Black Lighthouse

Queenscliff, Victoria | C.1862

Photo Credit: Janay Bicer

Though many lighthouses have been built due to perceived danger, not many can trace their beginning to the threat of pirates. Constructed in 1862, the Queenscliff High Light (or Black Lighthouse) was part of an effort to protect ships from thieves during the Australian Gold Rush.

Replacing a deteriorating sandstone structure, the 59-foot-tall bluestone light was nestled within Fort Queenscliff at the opening of Port Phillip Bay, as fears were stoked about the possibility of a massive robbery or attack on British ships carrying gold. The light acted not only as a beacon for sailors, but also as a watchtower for the Australian military.

Though thieves and armies never came, the lighthouse did suffer an attack—from a swan. In 1890, the lighthouse’s attendant had quite the surprise when a swan flew full-speed into one of the panels of the tower, shattering the glass and giving the attendant a reason to change their trousers.

One of the three black lighthouses in the world, the light in Queenscliff remains the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It stands today fully automated and receives care from the Australian military that still has a presence at the fort.

Along with its twin white-painted Low Light below, the Black Lighthouse continues to keep watch over the bay, perhaps still waiting for that Jolly Roger flag to make an appearance.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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