During a recent trip to the Jervis Bay area we managed to visit the Booderee National Park which was closed when we holidayed in the area last Easter. One of the more unusual sites in the park area is the ruined remains of the Cape St. George Lighthouse. Here is the story of that ill-fated lighthouse. It is a tale of deception, undoubtedly corruption and cowboy builders. But it should also stand as a lesson for today’s public spending… Or should that be misspending?
A Crazy Lighthouse Story
Between 1805 and 1855 there were five ships wrecked off the coast of Jervis Bay. The need for a lighthouse was clear and the recommendation to build one in the vicinity was made in 1856. However, despite the fact that the Pilots Board, which was the controlling authority, was not consulted, £5000 were allocated and a tender was accepted. No corruption of the public purse there then eh?
Controversy began even before it was built. The Board received numerous reports questioning the angles of visibility of the site from the north and south. Even its proposed and actual locations were brought into question. They eventually proved to be five miles apart!
When the Pilots Board examined the site, they reported that the initial map suffered from “discrepancies of so grave a character that it is impossible to decide whether either position marked on the map really exists.” They also questioned whether the facility would even be visible from the required approaches – standard stuff for a lighthouse wouldn’t you think? Nevertheless, despite these facts and further disagreement by a majority of the Board, the lighthouse was commissioned on 1st October 1860. There must have been a few brown envelopes stuffed with pound notes being passed around, that’s all I can say…
It seems that the choice of location was one of ease of construction – and therefore maximum profit for those concerned – rather than being the best spot for a lighthouse. As a result the light was not visible from the northern approach to Jervis Bay, and was barely visible from the southern approach. When the Pilots Board inspected it they found that the contractor built the lighthouse 2.5 miles north of the intended site. It was closer to the quarry where he was extracting the stone from. Classic cowboy builders stuff! It’s almost hilarious until you realise that this type of thing still goes on.
From 1864 to 1893 there were thirteen ships wrecked on the South Coast in the Jervis Bay area. The lighthouse was clearly not doing what it was intended to. So, by 1899 a new lighthouse at Point Perpendicular was built at the opposite side of the Jervis Bay entrance.
Even after the the new lighthouse was commissioned there was some confusion due to having two towers in close proximity to one another. It was thought that it could be hazardous to navigation in daylight, especially during bad weather. As a result, the Cape St George tower was demolished but the ruins remain as a tourist attraction.
On 22 June 2004 the lighthouse ruins were listed on the Commonwealth Heritage List and is a popular tourist spot. Even without the ruins this site has fantastic natural views.
And so to today…
This is an excellent example of how many projects are still run today. I should know. I have been around long enough and been on enough totally f*#ked up projects to know that now sadly, this kind of thing is almost the norm. Food for thought when you are wondering how the government or council is spending your hard earned taxes!