NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES
The Brothers (1877)
Photo courtesy of Maritime New Zealand.
The Brothers is a rocky series of islands on the western side of Cook Strait, known to the Maori as Nga-whatu ("The Rocks"). On one of Captain Cook's voyages his ship the "Endeavour" came close to wreaking on the rocks after being becalmed in a strong tide-rip while when sailing from Queen Charlotte Sound in February, 1770. 116
In 1856, the northernmost of The Brothers islands, off the north-east tip of the South Island, was considered an excellent site for a lighthouse. But Marine Board members visiting on a still, fine day in 1863 nevertheless found that neither island offered easy access. The precipitous coastline and choppy waters were a danger to anyone landing, and building would be expensive. The board opted for Mana Island, off the south-west coast of the North Island, as an alternative site. 18
The Mana Island light was first lit on February, 1st, 1865.
Unfortunately the Mana Island light displayed the same characteristics as Pencarrow Head lighthouse at the entrance to Wellington Harbour and this may have caused the loss of two ships the City of Newcastle and Cyrus, in 1870, with their masters confusing the two lights. 3
Therefore, in 1874 a decision was made to move the Mana Island lighthouse to Cape Egmont where a lighthouse had been planned since the 1860's, 10 and a lighthouse was planned for the The Brothers. 117
As reported in the Press, Volume XXIV, Issue 3110, 11 August 1875, Page 2.
STATEMENT ON MARINE MATTERS. The Commissioner of Customs (the Hon "W. Hunter Reynolds) said —Mr. Speaker, last session I was frequently applied to in the House for information regarding the marine department, and you will remember, Sir, that before the Session closed I stated what progress had been made in the works undertaken by the department during the recess, and also the views of the Government as to what further action should be taken during the then current year. Anticipating the wish of the House for further information, I now propose to show what has been done during the past year and what is proposed for the present. Lighthouses. —Shortly after the termination of last session officers of the marine department were dispatched to visit the Brothers in Cooks Straits, with a view to ascertain whether it would be advisable to erect a lighthouse on one of three islets instead of at the entrance to Tory Channel, and afterwards to visit the sites of the proposed lighthouse in the Middle Island. From the reports received, and which I have just laid on the table, it was decided to erect a lighthouse at the Brothers instead of at Tory Channel. The apparatus, which had been ordered to Tory Channel, and which is now in the colony, will consequently not be required for that place, and is unsuitable for the Brothers, but will be available for Hokitika, where it is proposed to erect it. In connection with Tory Channel I may also state, that last month Captain Johnston of this department was sent to select sites for the erection of leading lights to guide vessels into that channel, and as soon as the temporary beacons have been proved to be in their proper position, it is proposed to provide the lights Having obtained all the requisite information as to the sites and class of lights required, an order was sent to England in February last for the necessary apparatus for tights to be erected on the Brothers in Cook's Strait Puysegur Point and Centre Island in Foveaux Strait, at Mokohinau Island, in Hauraki Gulf at Cape Maria Van Dieman at the extreme north of the North Island, and at Portland Island off the Mahia Peninsula. Advices have been received from the Engineer in Great Britain that the contracts for the lanterns and apparatus have been let and no time will be lost in erecting the necessary buildings, so that they may be ready, or nearly so, to receive the light when they arrive in the colony. A road party has for some time at work forming a road from Puysegur point to Otago's Retreat at the entrance to Preservation Inlet, the nearest convenient harbor and a road has also been formed to the site of Cape Foulwind Lighthouse The materials for this lighthouse are partly in the colony, and the remainder on the way from England, and the preparation is being made for erection of the towers and dwellings. The Government propose ordering at an early date lights for the following places —Moeraki, Cape Saunders, Akaroa Heads, and a site yet to be fixed near the Eastern entrance to Hauraki Gulf. Your concurrence will be asked to these proposals when the estimates are under consideration, as also to provide for the erection of leading lights for Tory Channel and for the removal of Mana Island light to Cape Egmont. The latter will have to await the completion of the light on the Brothers, and the acquiring of a suitable site, but the land being native property, requires further action to be taken by my colleague, the Native Minister As even with the present number of lighthouses, considerable inconvenience has been caused at times through the service of the Luna not being available for the use of the marine department, and as both, during and after the erection of the proposed lighthouses, it will be absolutely necessary to have a steamer for the sole use of the marine department, an order, has been sent to England, for a steamer suitable for use as a lighthouse tender, and also for lifting buoys and moorings. In connection with the claims of the shipping community for the erection of additional lighthouses, l may point out that the light dues for the past financial year amounted £10241 19e 6d whilst the cost of maintaining the lights only amounted to £6767 4e 9d, thus showing a profit of £4474 14s 9d. The profit during the previous financial year was £3989 lie 9d. From the 1st of July, 1866, to the 30th June last, the revenue derivable from light dues has exceeded the working expenditure by £18,847 13a 6d. The returns of trade and shipping and the table attached to the marine reports now laid on the table of the House, show the largely increasing trade of the colony, and whilst we are entitled to congratulate ourselves on such an increase, I think that it will be admitted that I am justified on behalf of the shipping interest in asking you to provide liberally for the further erection of lighthouses. The Government do not propose to reduce the dues, but rather to use any surplus, from time to time, towards increasing the number of lighthouses along the coast. 117
In February, 1875, the lighting apparatus was ordered from Chance Bros of Birmingham, England. 122
In 1876 construction commenced on the lighthouse. 10 Due to poor weather it took sixty days for the men and their building supplies to be landed on the rock so work could begin on constructing the tower. 4 And during the construction the winds were so strong it was decided to fill the space in the walls with rocks to strengthen the wooden tower. Later wooden stays and cables were added. 16
The Brothers was first lit on September 24, 1877 91 , the total cost being .£6955. 91 At the same time the light at Mana Island was extinguished. 10
First Principal Keeper was James Nelson 22
There were two lights inside the lantern, one showing a red light over Cook's Rock, and the main light is a revolving light of the second order dioptric. 91
As the island has no soil or drinking water all supplies had to be shipped in. So a crane was used to winch a basket carrying the supplies and keepers from the deck of the supply ships to the rock. 1 From there a winch is used to haul the supplies up a tramway. 91
This was a hazardous process therefore the station was restricted to single men and was staffed in the later years by a roster of relieving keepers. 1 The Lighthouse Service paid for the families accommodations in Wellington. 91
Originally the lighthouse had four keepers, three on the island and the other worked at the Marine Department, Stores, in Wellington. Later it was reduced to three keepers, then two. 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. Scott installed the new burner on the island. 90
It was converted to diesel-generated electricity in 1954. 1
The light was one of the last to be automated in July 1990. 1
The original light beacon has now been replaced with a 50 watt tungsten halogen beacon which is powered from batteries that are charged by solar panels. 1
The Brothers lighthouse has along with others been featured on New Zealand postal stamps issued by the Government Life Insurance Office.
The lighthouse featured on the 1947 issue with a value of 6d.
On July 10, 1967, the stamps were over printed as New Zealand changed to decimal currency.
Stamp Web Sites
The island is now a restricted-access wildlife sanctuary administered by the Department of Conservation and is inaccessible to the public. It is home to the endangered Brothers Island tuatara.
Distant views can be obtained on a clear day from the Cook Strait ferry.
59. Evening Post, Volume LII, Issue 133, 27 October 1896, Page 4
91. Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6. South Island Lighthouses
116. Wellington City Library,
117. Press, Volume XXIV, Issue 3110, 11 August 1875, Page 2
122. West Coast Times , Issue 2959, 20 March 1875, Page 3
155. Evening Post, Volume LXXXI, Issue 120, 23 May 1911, Page 6
199. Edward Wilson (Lynda Webster, March 9, 2012)
247. Dominion, Volume 6, Issue 1755, 21 May 1913, Page 6
Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.
If anyone has any information on this light please contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: January 3. 2010