NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES
Puysegur Point (1879)
Photo courtesy of MSA.
Situated near Preservation Inlet in a remote part of Fiordland, Puysegur Point was New Zealand's most isolated lighthouse.
In 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, plus a number of reporters and other dignitaries. 267 275 276
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
First lit in 1879.
It is of the first order dioptric, a fixed light, and was opened on March 1, 1879. The cost was £9958, and aa vessels from Australia and the United Kingdom make the land here it is of great service to mariners. There are three men in charge, Mr. P. Boyle being the head keeper. 91. Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6
J F Ericson moved to the lighthouse August 8, 1878 as the first keeper, here is an excerpt from the Ericson family history; 192
With his wife and five small children J F Ericson landed at Otago’s Retreat on 8 August 1878 to take charge of the new lighthouse station at Puysegur Point. The 60 ft wooden tower had been built and Ericson’s first task was to install the lantern and equipment so that the light could begin to operate in March 1879. Access to the lighthouse station was by narrow winding road about three miles from the landing. Everything had to be brought up from the landing and the road was so bad that much of the keeper’s time was spent in trying to make the road sufficiently smooth for horse. On November 30 1878 he wrote –
We have had to carry up a good deal of the stores on our backs. It is hard and tedious work but the horse is rather light for this road and we are obliged to assist him.”
On 6.1.1879 George was born and Mrs. Ericson had to depend on the other keepers wife to “see her right.” Despite the hardship, by 1st March 1879 all was ready and Ericson lit the lamp. Life at Puysegur was a never ending struggle with the bleak isolation, the gale winds, rain and fog. In May 1880 J F Ericson wrote …
“owing to the very heavy rainfall we have had during this month our road has been completely blocked up by landslips. In one place the whole sidling has come down and about 1,000 yards of stuff is lodged on the road. We have often to work in very bad weather besides being tormented with thousands of sandflies while working. Therefore I hope, sir, you will kindly grant us a rise in salary for each of us is doing our very best to deserve it.”
Instead a Government circular was received announcing a general 10% reduction in salaries.
Descendants of George’s family and members of Southland Tramping Club made a pilgrimage to Puysegur to mark the centenary in 1979. A tramping party were flown to Preservation Inlet and walked to the lighthouse, while others travelled by helicopter. 192
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. Scott installed the new burner on the light. 90
The Southland Times reports that on the 26th last a very severe thunderstorm passed over the district, and the lighthouse at Puysegur Point was struck by lightning. According to the statement of Mr. F. Sandager, the keeper on watch at the time, the building was struck on the dome, the lightning travelling through the lighthouse and down the braces outside. Little or no damage was done to the building, saving a few boards being split where the lightning found egress and an iron band which encircles the structure torn off. Mr. Sandager received no injury- There is a lightning conductor on the tower, but it is thought that the metal had been fused by previous strokes of lightning.
Otago Witness , Issue 2338, 22 December 1898, Page 37
Late in 1925, a wireless radio is installed. 241
The initial transportation to the lighthouse was by a 9 hour boat trip from Bluff, this method of transportation was replaced in the late 1950s by a sea plane.
Decommissioned in 1980, the lighthouse was replaced by two beacons on Windsor Point and Cape Providence.
The Puysegur Point lighthouse has along with others been featured on New Zealand postal stamps issued by the Government Life Insurance Office.
Part of the lighthouse series that was released in 1969 when New Zealand changed to decimal currency, the Puysegur Point stamp had a value of 2 1/2 cents.
In 1978, the Puysegur Point Lighthouse stamp was overwritten with a new value of 25 cents.
Stamp Web Sites
Inaccessible, unless you have a boat or tramp through the bush.
13b. DOC, Lighthouse of Foveaux Strait - A History. Angela Bain May, 2010. http://www.doc.govt.nz/publications/conservation/historic/by-region/southland/lighthouses-of-foveaux-strait-a-history/
64. Christchurch Star, Section C, December 8, 1999
91. Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6
155. Evening Post, Volume LXXXI, Issue 120, 23 May 1911, Page 6
189. Norman Miller (Jocelyn Groom, July 23, 2011)
192. John F Ericson (Trevor Meikle, May 25, 2010)
247. Dominion, Volume 6, Issue 1755, 21 May 1913, Page 6
267. Wellington Independent, Volume IX, Issue 4038, 27 February 1874, Page 3 (Chapter 1)
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)
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)
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)
290. Edward B Norris (Simon Norris, Aug 8, 2014)
Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2011 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.
If anyone has any information on this light please contact me. email@example.com
Last Updated: September 10, 2010