Up until the early 1860's a lightship was used to mark the entrance to
South Australia's main port at Adelaide. This was not entirely adequate
and had long been a source of complaint. A spare lantern imported for the
Point Marsden light (Kangaroo Island) but not used, was in 1866, erected in a temporary
structure at Point Malcolm (near Fort Glanville) to test its visibility.
The tests indicated that the equipment was satisfactory and it was decided
to build a tower off the river entrance to house it.
to be completed in 1867, sinking the metal column into the river bed
proved difficult and the fixed light was not exhibited until 1869 and cost
very much more then estimated.
"Register" February 1, 1872 stated that the Marine Board had
been stupid in refusing the offer from Mr Wells to construct a screw pile
tower. "We now have an unsightly structure, which cost twice as much
as quoted by Mr Wells ... " The article concluded by implying
the light was inefficient.
1874 a more powerful light and materials to "rebuild" the lights
support were imported from England. When completed the tower now rose
nearly 100 feet and began operating on Feb 3 1875, revolving every
30 seconds showing a white beam. It was reported that the power of the
light increased from one of the fifth order to that of a first
The British architects
intended keepers live around the base of the tower in rooms made of iron.
The heat of the South Australian summers made this impossible and quarters
were prepared between decks of the staying.
the late 1800's it was
considered the structure had become unsafe and Chance Bros of England were
asked to erect a new light at Wonga Shoal. In 1901 the Port Adelaide
entrance light was removed and replaced with a buoy which commenced
operation on July 1 1901, later replaced with a fixed light, mounted on
the base of the old lighthouse structure in May 1904. The tower was
re-erected on South Neptune Island, where a new 2nd Order dioptric light
from Chance Bros was installed. The workers on Neptune Island took great
pride that they were constructing the first lighthouse of the new
Commonwealth of Australia. The old light was utilised in the new
tower on Wonga Shoal, 2.8km off Semaphore Jetty.
Tragedy - On Nov 17 1912 the Wonga Shoal tower was destroyed, when hit by the sailing ship
"Dimsdale" killing the two lightkeepers on duty.
In 1984 the
Port Adelaide tower returned home and was re-erected on the port's
pier as a maritime museum. It is open for public display.