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The Three Kings (1969)

View of Three Kings Islands from Cape Reinga


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The Three Kings group of islands were named on January 6, 1643 by Dutch explorer Able Tasman who three weeks earlier had become the first European to discover and name New Zealand. Tasman anchored at the islands when searching for water and as it was the twelfth night feast of the Epiphany, the day the three wise men visited baby Jesus, he named the islands the Three Kings. 15

At the time the islands were inhabited by the local Maori people, but since 1840 the islands have been uninhabited. 15

Tasman also named the northern tip of the North Island Cape Maria van Diemen, after the wife of Anthony van Diemen, then Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, now known as Indonesia. 15  These are the only two geographic features in New Zealand to retain the names given to them by Abel Tasman. 15

In 1861 Captain Robert Johnson, Nautical Advisor recommended a lighthouse be constructed on The Three Kings Islands. But at the time it was considered to expensive due to the difficult landing access. 20

In 1923, Big King Island which rises 995 feet was surveyed and funding was secured for a manned light and radio beacon. However the lighthouse was never built and the debate went on through 1924/1925. 20

An unmanned light was finally built on Big King Island in 1969. The aluminum structure was lifted off the deck of the 'HMNZS Lachlan' and landed by helicopter on a site 934 feet above the sea. The light has a range of 24 miles. 20




Island North
Province Northland
Location North of Cape Reinga on Big King Island
Number K3685
Date Commissioned 1969  19
Date Decommissioned
Automated Never manned
Latitude 34 94' South
Longitude 172 8' East
Elevation Above Sea Level 285m  19
Height 5m  19
Character 3 white flashes every 30 seconds  19
Range 13 N. miles  19
Construction White square metal tower  19
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Connected To Mains Electricity
Date Visited



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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: October 8, 2010