Lighthouses are navigational aids used to mark dangerous stretches of coastline, hazardous shoals and reefs, and safe entries to harbours. The first known lighthouse was built at the entrance to Egypt’s Alexandria harbour in 280 BC. Initially fuelled by timber or coal, by the nineteenth century lighthouses had progressed to more reliable sources of fuel such as oil. Technical advancements during this period saw the introduction of rotating and flashing lens mechanisms which helped ship captains identify individual lighthouses and locations.
Lighthouses warned ships of approaching hazards by night when visibility was poor. Operating and maintaining lighthouses was an extremely labour intensive process. Dedicated lighthouse keepers tended the light from dusk till dawn. During the day they kept busy trimming the wicks, replenishing fuel supplies, winding the clockwork mechanisms, as well as performing general maintenance tasks such as painting the structure and cleaning the lenses and windows of the lantern room.
Once in South Australian waters of course, there were no lighthouses to guide ships and many foundered in the early years.