Isolation, cyclones and a quiet existence for raising children — this was the mixture of hardship and joy that awaited lightkeepers and their families when they manned the Dent Island Lightstation.
With its conical lighthouse and associated dwellings, the 134-year-old lightstation in the Whitsundays Region provides an insight into Queensland’s rich maritime history and heritage of the Great Barrier Reef.
To monitor, protect and conserve the lightstation’s historic values into the future, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have released a draft heritage management plan.
GBRMPA’s General Manager of Marine Park Management, Andrew Skeat, said the plan was open for public comment.
"This lightstation is steeped in history, shining a navigational light from Dent Island since 1879. Its design and construction was innovative for its time and is now a great representation of the type of changes made over the years to aid the safe passage of vessels through the Reef," Mr Skeat said.
"It all began with the principal lightkeeper and his assistant taking turns to keep watch through the night in the tower, where their main duty was to tend a kerosene wick burner and rotate the lenses.
"Places like Dent Island — and the stories they provide — are important links to our past, and protecting the Great Barrier Reef’s historic elements is a vital part of GBRMPA’s role."
Mr Skeat said the site offered poignant reminders of how isolated life on the island could be.
"The tough conditions faced by these families are probably best reflected by the small gravesites on the island," Mr Skeat said.
In the mid-1800s, Queensland relied heavily on coastal shipping and the difficulties of navigating the Great Barrier Reef proved particularly challenging.
The Dent Island lighthouse is one of a series of 12 distinctive timber-framed and iron-plated lighthouse towers, built during the early stages of the state’s fledgling colony.
The lighthouse structure is part of AMSA’s network of aids to navigation and has been fitted with modern solar-powered lighting equipment.
The tools set out in the heritage management plan will ensure the lightstation’s heritage values are recognised and maintained into the future.
The period for public comment closes on Wednesday 3 April 2013.