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Cape Otway

Cape Otway Lightstation Cape Otway Lighthouse was the 8th lighthouse to be built in Australia. It is the oldest existing lighthouse on the mainland.

Vessels from England to Sydney first favoured the route via the South of Tasmania before, but later adopted the shortened route through Bass Strait, saving 1200 kilometres. The 90 kilometre wide passage between Cape Otway and Cape Wickham on King Island, was referred to as "The Needles Eye". After a long passage from the Cape of Good Hope, they then made their first landfall in Australia in the vicinity of Cape Otway and the provision of a lighthouse at this spot became of considerable importance.

In May 1835 the convict ship Neva was lost off the northern coast of King Island. 135 female convicts, their 55 children, 30 male convicts, and all the crew perished. Disaster struck again on King Island in 1843, when the barque Rebecca was lost. In August 1845 the emigrant ship Cataraqui with 370 passengers and 38 crew, struck a reef off the southern coast of the island. 36 hours later just 9 survivors made it to shore. The Cataraqui is regarded as Australia's worst maritime disaster. 

The site for the lighthouse was selected in 1846 by Governor Latrobe on his 3rd attempt to reach the Cape. A tender for construction of the tower and keepers quaters, to plans prepared by Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis, was accepted in October 1846. However, owing to very slow progress being made the Government foreclosed on the contract and took over construction work in October 1847.

During construction of the lighthouse access by sea was not always practicable owing to difficulty of making a landing except in very favourable weather. After many attempts and great hardship a track was eventually cut through the dense forests of the Otway Ranges from the Colac district some 40 mles to the northwest of the Cape.
The lantern and Catroptic light apparatus were received from England in March 1848, and the light was finally established in August 1848. Lieutenant Lawrence RN was the first Superintendent of the lighthouse.

The principal access to the station for stores continued to be by sea from Melbourne until the railway was constructed over the Otway Ranges to Lavers Hill, 17 miles northwest of the lighthouse. Bullock wagon and horses were used from there. 

About 1937 the road from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway was made passable for motor traffic and this is now the means of access.

In June 1938, a marine radio beacon was put into operation at the lighthouse to provide an additional aid of those in the area. The radio beacon transmits a characteristic signal of 2 minutes duration at intervals of 6 minutes in fog and thick weather and 30 minutes in clear weather.  By means of direction finding equipment, vessels can obtain a bearing of Cape Otway radio beacon at distances of up to 100 miles in any weather.

In fog, explosive fog rockets are fired every 10 minutes. These have a variable range, depending upon atmospheric conditions, but can normally be heard for about 5 miles, and are used to warn vessels of their near approach to the Cape. Fogs are experienced at all times of the year principally between the months of November and March.

The light was converted to electricity on 25 October 1939. In 1994 with the introduction of satellite navigation systems, the 'Old Light' was turned off and replaced with a small solar powered signal. In January 1997 the lightstation was leased by Parks Victoria to a small local family owned company. 

The tower is open to visitors and tours are conducted daily from 9.30am 

Comfortable accommodation is available in the sandstone four-bedroom Head Keeper's residence, or in the two 2 bedroom Assistant Keeper's quarters. Tariff as at June 1998 - start from $445 for 4 and $245 for couples. Minimum stay is 2 days

The original Catroptic light apparatus was replaced with a Chance Bros 1st Order,in 1891.
Original Apparatus In 1994 with the introduction of satellite navigation systems, the 'Old Light' was turned off and replaced with a small solar powered signal. The new solar powered light The old and the new

Technical / Historical Details
Nearest Town   Height - Elevation 4.0m (13ft) - 72.9m (239ft) 
Lat/Long: 3851.5 14330.6  Lantern  
Construction White Fibreglass hut  Lens Chance 1st Order 
Built 1848  Character Fl.(3)W.R. period 18s v. 0.1s, ec. 4.4s fl. 0.1s, ec. 4.4s fl. 0.1s, ec. 8.9s 
First Lit   Range NM 19W 15R  
Automated 1993     
De-activated 1994  Open Yes 
Architect   Access Road 
Reference 8012 K 2172  Accommodation Yes 
Sources: Personal visit 
Other Links: Parks Victoria  Cape Otway Lightstation 

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