu Dunk, Earl of Halifax.
The decision for a "First Order Fixed and Flashing Light" was
made in 1873, and after the finance was approved in 1877, tenders called in
The successful tenderer at 13,900 pound, attempted to build the lighthouse but failed
and became bankrupt. Following a re-tender process, W H Jennings and Company
was given 18 months to complete works, and
finally finished the lighthouse in October 1881, 4 months early.
Officially it was fit lit on 1 November 1881.
"It is a dioptric white light of the first order, the lamps being
encircled by glass prisms which catch and flash out every beam of light
they transmit. When the light is used, there is a steady flare for 30
seconds, then an eclipse for 13 seconds, and then a brilliant flash
lasting 4 seconds, followed by another eclipse of 13 seconds duration. THe
lantern is so laege that half a dozen men can stand inside the circle of
reflecting prisms, and it is so beautifully constructed that clockwork of
the most delicate order makes it revolve" - 'Our Lighthouses', Sydney
Morning Herald 22/9/1883
When constructed the 40 foot high tower with an elevation is 252ft
produced 45,000 candelas. It originally consumed oil, although some
reports say it used kerosene. Power was increased to 250,000 candelas i n 1910,
with the installation of a Douglas incandescent kerosene burner. In 1923
output was again increased to 357,000 candelas.
A Mercury float was installed in 1926 and character changed to
flashing every 7 and a 1/2 seconds. Although the cottages were
powered by electricity from the 1950's, the light was only converted
to electricity in 1969 with an increased intensity of 1,000,000 candelas.
Four panels from Green cape were fitted changing the nature of the
light to every 4 1/2. Electricity removed the need for a third
The 1st order was last lit on 14/9/1986. It was replaced with a battery of solar powered
quartz halogen lamps radiating 2 beams of 120,000 candelas whilst consuming
just 75 watts of power. The dismantled lens was packed prism by prism in individual cases
surrounded by expanding foam and sent to Sydney for storage.
In October 1986, Narooma Apex Club requested that the Dept of Transport
& Communications return the lens to Narooma to be placed on
permanent display. This was agreed upon provided that it was housed in in
an acceptable manner.
It was decided to house the lens in an extension to be built on the
Narooma visitors centre and grants were sought. Many hundreds of hours were
provided by Apex members and general members of the public. The light was
officially handed over in a ceremony on 10/ 8/ 1990 by
of Australia, His Excellency The Honourable Bill Haydon AC. The mechanism may be operated using a coin
slot with proceeds gong to the maintenance program.
Weather permitting, morning and evening tours depart from the Narooma Town Wharf in Blue Water Drive
every day. The morning tour departs at 9.30am, departure time of the
evening tour varies with sunset. TOurs last approximately 4 hours.
Adults $69 Children ( 1-15yrs) $49.50 Family (2+2) $198 with extra child $33
Contact Narooma Visitors Centre 7days 9am-5pm on 02 44762881
Ref: The Lure of Montague - Laurelle Percy