1st November 2021
At the November meeting we were privileged to hear Michiel Lucieer speak about his experiences as a lighthouse keeper on remote windswept Althorpe Island from 1989 – 1991. He entertained us with stories of previous lighthouse keepers, shipwrecks and other historical details. A famous wreck was the steam ship Pareora in 1919 travelling from Port Pirie to Hobart with the loss of 11 men, only 3 bodies being recovered.
The main island was named by Matthew Flinders in 1802 after Viscount Althorp (also known as Lord Spencer) and is situated about 5k from Cape Spencer at the foot of Yorke Peninsula.
The lighthouse and three keepers’ cottages were built in the late 1870s. In the early days the small community lived a self-sufficient life style with the introduction of goats and sheep. Domestic cats became feral. All had an effect on the island! There are no rabbits but watch out for the shearwater burrows!
Access to the lighthouse by sea is via a zig-zag path from a small jetty. Supplies were landed here and hauled up a steep inclined railway.
The lighthouse is now unmanned. It was converted to solar in 1991 and there was a caretaker until 1996.
The Friends of Althorpe Islands Conservation Park are now helping to care for the heritage railway, the old graves, the cottages and the environment.
Michael’s talk was full of interesting information and he has written a book about his associations with lighthouses over 32 years.
Friends of Althorpe Islands Conservation Park (FoAICP) began in 1996 and have accessed the island (4.5 nautical miles from the mainland) by boat or helicopter. This adventurous group has been very active to the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Althorpe Islands Conservation Park:
- Vegetation survey: 43 native and 42 introduced.
- Removal of more than 10,000 African Boxthorn and the invasive weed the Tree Mallow.
- Maintained the Heritage listed cottage and infrastructure buildings including the historic 1879 hand-winch.
- Maintenance of four graves: 1838 (whaler), 1890 (Guano Mining), 1919 (steam driven ship, SA’s 14th worst shipwreck disaster) 1937, fatality of the fishing industry. (All representing social and economic eras.)
- Monitoring both the Australian Sea Lion and New Zealand Fur seals
- Monitor coastal island birds (59 species of birds identified including the 23,000 Shearwaters and the Small Penguin)
- Public information seminars re: maritime heritage and environment of Althorpe Island.
- Created a sustainable infrastructure with alternative energy (wind and solar) to support our ongoing conservation endeavours.
Find out more about the wildlife and vegetation of Althorpe Island from the Friends of Althorpe Conservation Park website: http://www.althorpefriends.com/