The history of Puysegur Point Lighthouse
Construction of the wooden lighthouse was difficult because no suitable landing area could be found near the site. All materials and equipment had to be landed some 3 kilometres away and a track cut through heavy bush to transport everything to the site. This same access was used until 1977, after which a helicopter was used to bring in supplies.
The Puysegur Point Lighthouse was completed in February 1879. The light was first lit in March that same year.
In 1942 the tower at Puysegur Point burnt to the ground. According to the official report, the fire was lit “by a demented person, a hermit of the area”. The tower was completely destroyed. A fire was also lit in one of the keeper's houses, however, it was put out before much damage was done.
In January 1943, the lantern room from Godley Head was installed to replace the wooden one. A new light powered by diesel-generated electricity replaced the original oil-powered light.
Operation of the Puysegur Point light
In 1980 the keepers were withdrawn and the lighthouse was replaced with two automatic lights; on Cape Providence and Windsor Point. In 1987 the Windsor Point light was shut down and the Puysegur Point light was re-established.
The station was one of the last to be automated. The last keepers were withdrawn in 1990.
In 1996 the original light was removed and replaced with a modern rotating light within the original tower.
The new light is fitted with a 35 watt tungsten halogen bulb and is powered from battery banks charged from solar panels.
The light is monitored remotely from Maritime New Zealand’s Wellington office.
Life at Puysegur Point light station
After only a year of operation, the principal keeper noted the job was harder at Puysegur Point than at most stations.
“We often have to work in very bad weather, besides being tormented with thousands of sand flies while working. Therefore I hope, Sir, you will grant us a rise in salary for each of us is doing our best to deserve it!”
Instead of a pay rise, all government salaries were decreased shortly afterwards.
Hard work and poor health were often symptoms of living at Puysegur Point. In 1933 the assistant keeper requested a transfer because of his and his wife’s deteriorating health.
“Both my wife’s complaint and the pains in my shoulder blades I think are forms of rheumatism and as neither of us have had anything like it before, we attribute it to the very damp climate here, together with the absence of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and meat. And I think that the climate at Puysegur Point is seriously endangering our health.”
A couple of months later he had more health problems to report.
“About a month ago I was informed by a man here that I was suffering from a rupture and should receive medical attention. He said he had been ruptured himself and knew a rupture when he saw one!”