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Luna (  - 1877)

Photo Date: Between 1870 and 1902

Paddle steamer 'Luna' at Port Chalmers. De Maus, David Alexander, 1847-1925 :Shipping negatives. Ref: 1/2-014954-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


Luna, the government lighthouse paddle wheel steamer was built by in Liverpool by John Laird Sons and Company266

Her original specifications were:

296 tons net register.  266

Pair of Rennie 44-inch oscillating engines  266

Speed: 12 knots  266

Complement : 50  266


The Luna was purchased in October of 1869 in Sydney Australia as a passenger steamer for the Auckland to Thames run.  260    In January 14, 1870 the Luna arrived in Auckland from Sydney.  261

On January 26, 1870, it is reported in the Daily Southern Cross that the Luna heads to Tauranga and does not take up duties on the Thames run.  262

On March 25, 1870, Captain Fairchild is listed in command of the Luna and leaves for the East Coast.  263   It is also reported the purchase of the Luna is complete at a purchase price of 10,000  264  /   9750.  265


The Luna was sold April 10, 1877.  18



Lighthouse Survey - South Island (1874)

The Luna was ordered on special duty for a lighthouse survey of the South Island (sometimes referred to as the Middle Island in those times). On board were, Captain Robert Johnson and Mr. Wilson of the Marine Department, Major Heaphy, V.C., as artist, Major Campbell, Clerk to the House of Representatives, Mr. G. B. Parker, M.H.R., and Mr. J. Knowles, Under-Secretary, Captain Hutton, geologist, and Mr. A H Burton, of Dunedin, was photographer. Plus a number of reporters and other dignitaries.  267  275  276

Considerable additions had been made to the passenger list, and besides the Wellington all-round party, which consisted of Major and Mrs. Heaphy, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, Captain Johnston, Major Campbell, and Messrs Hackworth, Knowles, Calcott, and Crombie, there were from Dunedin, Captain Hutton and Messrs Stout, Downey, and Burton (photographer.) Mr. Parker, M.H.R., joined at Timaru, and Mr. MacAndrew, junior, who came on board at Wellington, was only going as far as Stewart's Island.  270

The itinerary of places to visit were; Cape Campbell, Lyttelton, Timaru, Oamaru, Moeraki, Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Nugget Point, Catlins River, Dog Island, Bluff Harbor, Codfish Island, Rugged Point and Port William, at Stewart  Island, Centre Island, Windsor Point, Green Island, Otago's Retreat, Preservation Inlet, Chalky Inlet, Dusky Sound, Breaksea Sound, Doubtful Sound, Bligh Sound, Milford Sound, Westport, Cape Farewell, and Mana Island.  275

The primary reason for the trip was to survey new lighthouse sites, at the time there were already coastal lighthouses at Cape Campbell, Godley Head (Lyttelton) , Taiaroa Head (Port Chalmers-Dunedin), Nugget Point, Dog Island, Cape Farewell, and Mana Island in Cook Strait, but there was a need for a light marking Foveaux Strait between Stewart Island and the South Island as well as a light on the west coast of the South Island.  275

At 10p.m. on Saturday February 14, 1874 the Luna left the Queen's Wharf, Wellington, heading south across Cook Strait.  267


Cape Campbell (1870)

The Luna arrived at daybreak on Sunday February 15. The original open wooden tower lighthouse stood at this time. The Luna unloaded stores and Mr. Wilson inspected the lighthouse. The ascent to the lantern is stairs outside the wooden tower. It is a lonely place to live, fifteen miles from Flaxbourne, the nearest township.  267


Godley Head (1865) (Referred to as Lyttelton in references)

The Luna arrived on Monday February 16 at 2 a.m. Mr. Wilson inspected the lighthouse, via a beach landing and walking a mile up a zip zag track to the top of the cliff.  A telegraph line to Lyttelton is to be erected shortly, enabling communication between the port and the heads.. At present at night or in foggy weather no message can be sent to or from the heads to the port should assistance be needed.  268


Akaroa (1880)

During the lighthouse survey of 1874 on board the Luna, John Blackett, Marine Engineer and Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor selected the Akaroa Heads as a possible site for a lighthouse. At the time, there was a good timber trade out of the port and Akaroa was considered likely to be a major port or even a principal navy base. It was also known for its many shipwrecks since at least 25 ships had already wrecked in the area. The first recorded being the Atlantic which was wrecked in 1839, fortunately with no loss of life. 18


Timaru (1878)

The Luna arrived on Tuesday February 17 at 10:30 a.m. It was noted that the lighthouse in Timaru was inadequate and a new light was needed. There was also talks on building a breakwater for the harbour similar to the one that was being built at Oamaru.  268


Oamaru (Cape Wanbrow) (1874)

The Luna arrived on Wednesday February 18 at 4:30 p.m.  Work was in progress on a breakwater to form a safe harbour.  269    Captain R. Johnson, of the Marine Department, and Mr. L. W. B. Wilson, of the Survey Department, accompanied by Captain Sewell, examined the sites for the proposed lighthouse on Cape Wanbrow.  142  


Moeraki (1878)

The Luna arrived on Thursday February 19 at 6:00 a.m.  A railway has been built out onto a jetty for shipping the Kakanui stone. Captain R. Johnson surveyed a headland as a possible site for a lighthouse.  269


Taiaroa Head (1865)

The Luna arrived on Thursday February 19 at 4:00 p.m. The lighthouse was inspected as well as a visit to Mrs. Taiaroa and family.  269

The Luna left Port Chalmers on Saturday night (February 21, 1874).


Nugget Point (1870)

The Luna arrived on Sunday February 22 at 6:00 a.m. and anchored under the point.  270

Most of the party went ashore at the Molyneux River and walked along the road cut into the cliffs to get to the lighthouse settlement. The lighthouse keepers dwelling was built of stone.  270

The light displayed a dioptric light.  277


Dog Island (1865)

The Luna arrived on Sunday February 22 at 8:00 p.m.

DOG ISLAND LIGHT. A boat-load landed at Dog Island about eight o'clock, and ascended the stone tower, which is 100 feet high. We went up the circular stair in the dark, groping our way with our hands on each wall, and a long trudge it was, for the steps seem to be endless As bad as the tread-mill a tired man called out. This building, which ought to be, and was intended to be, of the strongest, was not built faithfully more than this it is of no use saying, but when a person is up in the light and knows that gross neglect, if nothing worse, rendered the tall tower unsafe, be is apt to use stronger terms in reprobating the conduct of the contractors and the clerk of works. The tower has been strengthened by stout beams of timber placed upright, and fastened, by iron bands encircling them, a contrivance that has rendered all secure. Before this was done, it rocked too much. Twice its summit has been struck by lightning, and on both occasions men were in the lantern. The first time was a few days after the light was used, and the second about ten months after. No one was badly hurt, but as Mr. Cunningham, the chief keeper, who has been there nine years, told the tale, and pointed out the spots where the had torn off boards and melted iron, the narrowness of the escape made one shudder. The way the men ran down the long flight of steps was something they often wondered at since. A word about this lantern and the apparatus, which was in full work, will not be uninteresting, though I will defer all attempts at technical details until one or two letters later on. It is a revolving light, and flashes once every half minute. The frame on which the lamps are revolves, showing a face, say due north, every thirty seconds, and on each side there are four lamps in the form of a diamond, the light being so reflected by the glass prisms that all the rays are thrown out in one line. So truly is this done, that when standing, on a level with the lamps no light is cast on the face excepting at half-minute intervals. The revolution takes two minutes, and the sixteen lamps with their burnished silver reflectors give four flashes in that time each face is totally distinct from the other. The whole thing looked more like some fairy-like creation or fragile ornament than a strong machine carefully constructed of well-tempered metal, and carefully prepared thick plates of glass.

All went round as gently and quietly as the works of some automatic toy. The whole was the result of much scientific research and many oft-repeated experiments. What a change from the days of the lantern pure and simple with which ships were once warned to keep dear of shoals and points. From the railing outside the lantern of course a splendid view is gained, and as there was some moonlight we could see across the water to Stewart's Island, Ruapuke, and the Bluff. The Luna lay below us, and was partly visible, though her lights made her position plain. While some official work was going on several went into Mr. Cunningham's cottage, and over a drop of good whisky had a chat about lighthouse matters, during which his good woman chattily told us how they had lived there nine years how two sons were now keepers, one at the Nuggets and another at Cape Farewell. She had been away four times, and the guideman had only been twice on the main land during that long time two of the young ones were now on the island, and a daughter was expected home from a school at which she had been for three years. "It takes away all our savings," said Mrs. Cunningham, to pay for the education of our children." All praise to them for attending to it. There are three keepers here one a youth, the son of Mr. Robson, of Cape Campbell. Light keeping, like other strange matters, seems to run in families. The other keeper has but lately married a widow, who had blessed her former lord with ten little ones j but, fortunately, it appeared for peace and quietness, they were not on the island. One mistake has been made in building the keeper's quarters. Although the buildings are of stone, they are divided only by a wooden partition, and this does not give as much privacy as is desirable. The cottages ought to be a short distance from each other. Mrs. Cunningham has a garden, and the hearty old dame told us about the flowers she raised in spite of the wind. They had cows, but some distemper has almost carried away their herd, and this has been a sad trouble.  271Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4049, 10 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 5)


Centre Island (1878)

The Luna arrived on Monday February 23. 1874. A survey was made of the island to select a site.  271

CENTRE ISLAND. To Centre Island then our course was steered, and we got there at six. At once the representatives of the Marine Department and some of the passengers landed, whilst others, beat on fishing, used tackle, with one blue cod as the result of an hour's work. At the east side of Centre Island there is a beautiful sandy beach, at which the lauding was easy, and an inspection of the island was not difficult, as there had been clearings and cattle tracks. The island is about 500 or 600 acres in extent, and seems well stocked -for there are about twenty head of cattle, besides quite a lot of sheep. There is a house on the island, and a small garden, with turnips, cabbage, and. there is also a good stock-yard, and a small cattle shed. It is, therefore, an inhabited islet. Its highest peak is about 200 feet, and if the new Foveaux Strait light is placed on the Southland side of the Strait, Centre Island will be the site chosen. Many imagine, however, that the new light should be on the south side of the Strait; thence we left Centre Island, to visit the points near the northwest of Stewart's Island for the site. The preference for the south side is based on the fact that there are not any sunken rocks in the way of the navigator. Besides, the Dog Island is on the other side, and between two such lights, bearings could be got that would enlighten the hesitating sailor captain. We steered across the Strait, making a little to the westward of the White Rocks, which lie about a mile from the shore, and then coasted down to Rugged Point and Rugged Island. Here Captain Johnson, and Mr. Wilson, and Captain Hutton left us, and we went on our way to Codfish Island. 277Otago Daily Times , Issue 3764, 28 February 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 2)


Puysegur Point (1879)

The Luna left Bluff on Wednesday February 25 and after another visit to Dog Island headed southeast around the bottom of the South Island to survey a site for a lighthouse at the southwest corner of the South Island.  272 

Several sites were to be considered, Green Islets, Puysegur Point and Winsor Point. The Islets are about 15 miles south of the entrance to Preservation Inlet. Winsor Point is about eight mile further on.  278  

The Luna entered Preservation Inlet via the east end named Otago's Retreat and anchored on the west side of the inlet on Thursday  February 26, 1874. Otago's Retreat was named after the schooner Otago, which accompanied  H.M.S. Acheron on a surveying expedition took refuge in the inlet during during bad weather.  272

After the Luna landed, the Marine surveyors tramped southwards along the beach and over rocky crags until they reached Puysegur Point about 3 miles from the mouth of the inlet,  where they surveyed a site for a lighthouse.  278    As it was too difficult to reach Winsor Point over land from this point the party turned back  278  and planed to visit the next day by boat.  272  

Friday at 7 a.m. the Luna tried to head towards Winsor Point but the weather and seas made it too difficult. The Luna headed back into the inlet and anchored at Cuttle Cove for another day. On Saturday at 5 a.m. the Luna steamed once more to Winsor Point, but was unable to find a safe anchorage which ruled out Winsor Point as a lighthouse site unless a 7 mile road was built from Preservation Inlet.  273     The Luna then steamed to the Green Islets, but once again a suitable anchorage was not found.  279


Cape Foulwind (1876)

On it's way up the west coast the Luna signaled to the Hokitika Harbour Master all was well and steamed on to Cape Foulwind anchoring north of the Steeples as they could not cross the Buller bay until morning. The next day Captain Johnson and Mr. Wilson surveyed the site for the Lighthouse.  274

On a previous trip in November of 1873 aboard the Luna, John Blackett, Marine Engineer and Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor had landed inland up the Buller River and cut a track out to the cape from the Westport/Charleston Road to survey the land. Arrangements were made with the District Engineer Mr. Dobson to have some men make a clearing in the bush for the  lighthouse site and to avoid intercepting the proposed lights arc.  280

By January 1874, work had begun on the clearing.  281

When the Luna later returned in March of 1874 on the Lighthouse Survey, Captain Johnson found the bush to be cleared sufficiently for him to select the exact site for the light. The site was 190 feet above sea level and to clear the surrounding cliffs he proposed a tower 36 feet in height which would illuminate an arc extending S. round by N. 68deg E.  280


From the ninth report of the Marine Department, laid before the Houses of General Assembly during the past session is extracted the following paragraphs referring to the projected lighthouse erection at Cape Foulwind. "The Luna then proceeded to Farewell Spit Lighthouse with stores, and thence to Westport, the distance from which place to Cape Foulwind is only about six miles. The road from Westport to Charleston passes about a mile and a quarter inland of the extremity of the Cape. The Cape is everywhere covered with dense bush, so that a track had to be cut from the road to reach the coast at a point where it is proposed to erect the lighthouse, as the spot could not be approached from Westport by the beach, and a landing could not be effected from the sea, owing to the heavy, swell and the rocky nature of the coast. On arriving at the end of the Cape, an excellent site was fixed upon but it was found that it would be necessary to have an extensive clearing made. This was required also to provide for the light being seen up and down the coast. Arrangements were therefore made with Mr. Dobson, the District Engineer, to set a number of men to work on this clearing, and on the return of the Luna, by way of the West Coast, from the trip she made afterwards, to Foveaux Strait, Captain Johnson found the clearing completed, and was enabled to take accurately all necessary bearings". 

The Secretary of Customs further says "The order for the apparatus was sent home in December and I expect very shortly to receive from Messrs Stevenson a drawing showing the exact size of the lantern, when the construction of the tower will at once be proceeded with, so that it may, if possible, be ready to receive the lantern and apparatus immediately they reach the colony. I venture to trouble you with this detailed account of the steps which had to be taken in connection with the Cape Foulwind light, because similar steps will have to be taken before the erection of many of the projected lights can be proceeded with, and because I believe that a very common opinion with regard to lighthouses is, that all that is to be done is to send to England for a complete lighthouse apparatus, of the most approved and modern design, in order to get out exactly what is wanted but a very short experience shows how entirely erroneous this opinion is. Lighthouses so ordered would, as a rule, be unnecessarily expensive, and would rarely be suited for the localities they were intended for." 

Captain R. Johnston, in his report to the Hon, Commissioner of Customs, details the result of his recent visit to the site of the proposed lighthouse. He reports thus "I found that the bush had been cleared sufficiently to enable me to select the best position for a light. This was done, and the exact position is marked by a large tree, marked with a crow's nest, and bears N. 40deg distant about 6 chains from the original rata tree marked by Mr. Blackett and myself on a former visit. This site is on a small schist granite ridge about 15ft high and 15ft broad on the top at an elevation of 190 ft above sea level. To clear the surrounding cliff both north and south, a tower, 36ft in height will be needed, when an arc extending from S. round by N. 68deg E., will be illuminated. Before the light is erected, a road will have to be made from the Charleston road, and the present track formed by the bush-clears seems a capital direction for it to run. In the neighborhood of the site, and in the direction of the highest land to the north and south, more bush will have lo be cleared to avoid intercepting the light. The exact places where this be required were pointed out to Mr. Home, the foreman in charge of the clearing party. Before concluding this report, I wish to call attention to the necessity of a better survey of the locality between the Steeple Rocks and the Buller River. When the Cape Foulwind light is erected, probably many vessels will run for shelter under the cape in south-west gales. The charts indicate neither soundings nor foul ground in this neighborhood and the 'New Zealand Pilot' states that under Cape Foulwind vessels may find shelter in southerly winds. I however observed from the Luna's deck, broken water far off the shore, and I therefore conclude that the shelter a vessel would find under Cape Foulwind is not altogether free from danger."  280



Farewell Spit  (1870)

The Luna left Westport on Tuesday March 11, at 10 a.m., later on the day reaching Farewell Spit lighthouse where Mr. Wilson went ashore and inspected the lighthouse.  274


Mana Island (1865)

The Luna arrived at Mana Island at daylight on Thursday March 12, 1874. After the inspection of the lighthouse the Luna steamed to Wellington arriving at 2 p.m.  274



Lighthouse Survey - North Island (187?)


Cape Maria van Diemen 1879

In 1874, Nautical Advisor, Captain Johnson, surveyed the North Island for possible lighthouse sites aboard the government ship Luna. He reported back to the commissioner of customs in Auckland the following  "owing to a report that Cape Reinga would offer a good site for a light, the Luna after leaving Cape Maria, proceeded thither; on arrival we found a landing difficult, although the weather was fine. The height of the cape proved to be 456 ft, far too great a height in my opinion for a light ... I therefore came to the conclusion that Cape Reinga was not so suitable a position for a light as the island laying off Cape Maria van Diemen."  4  




Additional Sources:

142. North Otago Times, Volume XIX, Issue 912, 20 February 1874, Page 2

260. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIV, Issue 2906, 23 October 1869, Page 4.

261. New Zealand Herald, Volume VII, Issue 1871, 14 January 1870, Page 3

262. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 3878, 26 January 1870, Page 2

263. New Zealand Herald, Volume VII, Issue 1931, 25 March 1870, Page 3

264. Hawke's Bay Herald, Volume 14, Issue 1138, 25 March 1870, Page 2

265. Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 3930, 28 March 1870, Page 3

266. Wellington Independent, Volume XXV, Issue 3003, 7 June 1870, Page 2

267. Wellington Independent, Volume IX, Issue 4038, 27 February 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 1)

268. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4040, 3 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 2)

269. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4041, 4 March 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 3)

270. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4048, 9 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 4)

271. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4049, 10 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 5)

272. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4052, 13 March 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 6)

273. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4054, 16 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 7)

274. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4063, 26 March 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 8)

275. Wellington Independent, Volume XXIX, Issue 4053, 14 March 1874, Page 3

276. Otago Daily Times , Issue 3759, 23 February 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 1)

277. Otago Daily Times , Issue 3764, 28 February 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 2)

278. Otago Daily Times , Issue 3776, 14 March 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 3)

279. Otago Daily Times , Issue 3777, 16 March 1874, Page 2 (Chapter 4)

280. Grey River Argus, Volume XV, Issue 1902, 21 September 1874, Page 2

281. Nelson Evening Mail, Volume IX, Issue 14, 16 January 1874, Page 2

282Otago Daily Times , Issue 3779, 18 March 1874, Page 6




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Last Updated: August 23, 2013.