The cast iron Lighthouse that sits two thirds of the way along our coastal walk was originally erected on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour in November 1865. Imported from England it saw many years of good service before it was decided that a stronger light was required for the island. A new lighthouse was built and began operation in February 1900. The old tower was removed and taken down to Jacks Point in Timaru where it sits today.
Jacks Point or Tuhawaiki Point gets its name from Hone (Jack) Tuhawaiki, a famous Maori warrior chief. Steering his boat through a stormy sea, while approaching Timaru, he was thrown overboard by a huge wave and tragically drowned near the rocks at the base of the clay cliffs in 1844. History reveals him to be a fascinating character, belonging to the Ngai Tahu and Kai Tahu tribes.
The Tuhawaiki or Jacks Point Lighthouse was constructed on site in 1903 by the Timaru harbour board in an effort to overcome the ineffectiveness of the harbour light.
It’s seen a few changes in fuel sources over the years. In 1866 it was powered by burning colza (rapeseed) oil. By 1903 the tower was fitted with an incandescent light, at the time this was a relatively untried lighting method in New Zealand. It worked by oil vapour at high pressure being sprayed into a mantle, which once ignited produced a brilliant white light. Such lights required less maintenance than the older oil burning lights.
Nowadays it is fitted with a flashing beacon which is illuminated by a 100 watt tungsten halogen bulb. The light is powered by mains electricity backed up by battery power in the event of power failure. It has a range of 16 kilometres.
From 1904 Tuhawaiki (Jacks) Point Lighthouse had a sole keeper who lived on site until the station was fully automated in 1930. After demanning the light was maintained by harbour employees from the nearby port of Timaru. These days it is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington Office.
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