Located in a dramatic location along the rugged southern coast of Victoria, Australia, the Split Point Lighthouse has provided continuous lifesaving service since it was first lit in 1891. Like the Cape Otway Lighthouse, this light house was mostly built from a kit, shipped from England. One of several lighthouses punctuating the 244 kilometer Great Ocean Road, it was likely easier and less expensive to build than the other light house we visited, because the shell is composed of poured concrete, instead of laboriously cut and fitted stone.
All of the steps in the 112’ high lighthouse are made from a pair of identical iron castings, bolted together, and bolted to the cement interior wall.
Other than the difference in wall and lower stair construction, the two lighthouses are very similar in configuration, topping the walls with an iron dome consisting of an exterior platform and interior operator’s area at the same level, providing a great view of the rocky coast. In both lighthouses, an exterior catwalk one level higher facilitates dome maintenance and window cleaning, and a cast iron grid floor at the same level on the inside provides access to the lighting unit.
Originally lit by a fussy and messy bank of oil lamps, the working light station now uses a high tech LED unit (visible in the center of the photo below). The Chance Brothers Fresnel Lens is a marvel of late Victorian engineering. Composed of multiple segments of high-refraction flint glass securely mounted into an iron frame, Fresnel lenses were common in lighthouses, because their design was several orders of magnitude thinner and lighter than what would have been possible with a single piece of glass.
Both of the lighthouses we visited had mechanically rotating light units, but the Split Point station had an additional visual element provided by red filters on both sides of the window. When viewed by boat from the water directly in front of the lighthouse, the light appears white, but when viewed at more oblique angles, the light becomes red, helping mariners determine their position in the Bass Straight relative to the lighthouse.
The addition of the colored filters on the exterior window baths the interior of the light unit, and the iron floor, in red light, so make for a much more interesting photographic opportunity.