Puysegur Point

Get technical and historical information and resources about Puysegur Point lighthouse.

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Puysegur Point lighthouse
Maritime New Zealand ©2017
A shot of Puysegur Point lighthouse and surrounding homestead.

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Lighthouse overview

Situated on the south-west extremity of Fiordland in the South Island, Puysegur Point was notorious within the lighthouse service for being very isolated and desolate.

Lighthouse feature: Details
Location: latitude 46°10’ south, longitude 166°36’ east
Elevation: 45 metres above sea level
Construction: cast iron tower
Tower height: 5 metres
Light configuration: modern rotating beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing once every 12 seconds
Power source: batteries
Range: 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)
Date light first lit: 1879
Automated: 1943
Demanned: 1990

Getting to Puysegur Point Lighthouse

Puysegur Point Lighthouse is accessible to the public; however, access is difficult due to its isolated location.

There is no public access to enter the lighthouse

There is very little left of the original light station apart from the lighthouse itself. One of the houses has been retained and is used by maintenance staff when on maintenance visits.

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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In 1980 the keepers were withdrawn and the lighthouse was replaced with two automatic lights; on Cape Providence and Windsor Point.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!”