Thursday, 10 September 2015

Ponui Passage - Lighting the Way

NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES (No. 4) .—The lighthouse in Ponui Passage, at the entrance to Auckland Harbo... [truncated] Evening Post, Volume CXII, Issue 10, 11 July 1931, Page 23 Papers Past, National Library New Zealand 
Ponui Passage Lighthouse A Screw pile light, this was the other of the two sea wave - washed lighthouses that James Stewart , Civil Engineer, was involved with in design and superintending construction. The location of this lighthouse was on a flattish table bank of a sandbank known as “sandspit” to shipping which travelled to and from Thames in the Hauraki Gulf and Auckland on the Waitemata Harbour.

Map not drawn to scale and only approximate to show Lighthouse locations  ASB 2010
Determining the position, Stewart, just as with Bean Rock Lighthouse, enlisted the expertise of Captain Burgess, Chief Harbour-master, Auckland, before and during construction, with careful soundings being made to determine the geological composition of the sandspit. Imbedded timber at the bottom of the sandspit was a fear when screwing down the piles.
Mr. Heron’s (of Shortland) tender of £2,300 was the successful one for the construction of the Sandspit Lighthouse in the Ponui Passage. William Hammond ( AKA Toss ) in an article in the Ohinemuri Journal, writes of his father and Messrs Flatt, Heron, Morton, Craigie building this lighthouse.( Hammond, 1964)
Reading the description of the labour required to complete construction of the lighthouse in various articles and Stewart's own paper to the Auckland Institute reads like heavy labour ( none of the construction technology that is available today in 2014).

To effect the screwing down of the cast iron piles with a capstan, a temporary platform was built. The Daily Southern Cross reported the following on the method:

…”The plan adopted was to prepare long poles with a peculiar kind of screw thread, and screw them into the ground. The thread of the screw began at the point with nothing, and increased to l4 in. This, its greatest width, was attained in two and a-half turns, and then one full turn was given after it had attained that distance in the solid. The power to screw them down was applied by men with a capstan….” AUCKLAND INSTITUTE. Daily Southern Cross, Vol. 29 August 1871, P 3
Stewart estimated that the total weight of the lighthouse structure was about 60 tons and wrote that:-
….” The interiors of the piles are filled with good cement mortar, to preserve the iron from rust, and the heads and nuts of the joint bolts are imbedded in the same. Tubular cast iron braces, and the lower timber frame, three feet above high water, complete the foundation which has answered all expectations in the recent exceptionally stormy season…” ( J Stewart,1871)

Stewart was to write and read a paper to the Auckland Institute on the foundations of the lighthouse in Ponui Passage.  In this, he described the determining of a suitable site with Captain Burgess, Chief Harbour Master and screwing down the piles with the aid of a capstan and winch handles worked by four men.
James Stewart , Civil Engineer
The Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, Vol 2, Auckland Province. Christchurch: Cyclopaedia Company Limited, 1902.
 Both Bean Rock and the lighthouse at Sandspit in the Ponui Passage were completed in 1871, Messrs Fraser & Tinne having provided the ironwork. Both lighthouses were completed with a hexagonal shaped wooden tower which formed a cottage and storeroom for the Light house keeper.
 One of the first lighthouse keepers at Ponui Passage lighthouse, or Sandspit as it sometimes was known, was Daniel Macfarlane ( Archives NZ, ACFM 8180 46 870/76). MacFarlane - in some records spelled McFarland or McFarlane – common variance with this surname) was followed by Charles H.O. Robson as Principal Light house keeper and then John Marsh.

In those days before automation, lighthouses were manned by Lighthouse Keepers. One of the responsibilities was to keep the lights going for what had become a busy route with “coasters” – steamers and sailing ships plying with cargo and passengers.
The early years of operation of this lighthouse saw two collisions nearby – that of the cutter “Avon” with the steamer “Golden Crown” in December 1871  and in July 1877 the ketch “Adah” with the “Southern Cross.”

From newspaper accounts in later years, it would appear that in November 1896, some damage was done to this lighthouse. Evidently the schooner Huon Belle, owned by J.J. Craig was reported to have run aground against the lighthouse causing damage to two of the iron piles and the lamp glasses. The Huon Belle had been purchased by Joseph J Craig  to carry Portland Cement from Whangarei to Coromandel Peninsula for the new industrial mine batteries being constructed.


OLDEST VESSEL IN NEW ZEALAND.—The 25-ion ketch Huon Belle, bulk in Tasmania in 1864,.5ti1l plies reg... [truncated] Auckland Star, Volume LXV, Issue 191, 14 August 1934, Page 5 Papers Past, National Library New Zealand
According to New Zealand Lighthouse, the lighthouse at Sandspit in the Ponui Passage became automated in 1915 or 1916, ending the era of light house keepers here. In 1938 the wooden cottage was moved to Ponui Island nearby. (Website New Zealand Lighthouse, accessed 07/04/2010) Today in 2014 it is a different vessel navigating the route – yachts and fishing boats.

  From Tararu, Thames, NZ looking toward coast near Ponui Passage in March 2010, CRB photo collection
Reference Source:

•  Churchman, Geoffrey B. NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES. Government Printing Office, 1989.
 •  By J. STEWART, Assoc.Inst.C.E. “ART. XI.—A Description of the Foundation of the Lighthouse in the Ponui Passage.” In Transactions and Proceedings NZ Institute, from Volume 4. 1871:
 •   Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 2, October 1964 By Wm Hammond OHINEMURI LINKS WITH THAMES
   Associated Journals House Representatives ( AJHR)  ATOLS online National Library New Zealand 
 •   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 
 •  AJHR 1872, Section G30, p 14
 •  AJHR 1878, Section H12, p 26
 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.” Papers Past.
 •  Daily Southern Cross. “AUCKLAND INSTITUTE. Issue 4380, 29 August 1871, Page 3. 
 •  Thames Star, 18/11/1896: p4  
 •  OLDEST VESSEL IN NEW ZEALAND.—The 25-ton ketch Huon Belle, bulk in Tasmania in 1864,.5ti1l plies reg... [truncated] Auckland Star, Volume LXV, Issue 191, 14 August 1934, Page 5