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86  Slant
CAPE WILLOUGHBY

138.1327E, 35.8426S (55m)

Cape Willoughby was the first lighthouse to be constructed in South Australia and lights the Backstairs Passage between Kangaroo Island and the mainland.

Unfortunately much of the aesthetic appeal of this light was lost in 1974 when the lantern room was replaced.

Established in 1852, the Cape Willoughby Lighthouse (originally known as the Sturt Light after Captain Charles Sturt) is the oldest in South Australia. It is set on the eastern extremity of Kangaroo Island.

The light provides assistance to shipping through the Backstairs Passage - the 11 km wide strip of water between the Island and the Australian Mainland of South Australia.

It is build from granite and limestone, quarried from a cleft in the cliff at the base of the tower.

The original keepers settlement was in a valley, km from the light. Here a spring provided fresh water and it was close to the beach where supplies where landed. Due to deterioration and the hardship of reaching the lighthouse in bad weather in 1912 new keepers quarter were built at the lighthouse.

The light was converted to electricity in 1959 when two 110 Volt DC diesel generators were installed.

In 1974 major alterations were made to the lighthouse. Up till then the intention had been to replace the lighthouse, the thinking at the time being that this was not an important light and not worthy of the cost of preservation because it was not aesthetically appealing.

The original elegant timber stair was removed, due to rotting, and replaced by steel stairs with three landings.

The lantern room and apparatus were removed and replaced by an aluminium and fibreglass lantern room and an apparatus comprising of banks of sealed beam halogen lamps.

240 Volt Main electricity was connected, with a diesel standby generator.

One of the reasons the lighthouse was saved is, because despite official opinions at the time, the value of public relations in preserving the tower was realised, as a result of the volume of tourists visiting the light.

The lantern which was removed from the tower was donated to the National Trust of SA, together with the lens and operating machinery. The equipment has since been re-erected on a short tower adjacent to 'Hope Cottage', the National Trust Museum at Kingscote.

Another point of interest is the bulge in the side of the tower. It seems that this is not due to deterioration, but came about in the original construction.

It was reported that during World War II, a RAAF bomber type aircraft plunged into the sea in the immediate vicinity, while attempting a crash landing in the dark of night. However, apart from the fact that all the crew perished no other details are available.

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