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Griffith Island

Vintage postcard from private collection

The following is the text off 2 interpretive signs in the lighthouse grounds...

I'm Hugh Haldane. I was the lightkeeper here from 1929 until 1952. I came from Melbourne with my wife, two daughters and 3 sons. I was also Harbour Master. The light was a visual signalling station. We used flags and day signals from the flagstaff to communicate with ships, and the light at night to signal the port's location. Each lighthouse flashing signal is unique. The tower also helped ship's masters confirm their position. The lighthouse was one of a series established at coastal ports in 1859. The tower is 41 feet (12.5m) above sea level and the light can be seen 9 NM 17 kms off shore. it was originally lit with oil, kerosene then gas. The original mechanism rotated, requiring the spring mechanism to be regularly supervised and the light checked.
Coastal navigation in the 1840's and 50's was hazardous, so the Victorian Government purchased this site on Rabbit Island ( it was a separate island then). McKenzie and McCowan built the tower and keepers quarters. There was a stone jetty for the boats and a breakwater between Rabbit and Griffith islands, which has steadily filled with sand ever since.

The Station was manned by 2 keepers. Their prime responsibility was to keep the lamp alight,  clean, the apparatus oiled and working and the lighthouse and quarters painted, provisioned and fuelled. They showed signals to approaching vessels as required.

* Now solar powered supplemented by wind generator on short days

There were 2 cottages, the foundations you can still see. The improved reliability of the apparatus meant that an all night shift was only required in really bad weather, so one person could handle the work. In the early days, life here was isolated, despite being so close to the town. You got a year's firewood at a time, went into town for provisions once a month and only left the island with leave from the Harbour Master. Big seas could cut the island off and also make it difficult to get in and out of the lighthouse. Sometimes waves were at the bottom of the door. At least I had a telephone connected to the town.
You made your own interests. My boys were fisherman and they set about building 2 fishing boats, in the area behind the cottages. We launched them in the bay at the north. There was a garden for vegetables and flowers, and we kept a cow, fowls and pigs (though I didn't like them). I made a few changes: planted the Norfolk pines and painted the red tower white. Things were a lot quieter after World War 2. There were no coastal steamers so we decided to move to Port Lincoln when I retired, where the boys could fish for tuna.

Griffith Island Lighthouse Project

Technical / Historical Details
Nearest Town Port Fairy  Height - Elevation 11.0m (36ft) - 12.5m (41ft) 
Lat/Long: 3823.5 14215.2  Lantern  
Construction White round stone tower  Lens  
Built 1859  Character Fl.(2)W. period 10s 
First Lit   Range NM 4W  
De-activated   Open Grounds only 
Architect   Access Road/Foot 
Reference 8028 K 2146  Accommodation No 
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