NEW ZEALAND LIGHTHOUSES
Cuvier Island (1889)
Photo courtesy of Maritime NZ Photo courtesy of Murray Owen.
Photo by Eric Tarlton, used by permission of Once Again Images.
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Cuvier Island was named after the French naturalist, Baron Cuvier (1769-1832) by D'Urville the French navigator. The island was known to the Maori as Repanga. 3
The island is situated northeast of the Coromandel Peninsula and is a mark for ships entering the Hauraki Gulf from the east and south. Originally Red Mercury Island was also considered for the lighthouse site but Cuvier Island was selected. 3
Some early ship wreaks in the area were, the Fiery Star a full rigged clipper ship which caught fire and sunk in 1865. Carrying 87 people on board, only 18 survived. Another, the schooner Elizabeth Curle ran aground on the island in 1882, but there was no loss of lives. 4
Designed by David Scott, work commenced on the light station in 1888. A cast iron tower, the first to be manufactured in New Zealand was supplied by an Auckland company. The light was supplied by James Milne, of Glasgow and the prisms manufactured by Barbier and Fenestre, of France. The equipment was shipped to New Zealand aboard the New Zealand Shipping Company's steamer Aorangi in 1887. It was then transferred to the Government steamer Stella for shipment to the island. Due to the rough terrain and no suitable landing site, a tramway was built up a cliff face to haul the equipment off the boat deck and into place. 3
The light was first lit September 22nd, 1889.
The station's houses were sited in a small sheltered valley at sea level, near the stores landing place. The keepers had to climb a steep and dangerous zig-zag track up to the light. 1
One of the most isolated lighthouses it was a three keeper station up till the 1970's. 1 To aid communication trained carrier pigeons were used to carry messages to Auckland between 1899 and 1911, however they were not very reliable. Radio telephones were installed in 1940. 1
The mails and stores were bought to the island every 3 months on the lighthouse tenders. 1
The station was converted to a diesel powered electrical system in 1939. 4
After being automated in 1982, the light was converted to solar power in 1996 due to the high cost of refueling the diesel generators. The original 1000 watt light and associated equipment were removed and a 100 watt rotating beacon was installed. 1
Culver Island is now a save haven for the rare native New Zealand bird the Saddleback (Tieke), which has been extinct on the mainland since the turn of the 20th century. However, Culver Island was not always this way. When the lighthouse was built the keepers bought with them domestic cats that all but wiped out the Saddleback. Only surviving on nearby Hen Island the birds were almost extinct. 13
In 1968 the Culver Island was cleared of predators and the Saddlebacks were reintroduced. Now the birds have flourished and the island serves as a breeding ground to stock other islands in the Hauraki Gulf including Tiritiri Matangi. 13
There is no public access to the light.
a. Lynda Webster
Text and photographs. Copyright © 1999-2011 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.
If anyone has any information on this light please contact me. email@example.com
Last Updated: December 17, 2011