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Cape Schanck

Sunset over Bass Strait and Cape Schanck

Cape Schanck is just 90 minutes south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. It was built in 1859 of dressed limestone and sandstone, and is significant for the original lens and mechanisms are still in place. It was automated on 21/9/1987.
The beautifully preserved tower - Click to enlarge
Named in 1801 after Captain John Schanck, the inventor of the sliding keel, by Lieutenant James Grant RN as he undertook the first full survey of the coastline after Bass and Flinders. Grant's ship, the "Lady Nelson" utilised a sliding keel. 

The lighthouse was recommended in a report of 1841, specifying the needs for navigational lights on the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. 

Built of dressed limestone, the short tower has a stone staircase instead of the usual metal found in most other Australian lighthouse of the time. The 1st Order Fresnel lens was installed in 1915 and it along with the original clockwork mechanism, remains in working order. These days the lens is turned by a small electric motor. An interesting feature is shutters provide sharp light cut off at the sector edges.

In 1937, the introduction of Non-directional navigation beacons was recommended and the following year a radio beacon was installed at Cape Otway for testing. Successful tests led to further installations at Cape Schanck and Cape Wickham in 1939. These were linked back to Cape Otway.

Cape Schanck is regarded as the best preserved of the Australian Lighthouses. The Head keepers cottage houses a museum, while the other 2 cottages may be rented.  Tariff as at June 1998 - $70 per room or $200 for whole house (up to 11 people) per night.

Tours Wednesday to Sunday 10am - 3pm (4.30 weekends, school and public holidays)

Contact Parks Victoria on 131963 or 03 5988 6184

  (External Link)

Beautiful Reflections
Beautiful Reflections

Looking toward the top of the 1st Order Lens
Dismissal of officer letting light out.

"Several instances have occurred during the past twelve months of neglect of duty in allowing lighthouse lights to get low or go out altogether,  it is pointed out that the offence is one of a very serious nature and fraught with great danger to life and property,  and a special warning is now given to lighthouse officers that the Public Service Board will be moved in any future case of the kind to dismiss from the Public Service  the officer who may be guilty of such offence.

To be read to and noted by each officer on the station and then duly pasted in the circular book"

Archives 8/2/1893

Official Open Date ?

Believe it or not, the record of the date the lightstation was officially opened, seems to have been lost. The first Head Keeper, Robert Bowie, and two assistants were appointed on the 18th December 1858, and the most likely date for the opening is some time in June 1859.

The Argus newspaper reported on 8/3/1859 ..."Several of the lanterns for the lighthouses which have lately been erected on the Victorian coast have arrived per the Avon from London. The one for Cape Schanck, and which is one of their first class flashing lights, is being transhipped from the Government's Schooner Empire for conveyance to Arthur's Seat, from thence drays have been procured to transport it to its destination, where it will be erected under the supervision of a gentleman sent from England for that purpose by the contractors. It will be some three months before the work will be completed and the light visible."

First view of Cape Schanck Lightstation
Late afternoon rays on the tower
The Head Keeper's cottage houses a museum
The Lightstation from the tower balcony
The Red cottage (1939) and White cottage (1859), available for hire
Cape Schanck

Technical / Historical Details
Nearest Town Rosebud  Height - Elevation 21.3m (70ft) - 100.0m (328ft) 
Lat/Long: 3829.7 14453.3  Lantern  
Construction White round limestone tower  Lens 1st Order 
Built 1859  Character Mo.(N)W.R. period 22.5s fl. 10.8s, ec. 5.8s fl. 0.1s, ec. 5.8s 
First Lit   Range NM 19W 16R  
Automated 1987     
De-activated   Open Yes 
Architect   Access Road 
Reference 7456 K 2423  Accommodation Yes 
Sources: From Dusk To Dawn - G Reid 
Personal visit 
Other Links: Parks Victoria   


  1999-2017 Garry Searle      No part of this site may be used without permission.