Starring role for lighthouse

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 50, June 2016

Cape Campbell lighthouse has a starring role, along with Michael Fassbender, in the film version of the book The Light Between Oceans which will reach our screens later this year.
Photo of lighthouse.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
The Cape Campbell lighthouse near Blenheim.

The moving story, by Australian M. L. Stedman, is about a WWI war veteran who becomes a lighthouse keeper. Together with his young wife, they move to a remote island off Western Australia in 1926. One morning a row boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant.

After scouting Australasia for suitable locations, Dreamworks selected Cape Campbell lighthouse – 50 kilometres south-east of Blenheim – due to the iconic shape of the tower, sheer cliffs, sharp climb up from the beach, and period lightkeeper’s cottage in the frame below the lighthouse.

The imposing 22-metre cast iron tower looms large in the trailer for the movie – out now. Fassbender and Alicia Vikander were among the cast and crew who filmed on and off for four months at Cape Campbell in 2014. Rachel Weisz also stars back on the mainland.

Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, The Light Between Oceans.
Actors Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander on the porch of the lightkeeper’s cottage.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

The original Fresnel-designed optic lens was recovered from inside the base of the tower, and reinstated to recreate the look of early 1900s lighthouses, says Jim Foye, Maritime NZ’s leader of Aids to Navigation.

A kerosene lamp was borrowed from a private collector, and additional components were found at Castle Point lighthouse to provide all the equipment needed for the old lens to be lit up for the movie.

These first revolving lenses – rotated via a hand-wound clockwork mechanism with the light source provided via colza oil – were first introduced into NZ in 1865 at Dog Island. Many of these were converted to electricity in the 1950s. Around 40 years later, as the sites became fully automated, the last lighthouse keeper left Brothers Island in 1990.

During filming, the current operational light was temporarily housed externally on the balcony of the Cape Campbell lighthouse, to enable normal nightly warnings to go out to maritime traffic.

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