(An aerial shot of the Mokohinau Islands lighthouse and surrounding homestead. Maritime NZ)
Mokohinau Islands Lighthouse is a lighthouse on Burgess Island, one of the Mokohinau Islands, which lie off the northeast coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It is owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand. The lighthouse sits at the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf as the landfall light for vessels approaching Auckland from the north and northeast.
The lighthouse was built in 1883 and first lit in June of that year. Its isolated position, approximately 50 km northeast of Cape Rodney makes it one of the most distant lighthouses from the mainland.
During World War II, the lighthouse was turned off as the German destroyer was suspected to be in the area laying mines.The lighthouse was not relit until 1947.
In 1980, the lighthouse was fully automated and the lighthouse keepers were withdrawn. The lighthouse is now monitored remotely from Wellington. The white light flashes every 10 seconds and can be seen for 19 nautical miles (35 km).
The Mokohinau Islands lighthouse is situated on Burgess Island in the middle of the three islands of the Mokohinau group. It is one of the most distant lighthouses from the mainland, located at the northern approach to the Hauraki Gulf.
|Location:||latitude 35°54’ south, longitude 175°07’ east|
|Elevation:||52 metres above sea level|
|Tower height:||14 metres|
|Light configuration:||rotating LED beacon|
|Light flash character:||white light flashing once every 10 seconds|
|Power source:||batteries charged by solar panels|
|Range:||19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)|
|Date light first lit:||1883|
Getting to Mokohinau Islands Lighthouse
Mokohinau Island Lighthouse, on Burgess Island, is accessible to the public.
There is no public access to enter the lighthouse
The Mokohinau Islands are now part of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park and are administered by the Department of Conservation. Burgess Island is the only one of the Mokohinau Islands allowing public access. The other islands are nature reserves and protected wildlife sanctuaries, and landing is only permitted with a permit.
The History of Mokohinau Islands Lighthouse
The site for Mokohinau Islands Lighthouse was chosen because it provides seafarers with a good landfall position when arriving to New Zealand from the Pacific Ocean.
The Mokohinau light was first lit in June 1883.
A German destroyer may have used the light as a reference when laying mines in the area’s shipping lanes. These mines were to sink the steamer Niagara on 19 June 1940. As a result of this, the light on Mokohinau was extinguished and was not relit until 1947.
Operation of Mokohinau Islands light
The light was originally powered by oil but was converted to diesel-generated electricity in 1939.
In 1996 the original light and associated equipment were removed and replaced by a rotating beacon fitted with a 35-watt tungsten halogen bulb. This was installed within the original tower. The new light is powered by battery banks charged by solar panels.
The station was one of the last to be automated with the last keepers being withdrawn in 1980.
The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office.
Life at Mokohinau Islands light station
The isolation of Mokohinau Island from the mainland caused significant hardship for the early keepers and their families. There was no communication with the mainland and mail and stores arrived only three times a year.
This caused constant worry for the keepers because many times the boats were delayed. After 4 months the food supplies would be very limited and keepers would have to live on whatever they could find on the island to survive.
Only a few years after the light was established, the keepers felt this problem had gone far enough and wrote directly to a Cabinet Minister.
In 1908 the keepers were still in the same situation, so Kiwi ingenuity was called upon to help. One of the keepers made a tin boat with tin sails. He cut a hatchway on the deck and placed three letters in it, one to the Marine Department, one to the nearest general store, and the other to a friend. Painted on the deck were instructions to whoever found the boat to send the letters on. When the wind was right, the boat set sail.
The boat made it to the mainland and was picked up on a beach. Within 9 days of the boat leaving Mokohinau, a store ship was sent to the island. The Auckland Museum still has the tin boat on display; known as the ‘smallest mail boat in the world’.
As the twentieth century progressed, the stations were fitted with radios, ending the light station’s isolation. Despite this, Mokohinau was not a favourite with keepers.
- “The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, Part 2”. Inset to The New Zealand Herald. 3 March 2010. p. 15.
- “Mokohinau Islands lighthouse – Maritime NZ”. www.maritimenz.govt.nz. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- Rowlett, Russ. “Lighthouses of New Zealand: North Island”. The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- “Mokohinau Island Lighthouse”. www.newzealandlighthouses.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- Wright, Danielle (13 January 2012). “Leading lights in New Zealand”. New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.