Port Fairy Lighthouse
Lat. 38 23'33" South
Lon. 142 15'28" East
The Port Fairy Lighthouse was built in 1859 on what was then Rabbit Island. This later became part of Griffith Island. The light is 41 feet above high watermark and its visibility to seaward is 12 miles.
The original working drawings provided for six stone steps from the natural basalt base rock to the entrance door level. Because of the south-westerly gales which send huge seas crashing onto the area, the causeway and wall were built to provide safer access.
Lighthouse technical specifications
Sailing directions, Victoria-Bass Strait, the official data book of coastal navigation facilities, lists the light as a "fourth order dioptric double flashing white light every 10 seconds".
This means that a central cylindric lens transmits the rays horizontally from the lamp by means of refractions. The light which would normally be wasted above and below the burner is also transmitted horizontally by reflection in a series of rings or prisms. The idea was first used by a French Scientist, M. Fresnel, in 1788. The extra light thus obtained is called catadioptric light.
Oil lamps, gas jets, wind generation and power
The original light source was an oil lamp and the whole optical system rotated in order to flash the identification code. This is, flash for one second, eclipsed for two seconds, flash for one second then eclipsed for six seconds. This 10 second cycle is repeated continuously.
Progress in the science made it possible for the light to become fully automatic. Oil gave way to a gas jet which was pulsed to flash the identification code. Solar power took over in 1987 with a wind generator backup being added in June 1996. The coded flash system is activated automatically.
The cast brass plate on the lamp installation bears the following words: "Fourth Order Catadioptric fixed and flashing light with short eclipses. Manufactured by Chance Brothers & Co. Glass Works, near Birmingham 1858".
Lighthouse tower construction
The construction of the tower is worthy of note. With each course of blocks in the wall, a long slab was inserted to protrude towards the centre of the tower. Thus it is that the stairway is in fact part of the wall. Note the magnificent spiral sweep on the underside of the stairway.
The Keepers' houses were demolished in the 1950s.
WARNING: snakes are most active during the shearwater nesting season in January.
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