Home Lighthouse Tenders The People The Lighthouse Service Lighthouse List Reference Page


Karori Rock (1915)

Photo courtesy Troy Arkley.

Photo taken in November 2008 from Tongue Point.


Google has a satellite view. 


Situated on rocks at the west side of the Wellington Harbour heads in Cook Strait. This automatic light marks Cape Terawhiti. 

After the loss of the Steamer Penguin in Feb, 1909 a light was planned for Karori Rock. 19  There was some debate between mariners and the Government Nautical Advisor of the position of the light, some said it should be placed on Cape Terawhiti, others said Tongue Point. After a inspection on board the Hinemoa on the 10th December 1912 by the Minister of Marine (Hon. F. M. B. Fisher), the Under Secretary for Marine (Mr. G Allport), the Nautical Advisor to the Government (Captain Blackburne), the Engineer in Chief, (R.W. Holmes), General Manager of the Union Steam ship Company (W. F. Kennedy), secretary of the Merchant Service Guild (Captain D. Watson), Captain Manning of the s.s. M, and Captain Bollons, Captain of the Hinemoa it was decided to build the light on Karori Rock.  93

Karori Rock is about 400 sq feet  225, 108 feet long by 30-40 feet wide and  about 25 feet above sea level  93   and during southerly winds is continuously covered in spray.  225

In January of 1913, an order was made for the lighting apparatus and the Marine Department expects to have the tower erected in 3 months.  94

Under Secretary for Marine Mr. G Allport reports that the light ordered is a "Aga" acetone-acetylene automatic light manufactured by a Norwegian company. The light will have a range of 15 to 16 miles and was to have a similar character to the light at Dieffenbach Point at the entrance to Tory Chanel. The tower will manufactured of concrete with the work overseer being the Marine Department lighthouse superintendent Mr. W. A. Frazer.  At the time Mr. Fraser was erecting an automatic light on the Hen & Chicken Islands and was to begin construction at Karori once complete.  95

Plans for the light are drawn up by the Public Works Department and it is reported the tower will be 40 ft high.  96   Also on order is a cast iron lantern room with glass windows to be placed on top of the tower.  97   The tower will be wide enough for a gallery at the top so the lantern room windows are accessible.  97    Below the lantern room a provision has been made for a cast iron clad room to house the acetone-acetylene bottles. A crane will also be installed with a hand winch to hoist the bottles up from a boat. Concrete for the tower will be mixed on a beach near Tongue Point and then loaded onto a boat, then delivered to the rock.  96  The Marine Department lighthouse superintendent Mr. W. A. Frazer, has been supervising repair work at Mokohinau Island Lighthouse.  97

During construction of the tower, the light apparatus is displayed at the Auckland Exhibition.  221

Parliament estimate the cost to build the lighthouse will be 2500.  222

In March of 1914 it is reported that drilling into the rock to insert reinforcing rods had almost been completed. The task had been hampered by bad weather, where work could only be performed if there was not a southerly swell or during a heavy north-west swell. This reduced work to about two days per week. To drill some of the holes, scaffolding had to be erecting but at end of each work day the scaffolding had to be removed should there be a change in the weather. A derrick had been erected on the rock to lift concrete from boats. It was hoped that the pouring of concrete would begin early April.  223

By June 1914, the concrete foundation had been poured to above the water line, but on two or three occasions, waves had washed away the concrete before it had time to set.  224

A concrete mixer and a small jetty were erected on the mainland and a small launch was used to transport the mixed concrete out to the site. The concrete was poured into drums, and about 3/4 cubic yard contained in ten drums could be transported at one time. A small crane was used to winch the drums off the launch and pour the concrete on site. About 8 cubic yards could be poured on a good day.  225   There was only room on the rock for 6 men to work.  19  The work was supervised by the Marine Department lighthouse superintendent Mr. W. A. Frazer,   225  and the job foreman was Mr. Johnson.  225

To build the foundation, holes had to be drilled in the rock for the reinforcing rods and bolts to hold the wooden framework for the concrete. Even using 1 inch bolts, this whole framework was washed away once by heavy seas. The completed concrete foundation is 25 feet above sea level and contains 1000 cubic yards on concrete.  225

By January 1915, it is reported the tower was 17 feet tall.  225  

The lighthouse tender Hinemoa was used to land equipment and stores for the work crew who camped at Tongue Point. Fresh meat and bread were packed in on horseback from Makara.  225

The light was first lit on October 20, 1915.  226     It was reported to be 65 feet high at that time.  226

The tower is cylindrical shape 20 feet by 10 feet at the bottom, while at the top it is 15 feet by 10 feet, 39 feet in height. The tower is deliberately built with three sides vertical and one side on an angle on the north-west side, with steps formed in the concrete and a metal ladder attached. On the top of the tower the lantern room  was erected, along with a small crane and this was enclosed by a parapet. The lantern room measured 10 feet to the focal plane, 15 feet overall.  225

The light apparatus using acetone-acetylene to fuel the light and was operated by a sun dial.  225  Displaying 2790 candlepower, the light had a character of 1/2 second every 3 1/2 seconds.  225

In October 1916, repairs had to be made to the lantern room glass when it was discovered all 16 on the panes had cracked. It was thought that no allowance was made for the expansion of the glass in the iron frame from the suns heat was caused the cracking.  227

July 1919, it is reported that the light is out.  228  It is reported again in June of 1920.  229

The lighthouse was serviced by lighthouse tenders with the gas cylinders being changed regularly, however due to bad swells it was difficult to service.


In May 1996 the light was replaced with a new Vega 250 flashing beacon on the mainland  at Tongue Point. The original Karori Rock lens still remains in the tower. 23



Viewable from Cook Strait ferry.

It is possible to walk round to Tongue Point. From a car park at the end of Owhiro Bay Parade, continue around the coastline from the end of Pariwhero at Sinclair Head. Details on walking track


Island North
Province Wellington
Location Wellington Harbour Heads
Number K4062
Date Commissioned October 20, 1915  19
Date Decommissioned 1996
Automated 1915  19
Latitude 41  21'  19
Longitude 174  39  19
Elevation Above Sea Level 20 m (65 ft)  19  226
Height 17m  19
Character .5 second white and red flash every 4 seconds  19
Range 9 miles (white) 7 miles (red)  19
Made On site  19
Construction Concrete tower  19
Converted Kerosene To Diesel
Converted Diesel To Mains Electricity
Present Tower Not used
Authority Owned & operated by Maritime New Zealand
Date Visited


Additional Sources:

93. Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 141, 11 December 1912, Page 3

94. Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14554, 3 January 1913, Page 10

95. Dominion, Volume 6, Issue 1704, 22 March 1913, Page 6

96. Auckland Star, Volume XLIV, Issue 81, 5 April 1913, Page 10

97. Otago Daily Times , Issue 15759, 9 May 1913, Page 6

98. Otago Daily Times , Issue 15779, 2 June 1913, Page 2

221. Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14792, 9 October 1913, Page 8

222. Evening Post, Volume LXXXVI, Issue 128, 26 November 1913, Page 10

223. Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 2006, 13 March 1914, Page 8

224. Dominion, Volume 7, Issue 2173, 11 June 1914, Page 6

225. Evening Post, Volume LXXXIX, Issue 43, 20 February 1915, Page 3

226. Evening Post, Volume XC, Issue 96, 21 October 1915, Page 8

227. Dominion, Volume 10, Issue 2902, 14 October 1916, Page 3

228. Evening Post, Volume XCVIII, Issue 5, 5 July 1919, Page 5

229. Evening Post, Volume XCIX, Issue 152, 28 June 1920, Page 8

23. Paul W. Shirley


Back Home Next

Text and photographs. Copyright 1999-2013 Mark Phillips. All rights reserved.

If anyone has any information on this light please contact me.

Last Updated: December 15, 2013.