The Early Days of Althorpe Island Light-Station
Althorpe Islands Conservation Park are a group of islands located 4.5 nautical miles from the lower Yorke Peninsula and was first sighted by Captain Matthew Flinders on March 20th, 1802.
Flinders' being just 27 years old and with a crew of 84, he commanded the ‘HMS Investigator'. He had sailed for six months before arriving at present day Ceduna, eventually reaching the then colonial settlement of Sydney five months later. Considered by many as the nautical grandson of Captain Cook, Matthew Flinders became one of Australia's most distinguished explorers. Out of the 240 places that he named along the southern coast of Australia, he bestowed none upon himself, but instead upon those who had provided the necessary support during his short lived but successful career.
In the two log books the Captain kept, he recorded his sightings 211 years ago and on Martch 20th, 1802, used a symbol and the words, ‘omicron, the island'. By the time he published his charts in 1814, he added two other smaller islands, naming the whole group ‘Althorpe Isles'; the name being in honour of the Spencer family and in particular Earl Spencer's son, Viscount Althorp. The additional ‘e' is presumed to represent a parish in Lincolnshire.
In 1874 a representative of the Marine Board of South Australia, Commander Goodbrough, recommended a lighthouse be positioned on Althorpe Island rather than Cape Spencer, due to a ‘score of necessity and the excellent position it would afford'. Another two years would pass before the South Australian government accepted the costs and designs for the construction of a jetty, three cottages, a tower and the mechanism and structure needed to haul supplies from the jetty to a height of 91 meters above sea level.
After considerable delays, 13 men including foreman John Anley, began work in December 1877, with their supply vessel, the ‘Young St.George', anchored in the large bay of the island. However, not long after their arrival, a southeast gale force wind was responsible for the 11.6 meter vessel parting its moorings and ending up on the shore a complete wreck. With great difficulty, the crew reached the shore and salvaged what they could the following day. (This was the first of 7 shipwrecks on the island).
Despite the persistent choppy conditions resulting from long spells of south easterly summer winds, the men constructed a jetty which today extends 72m in length, 3m in width and is supported by 30 cm x 30 cm piles that are sunk into the sea bed to a depth of nearly 2 meters.
During the time when work was so vigorously undertaken in constructing the jetty, the challenge of digging into the highly calcified sandstone cliffs also began. It was during this time when, after living in tents along the narrow beach, the second misfortune occurred. Debris fell some 50 meters from the cliff face and killed the foreman John Anley, aged 39.