By KATHRYN WHITE
I always thought that Lighthouses were a Beacon of Hope during perilous times, or so it seemed, until I stood in front of the ruined Lighthouse near Wreck Bay!
Known as the Cape St George Lighthouse (Latitude 35°09' S, Longitude 150° 39' E) and completed in 1860 about 3 kilometres south of the southern entrance to Jervis Bay N.S.W., it originally had cottages, stables, meteorological instruments and a flag room and had cost five thousand pounds to complete.
The lights themselves were nine in number, three red, three green and three white revolved by means of clockwork with a flash every 15 seconds. Up to 15 people including the lighthouse keeper, 2 under-keepers and their families once lived there and it was expertly made of massive sandstone blocks which today for the most part, are nothing more than a heap of rubble!
For nearly 40 years it operated until replaced in 1899 by the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse, situated on a 262 foot high cliff on the northern headland of Jervis Bay.
So what had happened?
On clear, calm nights straight out to sea, the flashing lights were seen 20 miles distant but the problem was they were only barely visible from the southern approach to Jervis Bay when close by and could hardly be seen from the northern approach near Wreck Bay, especially during stormy weather with fog and rain and thus, the lights seemingly lured many ships into the very place they were trying to avoid and at least a dozen shipwrecks occurred as a result.
Even after being replaced and its light extinguished, on moonlight nights the reflection of the full moon on Cape St George Lighthouse confused passing ships so the final indignity came when the nearby Naval base used it for target practice with shell marks still visible today amongst the ruins. Its location today, is within Booderee National Park preserving the wilderness and stunning cliff views to the open sea.
Standing there, it was a stark reminder of how in “good weather” one can cope well, but if “storm-clouds” appear, what then? The words of that well-known Hymn by Priscilla Owens originally inspired by Hebrews 6 v 19 came to mind:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded Firm and Deep in the Saviour’s love
And that one true unfailing source we can always rely on in any weather: Psalm 27 v 1: “The Lord is my Light and Salvation!”