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The Class of 2010 visit Byron Lighthouse

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This was an excursion from Southern Cross University a part of the borderlands Unit and an interesting look at the cultural building blocks and how they create spaces of interest and dimension.On this occasion we were headed to the Byron lighthouse. We had been on several other field trips some on campus and some off .

Another was the trip to an intentional community namely the Bodhi farm . Bodhi farm is on Wallace rd and is a short distance from another intentional community Siddah Farm which was my home for over 30 years .


The bus left from outside the Gym at Southern Cross at eight am and most of the class attended . I got Eli to drop me there as I was having an insightful day and did not want to be bogged down with mechanical contraptions .

There was an air of excitement as our numbers swelled waiting for the bus to arrive. This was a break from the normal lecture but it was in no way meant to be a total day off .  This was designed to stimulate our thinking and there would be discussions later in class and we were expected to contribute our experience. Not hard as the experience was palpable .

The bus was a mini and we all piled on and in no time we were at the light house . There was a lengthy talk by one of the staff who work for the Parks and wildlife and that was very interesting listing the historical layers that where all chapters in the development and transformation of the area . From the original owners the Bunjulung tribe and then onto the Colonial use as a whaling station and the light providing navigation aid to shipping as in those days there were no roads and the sea was it.


Whaling and the cedar trade were the two backbone industries with dairy ing coming into play later down the track. After the talk which was very in depth and went for at least half and hour we were admitted into the base of the light house.

Our dear lecturer and writer of great cultural events was Associate Professor Baden Offord and he pointed to the glass of the entrance door etched into are the words “Once perilous now safe” indicating the change the light had made for the ships coming here . Many had been wrecked on rocks Julian rocks being a prominent one. Julian rocks is now a marine park and there are regular dive trips to it.

The climb to the top up the spiralling stair case was done in small groups and those that were waiting perused the museum room full of all the old lighthouse paraphernalia and safety equipment.

The day was a perfect one blue skye and no wind cool  and few other tourists as it was May and that’s winter time in this part of the World although it is mild especially in the daytime .

When we did get to the top the view was magnificent and there was a permanent crew manning a DSLR camera to record any whale sightings and this was the time of the year that they were moving north.


We were able to get right onto the platform and it felt quite safe . The lens of the light had been imported from France and were Fresnel . They had the ability to focus the light and the shades had to be drawn because we were told there was the possibility of starting a fire kilometers away by the magnified suns rays.

The light itself rotates and is floating on a bet of mercury . There was seven hundred wt. Of mercury supporting the light.The optical lens weighs 8 tonnes and was made by a French company , Societe Des Establishment , Henry Lepante , Paris . It is a dioptric first order bivalve double flashing lens and contains 760 pieces of highly polished prismatic glass .

The lens revolves in 7cwt of mercury . The origingal light was a concentric six wick kerosene burner with an intensity of 145,000 candles and over the years this was increased to the final out put using mains electricity in 1956 of over 2 million candles . The original mechanism was a system of chains and weights similar to a grandfather clock. Later replaced by and electric motor .


We milled around for a moment taking pictures and at the time I was still getting into the functions of my Nikon D90 and occasionally would get lost in the settings . I knew that there was no way I could work it out at that moment so I handed the camera to one of the other students Mat Marshal and he took some photos and when he handed it back to me the fault was gone .

I was always happy to hand my precious camera over to those students that asked or offered to shoot something and one such student was Joseph a tall dark haired earth child from Billen Cliffs . He saw me looking at the goats as once there was a large flock of goats roaming on the slopes of the headland and now there was only a couple left. There was one solitary goat on the hillside and it is near vertical drop to the rocks and sea hundreds of feet below. Joseph took my camera and shot a couple of goats for me . He never wore shoes and unfortunately he is no longer with us as he died not long after in a plane crash . When this sad news came to us in class I remember the whole class was in tears and some went barefoot in remembrance of Joseph.

After the tour was over I can remember making the walk following Joseph down the walking track to the awaiting bus at the bottom at Watego’s beach. From there as it was now midday we drove into Byron beach main street and were given an hour to have lunch. Some how I was on my own and ended up in the Beach hotel . This was a gala day for me and I was not going to come down from my position and spoil it with some fast food . A counter lunch and a beer or two was the order of the day . I can still remember the meal a large snitzel and some salad . Price was not a factor but in todays currency it would have been around $30 AUD or 1,000 THB. Made it back to the bus and ended up loosing my jumper on the bus Oh well them’s the breaks..

Written by Andrew Speers

November 23, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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