HISTORY & INFORMATIONCape Nelson Lighthouse was officially lit in 1884 after the building had been delayed by difficulty in obtaining suitable bluestone for the project. The stone that had been originally quarried from close by soon ran out and consideration was given to completing the tower with steam bricks from Melbourne. However, suitable stone was found at a location eleven kilometres away. But there was no direct road and the stone had to be carted via Portland, a distance of twenty-one kilometres. The blocks at the base measured six cubic feet each. The outside walls were constructed to taper from 7 feet at the ground to 3 feet 6 inches half way up, and then to 2 feet 6 inches nearer the top.
As the tower was being constructed, other buildings were also established. These included a store, two stall stable, fodder room, cart shed, lightkeeper's detached cottage and assistant lightkeepers semi detached cottage. The lightstation grounds were enclosed by a rubble wall 1.75 metres high, 0.4 metres wide and 435 metres (1450 ft) long surrounding the keepers quarters and extending out to the light to protect the keepers from the harsh winds. This tower is believed to have replaced an earlier square wooden tower built in the 1870's.
Telephone communication between Cape Nelson and Portland was established in 1884. Also at this time, an auxiliary light (or 3 mile warning light) was added to the base of the tower. In 1907, a new incandescent lighting apparatus was installed - this was 4 times more powerful than the original light, throwing out a light equal to 2,000 candlepower. The light used ordinary kerosene which was converted into gas.
In 1934, the old system of lighting was replaced by an electronically controlled group flashing light of 608,000 candlepower. The power was drawn from a local power plant, and a motor in the lighthouse automatically controlled the timing apparatus by a clock system.
In 1971, the light was converted to run off 240V mains power. In the event of a power failure, a diesel generator was also installed. Today, the light has a range of 22 nautical miles and its white light is approximately 850,000 candlepower. The light stands 250 metres above sea level and consists of a group flashing 4 times every 20 seconds. The tower has 129 steps to the top, and stands at 24 metres high.
Photographed by K. Eggleston, 24 April 2000 © Kristie Eggleston
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Page last updated: 27 December 2003
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