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Replica carriage for Troubridge Shoal Light Station signal cannon

Date: 1973
Overall: 585 x 910 x 940 mm
Medium: Wood, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transfer from Australian Maritime Safety Authority
Object Name: Cannon carriage
Object No: AX000898

User Terms

    The Troubridge Island Light Station was established in 1856 to assist vessels threading the 'eye of the needle' between Yorke Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The cannon was used to warn off or signal ships during fog, at night or period of bad weather.
    SignificanceThe Troubridge Shoals, of which Troubridge Island is a part, are on the main route to Adelaide from the west known as the Investigator Strait. It is the passage of water between Kangaroo Island and the Yorke Peninsula. The shoal hugs the Yorke Peninsula and officially has been the cause of 33 wrecks and groundings. In 1850
    seven vessels ran aground in an eight-month period.
    Responding to this maritime hazard the South Australian Government commissioned the construction of the Troubridge Island Lighthouse and equipped it with a signal cannon to warn ships of the danger of the shoals.
    The Troubridge Island Signal Cannon symbolic of the hazards, which faced seafarers coming to Australia in the
    19th century.
    HistoryThe Troubridge Shoals, of whichTroubridge Island is a part, are on the main sea route from Europe to Adelaide through Investigator Strait the passage of water between Kangaroo Island and the Yorke Peninsula. The Island and the surrounding shoals and reefs are about four nautical miles south east of Edithburg on the Yorke Peninsula.
    All immigrant and cargo ships voyaging to South Australia and its capital Adelaide had to sail along the northern coastline of Kangaroo Island, with the first landfall at Nepean Bay. From there the ships sailed past Cape Jervis on the mainland of South Australia, past Rapid Bay and then threaded their way through the Troubridge Shoals, before stopping at Holdfast Bay to pick up a Pilot.
    Matthew Flinders first surveyed Troubridge Shoals in 1802. Flinders noted that the island consisted of a sand bar on top of a limestone reef, which was awash at high tide.
    By 1838 the sandbar had developed in to a small-vegetated islet 600 meters long and 300 meters wide.
    In February 1851, following the wrecks of the SULTANA and MANOR, the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce made a recommendation to the Colonial Secretary for the construction of a lighthouse on the shoal.
    In response to the increasing number of shipping causalities the Secretary of State for the colonial government of South Australia authorised th construction of a lighthouse station on Troubridge Island in 1854. The contract to design and construct the Lightstation was given to Alexander Gordon an English engineer who subsequently appointed Robert Augustus Hyndmen to commence survey and construction work.
    The contracts for the work were completed in 1855 at a total cost of 9396 pounds and the Light station was commissioned on the 1 February 1856.
    The Troubridge Island Lightstation, the second lightstation to be constructed in South Australia (the first being at Cape Willoughby on Kangaroo Island) is a 24-meter high, cylindrical, cast iron tower which was manufactured in England and then shipped out and reassembled on the Island.
    The Lightstation was first operated by Trinity House until the formation of the South Australian Marine Board in early 1870. In 1879 the Marine Board recommended that the lighthouse be strengthened so that the lamp room and its light could be upgraded to a First Order.This work was carried out in 1882 with the addition of a holophotal reflector apparatus and lantern. A further upgrade occurred in 1899 when a fixed red sector light was added to the platform to warn ships about sailing between the Island and mainland.
    In addition to aiding sailors by its light, lighthouses were often fitted out with fog signals. These audible warnings could be heard even when the light could not be seen. Included in the lighthouse keeper's responsibilities was the sounding of these warnings, sometimes by ringing a bell, firing a cannon, or fueling a fire to produce steam for a fog horn. In the case of the Troubridge Island Lightstationon Troubridge Island and the Cape Border Lighthouse Station on Kangaroo Island the authorities equipped the stations with a small signal cannon.
    At Cape Border Lighthouse the keepers fired a small cannon during fog to signal ships of danger. It was also believed that due to the Russian scare in the 1850s the placement of the cannon was symbolic of a small military presence, and there foreseen as a deterrence to invasion from possible enemy ships! Indeed one of the reasons for
    building the lightstation in that position was to be a lookout for Russian ships .
    In late 1999, National Parks Services of South Australia restored the cannon and test fired it at Midnight 2000 as part of a global exercise of time signals at maritime locations around the world.

    An extract from the Adelaide Observer of 7 January 1860 provides a description of the Troubridge Island Lightstation and the signal cannon:

    "Should a vessel be in danger of running on any of the reefs or sand spits which abound in that locality, and the lighthouse keepers not be able to make her aware of her position by the signals, a cannon is provided, which can be
    immediately fired, as to inform the ship master of his perilous situation. In concluding this brief notice it may be remarked that visitors to the lighthouse will meet with every civility on the part of the keepers, and that a day might be
    spent in many a less interesting manner than by an inspection of this admirable establishment."

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