Tuesday, December 22, 2009
In search of summer Down Under
It's hard to think warm thoughts when 2-1/2 foot snow drifts are piled up against the front of your house. So on this first full day of winter, I'm headed Down Under as an armchair traveler to celebrate the first full day of summer! My last lighthouse design for 2009 will be Macquarie Lightstation, the first lighthouse constructed in Australia, located in Vaucluse, a suburb of Sydney in New South Wales.
Less than a year after the First Fleet arrived in 1791 to settle New South Wales, a flagstaff was erected on this site. The first aid to navigation, a wood and coal-burning apparatus in a basket mounted on a tripod, was lit in 1793.
The first lighthouse structure was commissioned in 1816 by Lachlan Macquarie, governor of Australia from 1810 to 1822, and completed in 1818. Its designer was the famous convict architect Francis Greenway, whose work so impressed Macquarie that the governor granted Greenway a pardon. The designer's warning about the fragility of the sandstone with which the lighthouse was constructed soon became evident: as early as 1823, large stones fell away, and iron bands were placed around the tower to prevent further shifting of the building materials.
In 1883, a new lighthouse--virtually identical in appearance but constructed of sturdier materials--rose next to the original structure, and the two towers stood side-by-side for several years before the original tower was demolished. The original lens was automated in 1976, and the lightkeeper dismissed in 1989. But the Macquarie Lightstation's characteristic flashing light still shines with a range of 25 nautical miles across Sydney Harbour into the Pacific Ocean.