Capturing a lighthouse in 3D

The Cape Bowling Green lighthouse, at the museum in 2017. Image: ANMM.

The Cape Bowling Green lighthouse, at the museum in 2017. Image: ANMM.

Conservators rarely have the opportunity to access made-for-conservation equipment, software, tools or chemicals. We borrow and adapt things intended for other environments. Conservation labs are often populated with dental tools and equipment, surgical scalpels, entomological stainless steel pins, book binder’s presses and felts, as well as a tradesman’s array of socket sets, drills, punches and pliers. We put Tyvek® Homewrap® covers over collection objects as it is breathable and keeps off dust. We transport small objects in prawn crates and often display costume on off the shelf mannequins.

When it came time to document the Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse prior to major conservation work, our conservation team turned to technologies which are often used by insurance companies and real estate agents to photograph buildings and record damage.

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How to build a lighthouse

The timber structure of the lighthouse going up. The photograph was taken from aboard the visiting vessel <em>Cape Grafton</em>, 24 March 1994. Image: Deborah Gillespie.

The timber structure of the lighthouse going up. The photograph was taken from aboard the visiting vessel Cape Grafton, 24 March 1994. Image: Deborah Gillespie.

In 1993, the Australian National Maritime Museum was ready the rebuild the Cape Bowling Green Light.  After some discussion, a site near the wharf was selected.  Reconstruction of the lighthouse started in late 1993.  This visual story shows how the lighthouse was rebuilt piece by piece at Darling Harbour.

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How to move a lighthouse

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse prior to dismantling 1987. Credit: Mike Lorimer (Ove Arup and Partners).

Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse prior to dismantling, 1987. Credit: Mike Lorimer (Ove Arup and Partners).

How do you move a building from a remote cape in far north Queensland? In 1987 the 113-year old Cape Bowling Green Light was superseded by radar beacon, decommissioned and sold to the Australian National Maritime Museum. Somehow, the museum had to transport a 22-metre structure from Cape Bowling Green to Darling Harbour, Sydney. So, how does a lighthouse travel over 2000km?

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A wandering light: Cape Bowling Green lighthouse

Ever wondered how a lighthouse came to be at the museum? Image: Kate Pentecost / ANMM, 2017.

Ever wondered how a lighthouse came to be at the museum? Image: Kate Pentecost / ANMM, 2017.

At 22 metres tall Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse seems a solid, immovable structure. In fact, it was designed for ready disassembly and has been moved at least three times in its 150-year life.  It has also been continuously modified throughout its history.  The lighthouse at the museum is only partially the lighthouse that was built at Cape Bowling Green in 1873-4. The lighthouse and its changing history challenges ideas about the preservation of immovable cultural heritage. Continue reading

Shine a light

Carpentaria

View of carpentaria from the water

Blue skies, crisp air and brilliant sunshine. The perfect May day.

A little red lightship bobs in the waves.

The Cape Bowling Green lighthouse reflects blinding white on North wharf.

Over on South Head another beacon stands, decked out in circus- worthy stripes.

This week I have had more than my share of time out on the harbour enjoying some amazing historic lighthouses.

First it was out one of the small fleet boats Arvor, cruising around the shores of the Museum to take some footage of the Commonwealth Lighthship 4, Carpentaria, with Elias and Eleanor from Curiousworks. 

Elias filming from the boat

Elias filming from the water on our way out to where Carpentaria is stationed

On board Carpentaria

On board Carpentaria

Usually Carpentaria is one of the vessels in our collection that can only be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of a wharf-side walkway but today we get a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with this flame-coloured beauty. It’s a little precarious climbing the narrow ladder up the side and over the top rails ( not to worry, we have our self-inflatable life-jackets on!) . Up top is spectacular though, and for the purpose of the film’s soundscape we get to unloose the bells. The deep ring echoes on and on and on, it’s almost like a clocktower’s midnight chime, smothering the chatter of seagulls and the beating whistle of the breeze. You can almost imagine the sounds of that fateful moment in 1944 when Carpentaria broke free of her moorings on Breakfree Spit during a cyclone. This warning bell was designed to toll with the motion of the ship, ringing out in case of poor visibility during foggy weather or a malfunction of the light.

The footage taken of Carpentaria will be used for one of a series of short films being made about our collection for the release of the anniversary publication One Hundred Stories, coming out later this year. It’s also the last we will see of this little lightship for a few weeks as Carpentaria is off to Garden Island for repairs.

View from Rosman Ferry Radar as we cruise around Sydney

View from Rosman Ferry Radar as we cruise around Sydney

The next day I’m back out on the harbour for our Shipwrecks cruise forum, held in partnership with WEA Sydney.

After an introduction to the science of the corrosion and conservation of shipwrecks led by some of the museums wonderful teacher guides we set out for Watsons Bay on board the Radar.

Party lights on Radar

No shortage of beautiful weather and fresh breeze to enjoy and we have expert commentary courtesy of curator Nigel Erskine who has joined us for the day. Over at Watsons Bay our destination is the Hornby Lighthouse.

the view from the walking track up to Hornby lighthouse

the view from the walking track up to Hornby lighthouse

We take a walking track past the soft sands of camp cove beach, said to be one of the first landing places for the fleet in 1788, past disused cannon and gun turrets and alongside the spectacular views of sparkling waters and sailboats. The walk is quick and easy. Before we know it we are turning the corner to encounter the sandstone lightkeepers cottage and then the petite but spectacular red and white striped lighthouse. There is something endearing and cheerful about Hornby lighthouse that belies the horrific tragedies that brought this beacon into being.

Hornby Lighthouse

Hornby Lighthouse

Hornby Lighthouse

Hornby Lighthouse

In 1857 the Dunbar crashed with the loss of 121 out of the c.122 lives on board. The Hornby Lighthouse was built in 1858 to make sure this never happened again. It was also just the third lighthouse built in NSW.