KARRATHA VISITOR CENTRE

Jarman Island Lighthouse

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Jarman Island Lighthouse, located near Cossack, is among the Pilbara region’s most significant historic landmarks. The lighthouse operated from 16 May 1888 until the light was extinguished on 15 May 1985. In 1866, the Jarman Island Lighthouse was ordered in kit form from England. Arriving almost a year later by ship, the lighthouse was assembled using a labour force from the Roebourne Prison and soon after became fully operational with a dedicated Light House Keeper to ensure the four wick kerosene lamp was lit every night. In 1917 it was automated, burning a guiding light for shipping right up until 1985, when it was finally de-commissioned. Since then maintenance of the structure has been minimal, resulting in major deterioration of its metal fabric. With the assistance of Federal and State Government grants, the Shire of Roebourne was able to undertake the conservation of the lighthouse structure at a cost of approximately $250,000.

A Unique Lighthouse Design

One of only two sea lights of its kind in WA, the Jarman Island Lighthouse is a segmented pre-fabricated cast iron tower that was imported in kit form from England. The other cast iron lighthouse, manufactured by Chance Brothers, is located at Point Moore near Geraldton. Cast iron towers were established as a viable way of getting lights to remote areas. The new design technique was innovative and represented a new era in lighthouse construction. As they were pre-fabricated, they could be constructed in remote areas with much more ease than one built of stone.

The complete lighthouse, except for the lens which seems to have been sent separately, was packed and shipped to WA from England in 1888. The tower body of the Jarman Island lighthouse is composed of plated cast iron, a little more than one inch (28 mm) thick, flanged and bolted on the inside giving a smooth face to the exterior. This type of construction was developed so that salt laden aerosols or spray would not get a foothold and cause corrosion at the joints.

Constructing the Lighthouse

Resident North West engineer, W.L. Owen and chief government architect George Temple Poole were responsible for the design and construction of the Jarman Island Lighthouse. Their team of construction workers included prisoners from Malaysia, the Philippines, China, Arabia and members of the Cossack pearling fleet.

The rubble and concrete duplex keeper’s quarters were also erected in 1888 and are typical of other buildings around Roebourne of that era. Pre-cast concrete blocks were used for the corners, doors and windows.

History of the Light

The original light was a flashing second order lantern with a four wick Douglas burner, fuelled by kerosene or paraffin oil. This was replaced in 1910 by a 55mm incandescent lamp featuring a vaporised kerosene mantle. In 1917, the Jarman Island Lighthouse was fitted with an AGA acetylene gas lamp, activated by a sunvalve.

Restoration

Now successfully restored to its former glory, the Jarman Island Lighthouse also features substantial remains of the light keeper’s quarters and other items of historical significance to WA. These remnants tell the story and reflect the lifestyle and challenges confronted by those pioneers who embarked on the development of Cossack. Proposals have been made to replace the roof of the light keeper’s quarters in order to protect the remaining wall structures and secure the building.

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