A potential jewel in Tasmania’s ever-growing list of must-see destinations is the underappreciated Eddystone Point Lighthouse and its precinct on our state’s most easterly protrusion.
In its prime, its 1000-watt tungsten halogen lamp flashed twice every 15 seconds with an intensity of one million candelas sending out its beam some 26 nautical miles.
Steeped in history, situated in sensational scenic surrounds and supported by an active group of local champions Eddystone Point has a lot of potential on offer.
The potential is there ready and available.
It only needs to be effectively harnessed.
The Break O’Day Council rightly describes the lighthouse as the “jewel in the crown” of the heritage listed structures in its municipal boundaries.
Three of the staples that make Tasmanian tourism so unique are our people, our scenery and our heritage. Eddystone Point has all three in abundance.
Friends of Eddystone Light Inc. provide the people (including the last keepers, John and Christine Denmen), the enthusiasm and drive.
Their passion is built on their knowledge and understanding of Eddystone’s beauty, heritage and significance.
The president, Lindsay Dawe, along with his committee is a treasure trove of history and vision.
Deemed a vital piece of infrastructure given the ever-growing number of shipwrecks occasioned by the hazardous coastline together with the ever-growing maritime trade, Eddystone first started operations on May 1, 1889.
But the history of getting there was not easy.
It was an inter-colonial board established to recommend lighthouse sitings which recommended its construction in 1856.
Seventeen years later the Conference of Principal Officers of the Marine Department of the Australasian Colonies also recommended its construction.
Despite the decision of the body, the name of which would’ve taken all day to say, building only commenced in 1887 – 31 years after the initial suggestion.
Researching the history is instructive – a couple of inquiries, 31-year delay while ships kept getting wrecked and no town planners, heritage officers or Greens to blame.
And for those who may entertain thoughts about infrastructure and cost over runs – nothing was different then either. On an £18,000 project there was an over run of £3900.
The Lighthouse’s construction so many years ago without today’s mechanical support is a story in itself.
Majestically towering above the escarpment at 85 feet/26 metres, it was painstakingly erected using the plenteous supply of local granite.
Each block carefully hewn to ensure that 130 years later the lighthouse still stands as a sentinel as solid as ever.
Little wonder, given the walls are seve-feet thick at the base and still three-feet thick at the top, on top of which is the three-tonne prism light.
The massive weight bearing down on the foundations must be immense, and they have genuinely withstood the test and ravages of time. Its rare unpainted rockface finish is a feature in itself.
A structure like Eddystone is of course not only rock, the lighthouse hosts a wrought iron masterpiece of a staircase worthy of an inspection in its own right.
The nearby foreshore is strewn with granite boulders bearing the drill holes made 130 years ago to liberate the needed blocks for the lighthouse.
The drill holes were ingeniously plugged with wood which in turn was soaked with water.
As the wood started to swell so the granite was split.
To construct a mammoth project of this nature required an on-site workforce with its separate village of some 70 people.
The village boasting stables, a store, a bakery and a blacksmith.
Where the village was located is now a mystery with the local vegetation having regained its dominance.
The site incorporates three other buildings including the residence of the keeper – last occupied by John and Christine Denmen – and a grave.
The remnants of flower gardens with arum lilies and daffodils provide a contrast to the native flora slowly regaining its lost position.
Signage including explanatory advice together with guided tours would make for a fascinating day.
And yes, there were the political issues at the time – remembering this was before federation, the colonies of Victoria and Tasmania were in open dispute about how much each colony should contribute to its capital cost and running.
Nothing much has changed.
One wonders whether some of the correspondence could be modernised by simply deleting “lighthouse” and inserting the word “Marinus Link”?
One thing is for certain. With the goodwill of all authorities, the Eddystone Point precinct could become a powerhouse for Tasmanian tourism.
- Eric Abetz is a Liberal Tasmanian senator