Cape Otway LighthouseFebruary 25 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C
“Cape Otway Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia and considered the most significant. Built in 1848, the lighthouse known as the ‘Beacon of Hope,’ sits 90 metres above the pristine ocean of Bass Strait. Hundreds of lives were lost along this shipwreck coast – a sad but fascinating history which led to the building of the Lightstation on the cliffs edge. For many thousands of 19th century migrants, who spent months travelling to Australia by ship, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe, Asia and North America.
The site of the lighthouse tells the history and why it was so significant. In short, ships left America and Europe, headed due south to “the roaring forties” (winds at latitude 40 degrees that are very blowy), skirt around Antarctica, nip north east up to south Australia through the Bass Strait between the south coast of Australia and Tasmania and then on to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane etc. Getting through the Bass Straits was known as “the eye of the needle”. Ships had not seen land since leaving home, three to six months earlier and chronometers were not so accurate, plus cloud cover made using sextants intermittent. The gap they were aiming for was only about 75km wide (although the distance is greater than that, Kings Island sit mid way between the mainland and Tasmania. 75km was less than the errors that might occur over the time taken to get to Australia .... hence shipwrecks along the coast. After one wreck resulting in the loss of almost 400 lives, something had to be done, so Australia started on a programme of lighthouse building around 1845. Cape Otway Lighthouse was often the first site of land after leaving Europe or America, hence its significance.
There is also an aboriginal heritage centre where we learnt about bush tucker, warrigal greens, lemonade bush, yam daisy and pig face. Our diet has now changed.Read more