Nugget Point Lighthouse

Latitude: 46°27′ South
Longitude: 169°49′ East

The light was lit for the first time on 4 July 1870, and the keepers were withdrawn when the light was automated in 1989. The light shines from a 9.4 metre-high stone tower through the original lens, and is 76 metres above sea level. It flashes twice every 12 seconds, and is visible for 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres).

Nugget Point lighthouse stands near the south-east corner of the South Island near the mouth of the Clutha River. Many small islets and reefs lie close to the point, and although Nugget Point had in earlier years been considered a dangerous locality for ships, most shipping casualties were small vessels trading along the Clutha River. The light began operating in July 1870 from a 9 metre-high stone tower. Oil illumination was initially used, but in 1949 the light was converted to dieselgenerated electric power, then later it was connected to mains electricity.

The first few years in the light station’s history were peppered with friction between keepers. In 1880 there were three keepers stationed at the lighthouse. A dispute arose between the two assistant keepers, the youngest complaining about the difference in salaries:

„This sir, has a very degrading effect, as it makes two distinct classes of men and to make it worse the second class cannot possibly qualify themselves for the first….. I would respectfully ask, are those men better educated, better workers, or better watches than the young assistant? l am convinced they are not. … I can’t send my children to boarding school, therefore my children must grow up in ignorance.“

Access to the station was by a track marked with a sign saying ‚road not recommended‘. After a difficult journey to get to the station, the keepers were not always happy with what they found. During the 1960s, one keeper wrote: „Nugget Point, in fact, was a mess and in particular our house was a shambles.“ The furniture had not been replaced since 1868, when it had been first supplied to the station. The roof was dilapidated and stained the water pink (drinking water was caught from the roof in tanks), the septic tank was broken and the house leaked.

‚The Nuggets‘ was renowned for its cold weather, and although the station was connected to the mains power supply, electricity was not supposed to be used for heating. One keeper was turned down twice when he requested electric heaters for his house, despite neighbouring station, Cape Saunders, receiving seven heaters. After a series of letters and much debate, the issue was finally resolved -at the end of winter!

The Nugget Point light station was only 11 kilometres from the town at Kaka Point. Keepers and their families could take part in the local community and the lighthouse children could attend the local school.

In 1989 the light was automated and the last keeper withdrawn. The light is now electronically monitored from Wellington.