Rain was pelting down and the wind blowing great gusts as I arrived at the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in Western Australia.
I sat in the car for a while, debating the wisdom of even getting out. There’d be no good photos to be taken, and I was likely to get soaked to the skin just getting from the carpark to the lighthouse visitor centre. But I’d driven from Margaret River to do a lighthouse tour, so I might as well do it!
Dashing into the warmth of the visitor centre cafe and shop, I had time to shake off the raindrops and find a break in the rain before hurrying out to the lighthouse itself to join the guided tour.
Cape Leeuwin lighthouse stands at the most south-westerly tip of Australia, the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, about 8km west of the nearest town, Augusta. Built of limestone, it rises 39 metres from ground level and 56 metres above sea level, and has a one-million-candle (1000 watt) beam which reaches out across the sea for 26 nautical miles (48 km). Cape Leeuwin, on which the lighthouse stands is also the start point for the Cape to Cape Track long distance walk to Cape Naturaliste.
Between the cafe and the lighthouse, I paused – despite the rain – to contemplate the strange sight of a cow sculpture. “Moorine Marauder” was one of 85 cows which appeared throughout the Margaret River region in 2010 as part of the world’s largest public art event, “Cow Parade”. After four months on display, the cows were auctioned to raise money for local charities. It looks a bit odd sitting there, but worth a photo anyway (note rain spots on my lens).
At the lighthouse, I joined a small group to listen to our guide Paul explain its history and lead us up the 176 steps to the top.
“This is one of the most dangerous coastlines in the world for ships,” said Paul, explaining that 3500 ships pass by each year. The lighthouse was built in 1895 and the last shipwreck was in 1910. The last lighthouse keeper retired in 1992.
When we walked out onto the narrow balcony that runs around the top of the lighthouse, it was still raining and the wind was ferocious. Below, the ocean crashed onto rocky outcrops, and we couldn’t see very far into the distance. Suddenly, I was glad to be visiting on a day like this. There might not be the blue skies on the brochures, but it brings home exactly why there’s a need for a lighthouse here.