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Waipapa (1884)



Postcard (date unknown) courtesy John Elsbury



Digitised Image

Waipapa Point lighthouse, ca 1950s

Reference Number: 1/4-018157

Photographer unidentified.


The scene of New Zealand's worst ship wreck, the Waipapa Reef claimed 131 lives when the S S Tararua run aground in the early hours of April 29th 1881. After nine hours of pounding by heavy surf the steamer broke up and sunk leaving only 20 survivors. 65 of those lost were buried at the Tararua Acre near the present day lighthouse. The remaining were buried at Fortrose Cemetery.

To prevent further tragedies a lighthouse was erected and on 1 January 1884 the light was lit by the first keeper J F Ericson.

J F Ericson moved to the lighthouse in 1883 as the first keeper, here is an excerpt from the Ericson family history; ee

On January 1st 1884 the light at Waipapa Point was first established, and an entry in the log 5.5.1884 states “female child born to Principal Keeper.” This was May. When Ruby (6.5.1886) and Frank (24.3.1889) were born they were able to get a nurse from the village in each case.

 This was the first time the Ericsons had lived close to civilisation. The children were able to attend school at Otara, the older boys left school. Arthur settled on a farm in that area, George further afield at  Orepuke. Alf McClure was the first school teacher at Otara. He taught Charlotte and in 1889 they were married. Charles joined NZ Railways, took the first train to Clyde in Central Otago, married about 1894. Work with the Railways took him to various places until he retired in Picton.

 Sunday 17th June 1894. J F Ericson’s last entry in Log of Waipapa Lighthouse “Took Inventory of Government Property.”

 Log entry for Monday 18th June 1894 reads “cleaned glass and brasswork and swept up. Government ship Hinemoa landed stores and oil etc and took Principal Keeper to Dog Island.". ee


After numerous disasters this light was first lit on Jan. 1  91, 1884.  It is a second order dioptric revolving light.  91  It cost .£5969.  91

Originally a 2 keeper light station.

This would be the last wooden lighthouse built.

As the lighthouse was situated near the town of Fortrose, the lighthouse families attended church, bought their supplies and their children were able to attend school in the town.

In 1903, a 25 year veteran of the lighthouse service took his on life at the lighthouse.

1911-12, an incandescent light was installed. Porches added to the lighthouse keepers houses.

On 25 June, 1943 the lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be connected to the the national electricity grid.  Reduced to 1 keeper.

But due to salt spray, lines buries underground 1959.

Road built 1949.

1965 new relieving keepers house built.

The lighthouse was automated in 1976 and the keepers houses and out buildings were demolished

In 1988, a solar powered filament lamp was installed.

In December, 2008, an LED beacon powered by batteries charged by solar panels was installed on the balcony of the lantern room. Also during 2008 a major restoration project was undertaken on the lighthouse. 




A good way to see both Nugget Point and Waipapa Point lighthouses is to follow the "Southern Scenic Route" and "Heritage Trails" from Balclutha to Invercargill through the Catlins area..

From the town of Otara, Waipapa Point lighthouse can be reached by following Waipapa Lighthouse Road for about 5km. The road is sealed/gravel.


Island South
Province Southland
Location Catlins
Number K4384
Date Commissioned January 1, 1884
Date Decommissioned
Automated September 1976 (1975 Maritime NZ)
Latitude 46° 40' South
Longitude 168° 51' East
Elevation Above Sea Level 21m
Height 13m
Character White light flashes five times every 20 seconds. LED Beacon.
Range 9 N. miles (11 km)
Made Lantern made in England
Construction White wooden tower
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity Converted to solar power 1988
Present Tower Original
Authority Owned and operated by Maritime Safety Authority
Date Visited 5 January, 2000


Principal Keeper From To


  1st lit, January 1, 1884  
J F Ericson  13b  192 1 January 1884  13b  192    c Feb 1894  91 June 18, 1894  13b
James Cunningham  13b June 19, 1894  13b December 3, 1898  13b
Patrick Henaghan  22  13b December 1, 1898  13b November, 1903  13b
David Lyall  13b November, 1903  13b April 23, 1907  13b 
George Gwynne  13b April 23, 1907  13b  June 19, 1908  13b   (Resigned)  246
George Greig  13b June, 1908  13b  246 June 19, 1911  13b
James Duthie  13b June 19, 1911  13b  July 20, 1914  13b
James Anderson  13b July 20, 1914  13b April, 1917  13b
John W. Arthur  13b April, 1917  13b August, 1918  13b 
John Livingstone  13b August, 1918  13b  August, 1919  13b 
Henry Harvey  13b August 5, 1919  13b  November 10, 1922  13b
William N. Edmonds  13b November 10, 1922  13b December 27, 1922  13b 
A. Joseph  Hooper  13b March 22, 1923  13b November 30, 1923  13b
George T. Simmons  13b November 30, 1923  13b April, 1927  13b
Hugh B. Jamieson  13b April, 1927  13b January, 1932  13b 
John C. Johnston  13b
William Smith  13b April 2, 1936  13b  November 30, 1938  13b
F. N. (Ted) Watts  13b December 2, 1938  13b July, 1941  13b 
John O. Tait  13b   (Acting)  13b July, 1941  13b  1943  13b
William Smith  13b August, 1943  13b 1949  13b
John D. Auld  13b
Edward C. Stuart  13b
William (Bill) D. Kemp  13b
K. M. Armstrong  13b April, 1958  13b
Ernest W. McArthur  13b February, 1960  13b
Ronald D. Downie  13b 1961  13b  September 29, 1964  13b
Norman L. Wilson  13b September 29, 1964  13b 1969  13b
B. Murray Williscroft  13b 1965  13b
Bryn M. Richards  13b August 1976  13b
John W. Scapens (Act)  13b August 1976  13b October 18, 1976  13b




Assistant Keeper (1st) From To
  1st lit, January 1, 1884  
Charles Tregurtha  13b 1884  13b June 18, 1885  13b
William H. Fisher  13b June 18, 1885  13b  1885  13b
Philip D. G. Payne  13b  22  (Probationary)  22 September 18, 1885  13b  22  1885  13b
James William Nicholson  13b  22 November 17, 1885  13b December, 1887  13b
George H. Allan  13b  22 December, 1887  13b  22 January 13, 1888  13b  22                       Dismissed for sleeping on watch.  22 
Louis Thompson  13b   22   (Probationary)  22 April, 1888  13b  22 July 5, 1888  13b  22
E. William Tutt  June 30, 1888  13b  November, 1896  13b
George Gwynne  13b November, 1896  13b  1896  13b
William Bell December, 1896   13b April 30, 1900  13b
Alexander T. Clark  July, 1900  13b  November, 1900  13b
George Gwynne  13b  2 November, 1900  13b  February 10, 1903  13b
James William Nicholson  13b  22 February 16, 1903  13b  September 9, 1903  13b
Thomas McAlpine  13b  22 September, 1903  13b  June 20, 1906  13b
George James Simpson  13b  22 June 30, 1906  13b  22  April 24, 1907  13b  22
Robert T. Fellowes  13b April 23, 1907  13b  October, 1910  13b
Thomas B. Smith  13b December 21, 1910  13b  January 6, 1913  13b
James P. Smith  13b January 28, 1913  13b  March 28, 1915  13b
James H. C. Conway  13b June, 1915  13b  1918  13b
Ernest A. Frame  13b September, 1918  13b December 10, 1918  13b
James P. Smith  13b   June 24, 1920  13b
Leo G. Cartwell  13b July 2, 1920  13b  July 16, 1923  13b
Alexander W. Bawden  13b   July 16, 1923  13b  December, 1923  13b
George Sinclair  13a  13b c February, 1930  13a
A. Pullen  13b    
Bacon (temp)  13b  June, 1930  13b November, 1930  13b
Harold R. Young  13b    
John A. Peterson  13b August 1, 1934  13b  August 20, 1937  13b
Alexander Bawden  13b August 20, 1937  13b May 15, 1939  13b
James McGarvie (temp)  13b    
John O. Tait  13b   1941  13b
W. B. McElligot  13b    
James H. Flett  13b    
Edward C. Stuart  13b    
Colin A. Ross  13b    




Additional Sources:

13aDOC. Cape Brett, Keepers Stories

13b. DOC, Lighthouse of Foveaux Strait - A History. Angela Bain May, 2010.

91Star , Issue 4872, 10 February 1894, Page 6. South Island Lighthouses

192. John F Ericson (Trevor Meikle, May 25, 2010)

246. Otago Daily Times , Issue 14249, 25 June 1908, Page 8


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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.

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