Light-keepers, then and now

Light-keepers, then and now

Then

From 15 minutes to sunset, until 15 minutes past sunrise, the Light-keepers work in shifts ensuring that the wick burner is kept fuelled and maintains the correct oil level to create the whitest, brightest light possible.

Every two hours the heavy weights are wound back to the top of the tower to keep the crystal lens revolving at one turn for every 8 minutes. A diligent watch is essential to ensure the safe passage of every vessel passing by the treacherous coastline. A day in the life of a light-keeper back then could go something like this…

Kerosene lamp installed in 1917 to replace original oil burner.

6.00am – The Australian flag is raised, and an array of colourful small flags are displayed as messages to passing ships

6.30am – Hoping that the embers in the stove from last night are still burning hot enough to be restoked, and the billy can be put on the boil, while visiting ole Daisy for the days milk.

7.00am – Run out to the chicken coop in search of fresh eggs – which would be for breakfast or dinner depending on the shift! Only to find no eggs laid and a missing chicken, probably taken by a snake. Guess it’s off to the storeroom for some oats instead.

8.00am – The overgrown lawn has been put off for too long now. The scythe is taken from the maintenance shed and cutting of the knee-high grass commences.

9.00am – Still cutting the grass

10.00am – and still going…….

11.00am – Needing a break from the grass scything. Time to pull some weeds from the vegetable patch and feed the animals.

12.00pm – Lunch is begrudgingly chomping on 3 day old solid bread and considering taking a nap. All hopes of nap are lost when the delivery ship arrives in the bay with post, dry stores, some new books for the Lightstation school and oil for the lighthouse wick burner lamp.

1.00pm – Horse, cart and man embark down the track to where the ship offloads in the bay. Manually lifting stores from the ship and hauling them back up the headland to the lightstation.

2.00pm – Still offloading back and forth from the ship.

3.00pm – So excited to have hard cheese and cured meats delivered, sneak in a cheeky snack before heading back down into the bay to lug up the last of the stores.

4.00pm – Last trip back from the delivery ship and Roofus gets bitten by snake. Emergency snake bit kit is used – not entirely sure it will work on a dog?*

5.00pm – Realise the Lightstation school teacher has abandoned post and ran away with the postal ship. Didn’t think the children were that bad? Or was it the attractive crewman? We’ll never know….

6.00pm – The last of the stores packed away, the flags are ceremoniously lowered and the race is on to fill up the oil canteens before the night shift starts again.

From 15 minutes to sunset, until 15 minutes past sunrise, the Light-keepers work in shifts ensuring that the wick burner is kept fuelled and maintains the correct oil level to create the whitest, brightest light possible.

Every two hours the heavy weights are wound back to the top of the tower to keep the crystal lens revolving at one turn for every 8 minutes. A diligent watch is essential to ensure the safe passage of every vessel passing by the treacherous coastline.

And so on and so on, day after day.

Bustard Head Lighthouse and Cottages in 1934. 65 Years after being established.

 

Now

From 15 minutes to sunset, until 15 minutes past sunrise the automatic Bustard Head Lighthouse flashes its unwavering white light.

A reliable power source is essential to ensure the safe passage of every vessel passing by the treacherous coastline. The light-keeper can rest peacefully knowing that all is well in the lighthouse tower.

The now automatic lighthouse no longer requires mans assistance

6.00am – Lying in bed reminiscing of the night’s dreams. Trying to build up the energy to fill the jug from the tap and switch it on in order to gain the first caffeine fix of the day.

6.30am – Scanning the refrigerator for this morning’s moreish breakfast morsels. Notice the milk is out of date… no problem the cupboard is stocked with extra long-life milk just in case.

7.00am – Raise Australian Flag – Pause – notice the start of a small hole – pull back down – sew it up. Raise the Australian flag.

Volunteer Light-keeper Geoff is not only a talented handy man but great with needle work – Image courtesy of Di East – Photo Prose Creative

8.00 am – Open up lighthouse tower top and bottom for daily air flow – climb to the top and appreciate the view for a good while.

9.00am – Open light-keepers cottage museum and dust and vacuum in preparation for today’s visitors.

10.00am1770 LARC! Tours arrive with guests. Guided tour is commenced through restored cottage. Artefacts are explained, history is retold, and mysteries are revealed.

11.00am – Tour guests are guided to the top of the lighthouse tower for 360-degree views and demonstrations on how the old lightstation used to work. Then it’s down to the cemetery to try and put all the pieces of the mystery puzzles together.

Geoff captivates 1770 LARC! Tours day guests with the “tales of triumph and tragedy” – Image courtesy of Di East – Photo Prose Creative

12.00pmParadise Tour guests have left and its lunch time. The LARC! delivered some fresh produce and eggs so it’s fresh Caesar salad on the menu today.

1.00pm – A small group of sailing yachties arrive unannounced at the lightstation. In exchange for a donation to the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association they are treated to a personal guided tour.

2.00pm – Afternoon stroll to Aircraft Beach to wave off visitors and collect rubbish along the way.

3.00pm – Out of breath walking back up the track from Aircraft Beach, finished with celebratory afternoon tea and biscuit snack.

4.00pm – Seasonal rains have made the grass grow, pull out the lawn mower, must remember the get some more fuel on the next LARC! up to the station. 30 mins on the push mower on the flat landscaped grounds and done.

4.55pm – (it’s 5.00pm somewhere) time for a cold one.

6.00pm – Lowering the flag and taking up perch on the back steps of the cottage to watch another perfect Bustard Head Sunset.

Image courtesy of Di East – Photo Prose Creative

7.00pm – Can’t decide between making lasagne or beef stroganoff, take too long to decide and settle with a premade oven ready chicken pie instead.

From 15 minutes to sunset, until 15 minutes past sunrise, the automatic Bustard Head Lighthouse flashes its unwavering white light. A reliable power source is essential to ensure the safe passage of every vessel passing by the treacherous coastline. The light-keeper can rest peacefully knowing that all is well in the lighthouse tower.

Sunset over the station – Image courtesy of Di East – Photo Prose Creative

The Contrast

The contrast of then and now is immense but no one is lesser important than the other, whilst the first light-keepers created history, the new ones preserve it. The lifesaving light needs its own protection. Without the dedication from the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association volunteers this important piece of maritime history, once trashed and now restored, would become nothing more than a fading memory of time.

If you would like to learn more about our local history, the talented author, captivating speaker and lead instigator for the restoration and preservation of the Bustard Head Lightstation, Stuart Buchanan, has written a range of addictive books. One in particular, ‘The Lighthouse of Tragedy‘ pays intricate detail to the fascinating and somewhat horrifying history of Bustard Head Lightstation. You can find the full range of his books here.

*For stories sake Roofus was only nipped by a python and after playing the sympathy card for extra dinner and attention, recovered overnight. Side note pretty sure the old emergency snake bite kits didn’t work on anyone.

Is that you Roofus?

No Comments

Post A Comment