Thursday, 16 January 2014

Bean Rock Lighthouse - Iconic Light in The Waitemata

Bean Rock  Lighthouse  - Many have sailed around , swum around , fished near, taken photos, written about  and espoused about what is today in 2014 regarded as a heritage icon. 

Once again it seems from the advertising  on Auckland Council Events Site that there is the annual swim in 2014 - out to and around Bean Rock Lighthouse. Yachts have raced around this lighthouse. Some boaties rue the lighthouse being there but in the main appreciate the presence. 

The tall ships that visited Auckland last year Labour Weekend 2013, sailed past Bean Rock Lighthouse - just as shipping has always done since the lighting up of the Lighthouse in 1871 - more than 140 years ago. Over the years, this lighthouse has lighted the way for the era of sail,  the era of steam, and now the large cruise ships that visit. 

Tall Ships Labour Weekend 2013 Heading out to sea
Photo by CRB 2013

Henry Brett, newspaper owner and reporter,  writing on Auckland fifty years ago in his well known book White Wings, referred to coming in to the Waitemata, passing Bean Rock lighthouse. 
" An hour later we were boarded by Pilot Burgess. A lead through the channel and then, nearing Bean Rock, "'Bout ship!" A few boards up the harbour, then: "Clew up and haul down!" "Stand by the anchor!" "All ready, for'ard?" "All ready, sir." "Down helm!" Slowly she comes up in the wind and loses way. "Let go!" "Let go it is." The carpenter's maul descends; the anchor drops from the cathead, and we hear the music of the cable rattling through the hawsepipe. She swings to her chain, and lies peacefully at anchor in the "tranquil waters of the Waitemata." ( Brett, 1924, page 365)
Son of William Wilkinson who was a reporter for the Daily Southern Cross, competed with Henry Brett to be the first with the shipping news. Wilkinson's son William Albert oversaw yachting races for the yacht club  and Wilma aka Spider ( Wilkinson's granddaughter ) also took part in yacht races.  
Yes the stories are many for this lighthouse that today in 2014 is the only surviving wave washed wooden cottage type lighthouse. There are stories too about the other such lighthouse - also the same engineer James Stewart supervising its design and construction. 

These are the stories I have grown up with - those of the lighthouse at Manukau Heads, Bean Rock and Ponui Passage Lighthouses - part of the past NZ History also of other places such as Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Map not drawn to scale and only approximate to show Lighthouse locations ASB 2010

For some time the need for lighthouses had been discussed and reported on by James Melville Balfour, Colonial Marine Engineer appointed in 1866. 

Mr. Balfour reported in 1865, completion of the Tiritirimatangi lighthouse at a total cost of about £5288 and that this lighthouse had been lit on 1 January 1865    Balfour continued with plans for  beacons,   two towers with lighthouses in the Waitemata Harbour,  and a temporary light for South Head ,Manukau Harbour. Apparatus for the two lighthouses were ordered from Messrs Stevenson, engineers to the Commissioners of the Northern Lights, Scotland and a small fifth order apparatus from England for the temporary light at Manukau Heads.

Gold being discovered at Thames in 1867, created a busy sea route with the coasters beating back and forth with people, stores and machinery.  With the Thames coastal traffic busy, 1870 saw the announcement of two new lighthouses to begin – both on the Thames Coastal run. The Daily Southern Cross wrote:-

 “Some eighteen months ago the late Mr. Balfour, whose untimely death was a severe loss to the colony, inquired into the practicability of placing a lighthouse upon the Bean Rocks, and another at the Sandspit, in the Ponui Passage, and from that time until September last a considerable amount of correspondence passed on the subject between the late Marine Engineer and the Provincial Government. These steps resulted in orders being sent to Messrs, Stevenson, Engineers to the Commissioners of the Northern Lights, Scotland, for the necessary apparatus for two lighthouses. It was understood that Mr. Balfour had commenced the designs for the towers, but after his death no drawings were found amongst his papers, and it therefore devolved upon the Provincial Government to select some engineer competent to supply the necessary plans of the towers, in readiness for the lighthouse apparatus, which had been ordered His Honor the present Superintendent made choice of Mr. James Stewart, Civil Engineer and Inspector of Steamboats; “ (PROPOSED LIGHTHOUSES AT BEAN ROCK AND THE SANDSPIT Daily Southern Cross 21/07/1870: p 2)

Bean Rock Lighthouse with Fullers Ferry passing - Photo by CRB 2009
Stewart enlisted the expertise of Captain Burgess, Chief Pilot and Harbour master at Auckland for many years in the taking of soundings and borings to ascertain the structure of the sites.

Bean Rock Lighthouse upon Te Toka a Kapetawa rocks, situated about three quarters of a mile from the North Head toward the direction of Kohimarama, commanded a position to the entrance of the Waitemata harbour. The rocks were low lying and posed a hazard to shipping. It was felt that a light placed on them would be distinctly visible all over the Rangitoto Channel, part of the Waitemata Harbour and both channels eastward.

 As these rocks were sea wave – washed it was important in design, that the lighthouse foundations would be secure and that the lighthouse itself would withstand adverse weathers. 
Stewart with Captain Burgess took three lines of section to establish the required position and depth of the piles. Following an axiom in engineering, often referred to:-  

 “not to fly in the face of the working of nature, but to assist nature and nature will assist you”  ( Stewart J, Vol 34, 1901, p16 Presidential Address, NZ Institute)

he chose to design a hexagonal- shaped lighthouse based on the concept of a beehive cell – chosen for a shape that would be strong in adverse winds and weather, better utilization of limited space and more cost effective to build. The design placed the hexagonal wooden lighthouse dwelling on the upper of three horizontal platforms, upon a floor of concrete 2 inches.

The roof, covered in galvanized iron with guttering was designed to project outward forming a verandah around all eight sides. Inside the lighthouse, the design provided for a dwelling room, a bedroom, storeroom and lighthouse storeroom. Provision was also in the design for those essentials of daily living. A four hundred gallon tank to hold fresh water in the lighthouse storeroom and water closet supplied by a cistern and sea water force pump – this under the store.

Seven cast iron pillars with foot flanges were to be rested on the rock and not let into it. The Daily Southern Cross reported on what was seen as an ingenious method by Stewart and said to be a first for in New Zealand concreting in this manner to place these pillars  in the concrete foundations while preventing tide action upon them during the process:-

“ The stone is to be filled up to the level of low-water mark, or nearly so, the piles being retained in their places by the staging; and the mixture of sand and cement will then be introduced into the interior of the piles, which, being open at the end,, will permit of the matter being forced through by means of a piston plug in the core of the pile, worked by suitable pulley power. It is intended that two casks of cement, with the proper proportion of sand, shall be forced down through each pile in the manner above described, and, following the known law of plastic bodies in motion, it is believed the cement will fill the interstices between the stones, replacing the water, and thus forming a firm concrete mass estimated at about twenty tons round each pile, while it will be protected from the action of the water by the surrounding stone. Above low water the filling in will be carried up to the extent of about five feet, with slopes of four to one.” 

The lantern, also hexagonal in shape was about 20 feet above the lighthouse dwelling and about 50 feet above high water level. Dove & Co were the accepted tender for the lighting apparatus made by Messrs. Chance Brothers, Birmingham.  The lighting was of the fifth order dioptic and burned kerosene.

Bean Rock Lighthouse from Waiheke Ferry - Photo by CRB 2013
The successful tenderer for building Bean Rock Lighthouse for a sum of £2445 was William Cameron of Auckland. Messrs Fraser and Tinne of the Phoenix Foundry obtained the portion of the contract for the ironwork and Mr. Nelson Ireland, also of Auckland, the masonry. 

   Above -  Messr's Fraser & Sons Premises in 1900
The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902 
On left - Fraser & Tinne Advertisement in Thames Directory 1869
The construction of Bean Rock Lighthouse was hampered by adverse weather during December 1870 and January and February 1871 and there had been a short wait at the beginning for the essential foundations – the iron piles.
However an extension of time to the contract saw William Cameron completing this lighthouse in readiness for lighting in July 1871. The first lighthouse keeper installed was Mr. Hugh Brown who was one of the crew of the Pilot Boat. Hugh Brown died in 1892. James Anderson had followed on as second lighthouse keeper at Bean Rock lighthouse. The Bean Rock Lighthouse had cost about £2762 to complete and the lantern cost a little over £300. The light was first lit at 6 o’clock on 24 July 1871. 
Stewart, Captain Burgess and several other gentlemen were present at this occasion. However a numerous party from town, arrived later on the Enterprise No 1. This boat was despatched to get them, when it was discovered the Gemini was unable to because of a burst flue. Some adjustments were needed to the lighting. Then Bean Rock Lighthouse was in service – its light helping to guide shipping into the Harbour, flashing white, red and green to indicate safe channels. 

The Hawera & Normandy Star reported in 1882 that King Tawhaio, on a visit to Auckland, had been taken on board the steamer, City of Cork, to see Bean Rock Lighthouse. 

With the abolishment of Provincial Government in 1876, operation of the lighthouse became the responsibility of the Marine Department New Zealand.  In 1898 and 1899 there were repairs to the structure. In 1912 Bean Rock Lighthouse was the first manned tower to become automatic operation. James Anderson, the second lighthouse keeper at Bean Rock was transferred to Manukau South Heads.  

Page 1 Advertisements Column 4 Auckland Star,
Volume XLIII, Issue 251, 19 October 1912, Page 1
 During the war years the Auckland Star carried a picture of  the "new fangled' method of transport over Bean Rock lighthouse. 
** r if N *-C. F. Bell, photo "(protected).
Auckland Star, Volume XLVI, Issue 136, 9 June 1915, Page 8

By 1920 an idea of Bean Rock as a War Memorial was being mooted and the idea raised at a City Council meeting in March. The promoters of the idea suggested that it would be of ornament, use and visible in many parts of the city.(Auckland Star, 19/03/1920, p7) The idea did not come to fruition.

Reference Source: 
  •  Brett, Henry. White Wings ( Volume I). Auckland: The Brett Printing Company Limited, 1924Churchman, 
  • Geoffrey B. NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES. Government Printing Office, 1989. 
  • By Jas Stewart C.E. Art. I.—Presidential Address. p16. In Transactions and Proceedings NZ Institute,  from Volume 34, 1901: on also Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961 
  • Associated Journals House Representatives
  • AJHR 1870/ 1871, p. G.6.4 Annual Report. NZ Marine Department
  • AJHR 1872 p G. 30. 4 Annual Report NZ Marine Department.”
  • AJHR 1874 p H.22, 14-18. Annual Report. NZ Marine Department P.2
  • Newspapers  Papers Past, National Library New Zealand
  • Daily Southern Cross. NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES.— REPORT OF MR. BALFOUR. Daily Southern Cross, 27 September 1865, Page 6
  • Daily Southern Cross. PROPOSED LIGHTHOUSES AT BEAN ROCK AND THE SANDSPIT. Daily Southern Cross, 21 July 1870, Page 2
  • Daily Southern Cross.“THE LIGHTHOUSE TENDERS. Daily Southern Cross,4 August 1870,Page 3.”
  • Daily Southern Cross. A VISIT TO THE BEAN ROCK LIGHTHOUSE. 24 April 1871, Page 3
  • Daily Southern Cross.THE BEAN ROCK LIGHTHOUSE. Daily Southern Cross,25 July 1871,Page 2.
  • Daily Southern Cross. TAWHAIO IN AUCKLAND. Hawera & Normanby Star, 20 January 1882, Page 2