All yachties who have sailed on the Waitemata are familiar with this beacon.
Situated close to the northern end of a rocky outcrop off Bastion Point it has always been designated as a way mark for keeler races organised by Royal Akarana Yacht Club and other various yacht clubs.. There is an inshore passage which shallow draught vessels can safely use, however in some conditions, this would offer an unfair advantage over other competitors so sailing instructions usually stipulate that the Bean Rock lighthouse must be passed to seaward.
I have often wondered who, why, when and how this iconic structure was created. My recent association with the Club archive team has given me the opportunity to answer my queries which I have documented below.
The lighthouse is named after Captain P.C.D. Bean who was master of the HMS Herald, which surveyed the Waitemata Harbour in 1840.
In 1869 the Auckland Provincial Government commissioned Scottish design engineer James Stewart to design marine lights for both the Waitemata Harbour and Ponui Passage, off Waiheke to enable safe passage during the Thames gold rush. William Cameron, an Auckland builder, commenced construction in 1870 and by July 1871 the lighthouse became operational. The original structure featured a wooden three roomed keeper’s cottage atop wooden kauri poles supported on iron foundations. The light was a fixed kerosene lamp with white, red and green lens and was tended by a resident keeper. Hugh Brown, the first keeper, serviced the light until his retirement in 1890 when James Anderson replaced him until 1911. The Marine Department undertook operation of the light from 1876 and in 1912 they installed an automatic acetylene light at which time Bean Rock lighthouse became the first watched light to lose its resident keeper. At this time the fixed light was changed to a flashing signal that was more easily distinguished against the Auckland city lights.
Throughout the ensuing years this only surviving wave washed wooden cottage lighthouse in New Zealand has undergone regular maintenance and upgrades. In 1924 a more powerful light was installed. An undersea electric cable from Orakei wharf was laid in 1936. Major repairs were undertaken in 1985 when the cottage structure was removed by crane and taken ashore for extensive repairs. On this occasion the kauri piles were replaced by hardwood jarrah poles which have now been sunk into new concrete foundations. Solar panels were installed during the 1990’s in addition to an automatic foghorn. I’m sure that the early resident keepers would have welcomed the upgrades that now replace morse code communication and transportation by rowboat between lighthouse and shore. Imagine that in a strong Nor Easterly!!!!!
From Barbara White, Archives Team. Please contact Marian Harkness on (09) 524-4968 or firstname.lastname@example.org for any contribution you may wish to give to the Archives or if you are able to help with the Research.