Booby Island Lightstation
||Go to the Queensland Heritage Register for more information.
|TORRES SHIRE COUNCIL
|Constructed in 1890, the 23rd lighthouse built by the Queensland government, and still in use as part of the coastal navigation system, Booby Island Lightstation occupies an integral part in understanding the establishment of maritime navigational aids along the Queensland coast. The establishment of the Booby Island Lightstation reflects the growth and development of Queensland after its separation from New South Wales.
Booby Island Lightstation is associated with Commander George Poynter Heath, the first Portmaster of Queensland (1862-1890), a significant figure in the development of the Queensland lighthouse service. During Heath's time twelve major lighthouses were built along the Queensland coast. Intact lightkeepers' houses from the nineteenth are a rare occurrence and add to the significance of Booby Island Lightstation. The lighthouse is substantially intact, and survives as a good example of a type of lighthouse construction, a round timber-framed tower clad with galvanised iron sheets, unique to Queensland and incorporating Queensland resources. The use of a timber framed building clad in iron was continued throughout the Colonial Period, following the construction of the timber-framed lighthouse on Lady Elliott Island in 1873. Located on Booby Island in the Torres Strait, and visible from sea and air approaches Booby Island Lightstation is significant as a well-known landmark. Although a comparatively small structure, the lighthouse has aesthetic value, with the white tower, capped by a bright red dome, the lighthouse makes a dramatic visual statement in the natural landscape and is significant for its evocative attributes. The place has a strong association with the life of the lightkeepers, their families and maintenance and stores people, who contributed to the continuum of a system dedicated to the single aim of maintaining the navigational aid. The accumulated equipment and buildings are representative of more than 100 years of occupation, including, three surviving timber-framed, nineteenth century lightkeepers' houses. Intact lightkeepers' houses from the nineteenth are a rare occurrence and add to the significance of Booby Island Lightstation. Booby Island is also associated with Captain James Cook and William Bligh. Booby Island was so named, due to the presence of the bird population, by Cook in 1770 and again by Bligh in 1789 during his boat journey following the mutiny on the Bounty.
Up until 10 December 1859, the colony of New South Wales extended as far north as Cape York Peninsula. In 1859, the new colony of Queensland acquired over 5000 kilometres of coastline which had few safety features in place, and became responsible for all navigation lights and harbours along this coastline. At the time the only lighthouse which existed had been built at Cape Moreton  by the New South Wales Government in 1857.
By 1862, the Queensland government had appointed a Portmaster, Commander George Poynter Heath and had passed the Marine Board Act 1862. In the two years following, due to a lack of funds to spend on marine safety, activity concentrated on dealing with pilots and harbour lights, The issue of coastal lights was not taken up until 25 May 1864, when Members of the Legislative Assembly moved that a Select Committee be appointed to enquiry into and report upon the state of the harbours and rivers in the colony. The Committee consisted of Messrs Macalister, Douglas, Sandeman, Cribb, Challinor and Bell and convened for the first time on 27 May 1864. The Committee widened the terms of reference to include..the question of the necessity of additional lighthouses on the coast of Australia, within the colony of Queensland.
A Select Committee was also appointed by the Legislative Council with the more specific field of reference to enquire into and report upon the requirements of this Colony, under its increasing trade and commerce, as to the provision of additional lighthouses for its coasts and harbors.
The reports of both Select Committees were in agreement regarding the necessity of a light at Sandy Cape. Other points where it was considered that lighthouses were required were at Cape Capricorn on Curtis Island, Point Danger or Cape Byron and Bustard Head . Double Island Point  and Lady Elliot Island were also mentioned by the Committee as possible suitable sites.
It was readily agreed that there was a need for a shipping service in the Torres Strait. The colony's first parliament had passed a resolution in 1860 favouring direct connection with England via the Straits, however, a ship was not chartered to perform the service until 1865. Financial recession a year later ended regular navigation through the Straits and it was not recommenced until 1873. After 1880, the British India Company's Northern trade rapidly expanded and as a cargo service the Company's success was unqualified. It was described as ushering in a new era of progress for the colony.
Heath recommended that a lightstation be constructed on Booby Island at the Inter-Colonial Conference in 1873. Despite the recommendation, the light on Booby Island was the last of the major lights to be constructed along the Queensland coast. It was not until August 1885 that Heath, again referred to Booby Island. Heath considered that due to increased trade through the strait and the establishment of new traffic channel westward of the Prince of Wales Islands, a light was now urgently needed.
Following a series of delays, formal approval for a lighthouse on Booby Island was granted in 1889, when, in April of that year, tenders were called. The contractors for the construction of the tower were J & J Rooney of Maryborough, whose tender of £3329 was accepted. J & J Rooney was a partnership of the brothers John and Jacob Rooney as builders and contractors in Maryborough. The Company had established itself in the timber trade of Maryborough in the 1860s and by 1868 had successfully tendered for the Sandy Cape lighthouse on Fraser Island. Sandy Cape was the first of several lighthouses which the Rooneys constructed for the Colonial Architect's office. Other towers were constructed at Cape Bowling Green, Cowan Cowan, Cape Capricorn and Lady Elliot Island.
A report to the Marine Department's Treasure dated 30th June, 1895, states the initial cost of constructing the Booby Island Lighthouse was £6500, with annual maintenance costs being £528. The light was first exhibited on 24 June 1890.
The residences built in 1890 for the lightkeepers and their families underwent renovations in the 1920s and the 1960s, and remain on site. The light was upgraded in 1917 and converted to electric operation in 1963. A radiobeacon was established on the island in 1961 and a tide gauge installed in 1970. Conversion to solar power was undertaken in November 1991 and the light was automated in 1992. As a result the Chance Brothers lens and cast iron pedestal were removed to the Thursday Island Museum.
Booby Island Lightstation is located on Booby Island. The island is part of the Prince of Wales Group off the tip of Cape York, 34 kilometres west of Thursday Island. The lightstation complex comprises the whole island (6.07 hectares).
The red-domed, white conical tower is timber-framed and clad in galvanised iron sheeting and stands 16 metres high. The domed roof is sheet copper fixed to cast iron open web joists. The roof is topped by a rounded knob and weather vane.
The three keeper's quarters are timber framed buildings clad with weatherboards and asbestos cement sheets. Other buildings in the precinct include a glasshouse, associated with keepers quarters 3. The timber framed building has external walls constructed of concrete block and the roof of corrugated asbestos cement. The workshop is timber framed with asbestos cement sheet walls and corrugated asbestos cement roof.
Other buildings include office and radio equipment building, with hardwood timber frames, external walls of painted concrete blocks and a corrugated asbestos cement roof.; the relief quarters, with a timber frame, asbestos sheeting on external walls and a corrugated asbestos cement roof; the radio beacon transmitter building, constructed from concrete blocks with timber framed doors and aluminium hopper windows; the power house, concrete block construction with corrugated zinc sheeted roof; the fuel store, built from concrete blocks with corrugated zinc sheeted roof and the tide gauge enclosure, built from fibre cement sheeting with a galvanised metal deck. It is timber framed with aluminium louvre mechanism.