South Australian lighthouse records – Fact sheet 259

The protection of shipping was vital to the developing colony of South Australia. The Cape Willoughby Lighthouse – or Sturt Light as it was originally named – was therefore established on Kangaroo Island in 1852 to guide vessels through the treacherous waters of Backstairs Passage. Other lighthouses were established on Troubridge Island off the coast of Yorke Peninsula in 1855, at Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island in 1858 and at Cape Northumberland, also known as McDonnell Light, in 1859.

For vessels sailing through the Roaring Forties of the Southern Ocean, the Cape Northumberland light was the first light visible on the Australian coast. Construction of lighthouses continued for the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century resulting in more than 20 lighthouses along the South Australian coastline.

With Federation in 1901, the administration of lighthouses became a Commonwealth responsibility. However, the transfer of control did not occur until 1915 when the Lighthouses Act 1911 came into effect.

Record holdings

Records relating to the operation of South Australian lighthouses are held in the Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney offices of the National Archives. The earliest South Australian records date from 1852 and include drawings, logbooks, weather reports and various records relating to individual lighthouses as well as central administration records. Details of the major record holdings are listed below.

General administrative and staffing records

Records of South Australian lighthouses

A selection of records relating to South Australian lighthouses is listed in the table below.

Cape Borda (Flinders Light)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesLog books1858–1990D21
SeriesLighthouse log book and monthly return of weather1966–71D2159
SeriesMonthly fuel and oil statements1972D2017

Collection references

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesLighthouse log books1867–1966D25
SeriesMonthly return of weather1952–66D2230
SeriesNavigational aid station log books1971–D2016
SeriesHalf-yearly returns of children on lightstation1976–79D2924

Cape Willoughby (Sturt Light)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesLighthouse log books1852–1966D26
SeriesRecord of passing vessels1931–40D39
SeriesRequisitions book1933–41D40
SeriesVisitors book1970–D2037

Lowly Point

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesLlog books1883–1973D18
SeriesRecord of necessary work1934–44D43
SeriesHead lightkeepers general order books1940–44D45
SeriesRegister of rainfall observation1946–72D2903

For more information

Find out more about lighthouses in the National Archives collection.

Records about South Australian lighthouses in the period before Federation can be found at State Records of South Australia

Information on other Australian lighthouses:

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019