Lighthouse Lens ; 1879; 2014/40


Mid North Coast Maritime Museum


Lighthouse Lens

About this object

This shaped glass cylinder is the original Fresnel lens from the Tacking Point Lighthouse, built in 1879. The lighthouse is one of many permanent and visible landmarks built to assist coastal shipping around Australia in the 19th century and is one of several located on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales.

Initially operated by liquid fuel, the lighthouse was converted to bottled acetylene gas in 1919 and continued to emit light using this lens. In 1974 when the lighthouse was converted to mains electricity the lens became redundant and was removed.

The lens is made to mathematical proportions designed to provide a powerful light source without the weight of conventional lenses. Each lighthouse was assigned a specific signature flash to enable shipping to readily identify the lighthouse particularly in poor weather and at night. This lens is also from a time when all lighthouses were manned.

Lighthouses were an important navigational aid for maritime shipping and helped to mark dangerous coastlines and hazardous reefs. They were usually situated on prominent headlands. Many ship wrecks occurred on the lower Mid North Coast before the Tacking Point lighthouse was built.

Before roads and rail, communities on the Mid North Coast relied on coastal shipping for their heavy transport and freight. A ship wreck not only impacted the shipping owner, it also meant isolation and economic hardship for the communities they serviced.

This lens has been modified as a working exhibit and illustrates the light the lens once brightly and proudly emitted protecting those who sailed by Tacking Point on our coastal highway. For maritime captains a lighthouse sighting was always welcome and the flash a sign that they were on the right track.

Zsolt Newby and Debbie Sommers
9 July 2014

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