Bruce Rogerson: A Lighthouse Down Under
On a recent trip to New Zealand I came across a most interesting lighthouse. The Akaroa Lighthouse is located today in the small village of Akaroa, a popular overnight destination for cruise ships on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand close to the city of Christchurch.
Akaroa is located in a spectacular inlet formed by the submerged caldera of an ancient volcano. The lighthouse was originally located on a 200 foot bluff on the north headland at the entrance to the inlet. First lit in 1880, construction in this remote location took several years to complete since all materials and supplies had to be landed from the sea and lifted to the top of the bluff. In 1977 the lighthouse was decommissioned and replaced by by a smaller automatic light.
In 1979 the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed and over the next year the wooden lighthouse tower and its lens and equipment were removed and transported to its current location in the Village of Akaroa on the north side of the bay.
The lighthouse tower stands 41 feet tall and the lantern room contains a second order Fresnel lens designed by David and Thomas Stevenson of the famous lighthouse Stevensons of Scotland. The lens was manufactured by James Dove & Co.,of Edinburgh Scotland using glass prisms supplied from France.
The Fresnel Lens has eight flash panels or bulls eyes. The signature of the light is one white flash every ten seconds, the same as Point Cabrillo. The rotation time would be 80 seconds versus 40 seconds at Point Cabrillo. The original source of light was a kerosene lamp replaced by a 1000 watt electric bulb in the 1950s. The light at its original location was visible for 23 miles due to the height of the lighthouse above sea level.
The lens was powered by a clockwork mechanism designed by the Stevensons and built by Dove and Co. The clockworks are spectacular and continue in operation today. The clockworks were hand wound until 1935 when a kerosene generator was installed to turn the lens and eliminate the need for a night lightkeepers watch.
The lighthouse, at its original location on the Akaroa North Head, was the last landfall used by Captain Robert Scott when he sailed on his ship Terra Nova to Antartica in 1910 on his ill fated expedition to the South Pole.
Today the light is operated by the Preservation Society and their volunteers.