So a few weeks ago, Moth & I did our trip down the coast of the Bellarine Peninsula, one of the prettier and most interesting spots, as far as i was concerned was Point Lonsdale. There is so much to really like about this sleepy little town.
Point Lonsdale History
Like most of the Geelong region, Point Lonsdale was originally inhabited by the Wathaurong people who hunted and fished in the area. The first recorded European visit dates back to 1802 when Lieutenant Murray and his party spent some time in the area, followed by Matthew Flinders later that same year. Escaped convict William Buckley lived in this area with the local natives during his 32 years on the run. He lived for some time in a cave beneath where the Lighthouse now stands.
The town was named after a police officer; William Lonsdale; he was the first Police Magistrate for Port Phillip area. He came to Australia, from England in 1831 and joined the army making his way to Captain 1834. Lonsdale married the eldest daughter of Benjamin Smythe, Martha. Today you can see Mount Martha in the distance on the Mornington Peninsula.
There was a small settlement after the 1830’s, but it didn’t really happen until 1876, when the land was sold and then sub divided. Inhabited mainly by squatters before this time. The first signal station was erected in 1852 and the light house built 1863. Fishing and shell processing became employment opportunities for many. Point Lonsdale was made more accessible in 1879, when the Geelong to Queenscliff railway opened, many guest houses started to flourish with people travelling from Melbourne to stay at Point Lonsdale.
The waters around Point Lonsdale have taken several vessels including the schooners Sophia and Thetis which were wrecked on the submerged reef off the shore. In 1948 the Princess Royal suffered the same fate. During the 1850’s quite a few ships were destroyed entering the dangerous heads including the Conside, Portland, Isabella and Sacramento. This tragic period cemented the need for a signal station which was commissioned in 1852. The Local Surf Life Saving Club began in 1946 and has saved over 1600 people. The area is considered extremely dangerous and should not be swam at if not patrolled.
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse History
Built in March, 1902, the Point Lonsdale Signal Station or Point Lonsdale Lighthouse as it is colonially known overlooks the mighty Rip at Port Phillip Heads. The lighthouse is an important warning system for the nautical traffic entering this treacherous and narrow channel of water. The current lighthouse replaced several other navigational aids including a flagstaff which began operation in 1852 and a wooden lighthouse structure that was relocated to the site in 1863 from Queenscliff Shortland Bluff. The 1863 wooden structure was cut up and burnt, once the current building was in operation.
The lamp of the lighthouse was first lit by an oil lamp, this was later replaced by an acetylene lamp. Today, the lighthouse uses an electric light and has been fully automated since 1999. A white horizontal beam flashes every 15 seconds and can be seen around 22 kilometres out to sea, there is also a red beam and it can be seen around 19 kilometres into Bass Straight.
The white tower itself is 21.3 metres high and built of concrete, and is of similar design to many other lighthouses in Australia built around the time. The lower floors of the lighthouse were built in 1951 and take on an octagonal footprint, these floors were built to house the signal station and observation room. There is also a cantilevered platform up the tower which holds special red and green navigation lights.
The lighthouse and the structures around it have been put on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) along with the buildings around its base which mainly consist of military structures built during World War I and World War II. One very significant building is the fog horn shed that is located close to the lighthouse, this shed houses boilers which produce steam for the lighthouse’s fog horn that is still used during heavy fog.
Today the lighthouse still plays an integral role in shipping movements in and out of Port Phillip Heads and is staffed 24 hours a day to control commercial shipping through the heads. This makes Point Lonsdale a quite unique facility in Australia, now that nearly all other lighthouses are unmanned.