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Barrenjoey, NSW, Australia

Barrenjoey is a locality in the suburb of Palm Beach, at the farthest northern tip of Pittwater. The headland is mostly made up of Hawkesbury sandstone which overlays Narrabeen shale. Around 10,000 years ago the headland was cutoff from the mainland due to the rising sea level; subsequent buildup of a sand spit or tombolo reconnected the island to the mainland. It is the location of Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse, a lighthouse which was first lit in 1881

The Lighthouse

A customs station was established in 1843, as the Headland marked the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater – considered to be the back door to Sydney for smugglers. The first report of any lighted beacon on the headland was in 1855, when a fire was raised in a basket to assist mariners during storms. Broken Bay and the Pittwater were a safe haven in storms to vessels carrying coal from Newcastle to Sydney. Similarly, barges carrying food down the Hawkesbury River were a key food source for Sydney, and would harbour in the bay, awaiting favourable weather before making the 14 km journey to Sydney.The Barrenjoey Head lighthouse was the third light constructed on the headland, and was completed in 1881. Designed by NSW colonial architect James Barnet, its construction cost £13,695, plus £2,210 for the lamp. At an elevation of 113 m, it is visible to a distance of 19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi) out to sea.

Later, in 1868, two wooden lighthouses known as the Stewart Towers, were built at either end of the headland to guide ships in. The need for a permanent light led to the construction of the current lighthouse. The current tower is unpainted, and built of the rich-coloured local sandstone. The original lighting apparatus was a fixed red dioptric of 700 candlepower with 4 oil wick burners. In 1900, an explosion followed by a fire destroyed the ornamental roof on the adjacent oil house. The flames were subdued before reaching the tower.

In 1932, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse was converted to automatic operation with the installation of an acetylene Dalén light of 6,000 candlepower. It was turned off and on by a Sun valve. Although the acetylene gas apparatus was efficient, access to the tower for re-supply presented problems, so in 1972 the lighthouse was converted to electric operation, with a new lamp capable of 75,000 candlepower.

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