Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 5, November 1971
In this Captain Cook Bi-centennial year, 1970, New Zealanders have become more conscious of their history through the ways in which this great seaman's explorations have been drawn to their attention. New Zealand has developed a great deal since the days when Captain Cook sailed round our coasts and already New Zealand has a distinct history of its own.
It was appropriate that the talks given at the annual meeting (1970) of the Nelson Historical Society should deal with lighthouses and, as Cook named many of the features round the coasts where lighthouses have been built these form a definite historical link. His chart made during his 1769–70 visit was the only chart of the New Zealand coast for many years. Cook Strait carries his name and many of the lighthouses which guide ships safely through this passage are situated on prominences named by him. There are the lights at Castle Point, Cape Palliser and Cape Campell on the eastern approaches, while Farewell Spit, Stephens Island, Cape Jackson and The Brothers all carry lights to ensure a safe passage from the west. Other important lights to guide ships approaching our coast are those at Cape Farewell and at Kahurangi Point (north of Rocks Point, so named by Cook). Farewell Spit and Cape Campbell lighthouses were erected just a century ago.
When Cook left New Zealand in 1770 to cross to Australia he named Cape Farewell and he used this landmark as his fixed point as he plotted his course across the Tasman Sea and each day his log showed the ship's position in relation to Cape Farewell. Sailing up the eastern coast of Australia he named many of the geographical features, using, among others, the surnames of notable figures in the British Admiralty, following a pattern already set in New Zealand.
In addition to Admiralty Bay, near D'Urville Island, the coast of New Zealand is studded with the surnames of Secretaries of the Admiralty, Sea-Lords, and Admirals. We have, for example, Stephens Island, Cape Jackson, Cape Saunders, Hawkes Bay, Cape Campbell, Cape Colville, Point Rodney, Cape Brett, and Cape Egmont. Other names were also used—such as Bank's Island (Banks Peninsula), as well as those which recorded some happenings on the voyage round the coast. Hence we have Cape Kidnappers, Cape Turnagain, Cape Foulwind, Cape Runaway, and Doubtful Harbour. This is not a complete list of Cook's names but it is an interesting fact that many of the names that he bestowed have remained and a noticeable number of our New Zealand lighthouses have been erected on points which he named.
The first few lighthouses in the country were erected by the Provincial Councils, the one on the Boulder Bank at Nelson, set up in 1862, being the second lighthouse to be built in this country. From then on the central Government accepted the responsibility of pro-page 5viding lighthouses round the coasts and it was under the administration of the Marine Board, and later the Marine Department, that most of the present lighthouses were erected and maintained.
For our present purposes we will consider the lights at Kahurangi Point, Cape Farewell, Farewell Spit, Nelson Harbour and Stephens Island.
The distances across the Bay are not so great as one imagines. The trees on Farewell Spit are visible from the hills near French Pass while the hills on D'Urville Island are visible from the beach near the Farewell Spit lighthouse. The Stephens Island light, about 600 feet above sea level, with its range of 32 miles, is one of the most powerful of our lighthouses. (I have on a number of occasions seen it from Takaka Hill road).
In April 1859 a Select Committee of the Nelson Provincial Council advocated the provision of a harbour light on the Boulder Bank to lead vessels down the Bay and suggested that the Central Government be asked to consider lights and beacons for Farewell Spit and French Pass.