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Cuvier Island (1889)



Photo courtesy of Maritime NZ                                           Photo courtesy of Murray Owen.


(Photo 1921)                                                                                                            

Photo by Eric Tarlton, used by permission of Once Again Images.  


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Cuvier Island was named after the French naturalist, Baron Cuvier (1769-1832) by D'Urville the French navigator. The island was known to the Maori as Repanga. 3 

The island is situated northeast of the Coromandel Peninsula and is a mark for ships entering the Hauraki Gulf from the east and south. Originally Red Mercury Island was also considered for the lighthouse site but Cuvier Island was selected. 3 

Some early ship wreaks in the area were, the Fiery Star a full rigged clipper ship which caught fire and sunk in 1865. Carrying 87 people on board, only 18 survived. Another, the schooner Elizabeth Curle ran aground on the island in 1882, but there was no loss of lives. 4

Designed by David Scott, work commenced on the light station in 1888. A cast iron tower, the first to be manufactured in New Zealand was supplied by an Auckland company. The light was supplied by James Milne, of Glasgow and the prisms manufactured by Barbier and Fenestre, of France. The equipment was shipped to New Zealand aboard the New Zealand Shipping Company's steamer Aorangi in 1887. It was then transferred to the Government steamer Stella for shipment to the island. Due to the rough terrain and no suitable landing site, a tramway was built up a cliff face to haul the equipment off the boat deck and into place.  3 

The light was first lit September 22nd, 1889.

The station's houses were sited in a small sheltered valley at sea level, near the stores landing place. The keepers had to climb a steep and dangerous zig-zag track up to the light.

One of the most isolated lighthouses it was a three keeper station up till the 1970's. To aid communication trained carrier pigeons were used to carry messages to Auckland between 1899 and 1911, however they were not very reliable. Radio telephones were installed in 1940.

The mails and stores were bought to the island every 3 months on the lighthouse tenders. 1

During 1909, the Marine Department who had earlier experimented with incandescent burner systems (Chance Patent) at Pencarrow, Stephens Island and Jack's Point (Timaru) made a decision to install them in other lighthouses. Lighthouse expert, Mr. David Scott installed the new burner on the Island.  90

The station was converted to a diesel powered electrical system in 1939. 4

After being automated in 1982, the light was converted to solar power in 1996 due to the high cost of refueling the diesel generators. The original 1000 watt light and associated equipment were removed and a 100 watt rotating beacon was installed. 1



Culver Island is now a save haven for the rare native New Zealand bird the Saddleback (Tieke), which has been extinct on the mainland since the turn of the 20th century. However, Culver Island was not always this way. When the lighthouse was built the keepers bought with them domestic cats that all but wiped out the Saddleback. Only surviving on nearby Hen Island the birds were almost extinct. 13 

In 1968 the Culver Island was cleared of predators and the Saddlebacks were reintroduced. Now the birds have flourished and the island serves as a breeding ground to stock other islands in the Hauraki Gulf including Tiritiri Matangi. 13 

There is no public access to the light.


Island North
Province Auckland/Coromandel
Location Northeast of Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula
Number K3886
Date Commissioned September 22, 1889
Date Decommissioned
Automated 1982
Latitude 36 26' South
Longitude 175 47' East
Elevation Above Sea Level 119m
Height 15m
Character White light flashes every 15 seconds.
Range 19 N. miles (35 km)
Made New Zealand
Construction White cast iron sections
Converted Kerosene To Diesel 1939 4
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity Light converted to solar power 1996.
Wattage 1000w
Present Tower Original
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand
Date Visited


Principal Keeper From To
  1st lit, September 22nd, 1889  
Edward R Wilson  199 June, 1892  199 July, 1896  199
Thomas Joseph Cox  22 November, 1900  22 October, 1903  22
Louis Thompson  22 September, 1903  22
John Charles Johnston  284 c  1916  284
William Samuel Hill Creamer and Eliza Louisa Creamer  191 1923  191     1923  191
Hugh Barbour Jamieson 16 1935 1937
Eric I. Bowley  13a c  1937  13a  c  January, 1947  13a 


Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  1st lit, September 22nd, 1889  
Denis Quinn  22 1900  22  1904  22 
Albert Victor Pearce   22     (Probationary)  22 July, 1904   13b   August 1, 1905  22
Albert Victor Pearce   22    September 1, 1905   13b   c  September, 1907  22
Glass  2 1923  
Kenneth Webley  13 c 1937  
Robert Wallace  198 c 1960  198 c 1960's  198
Ian & Marilyn McKinlay  64 1970's  64 1970's  64



Additional Sources:

90Otago Witness, February 17th, 1909.

64Christchurch Star, Section C, December 8, 1999

191. William Creamer (Noeline Fairchild (daughter of Charlotte May Creamer, eldest daughter of W & E Creamer), April 7, 2013)

199Edward Wilson (Lynda Webster, March 9, 2012)

198. Robert Wallace (Tim Wallace, July 7, 2013) 

284. Dominion, Volume 10, Issue 3093, 25 May 1917, Page 4


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Text and photographs. Copyright 1999-2013   Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

Last Updated: December 17, 2011