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New lease of life for original lighthouse vents


As part of the ongoing conservation of the Cape Bruny and Maatsuyker Island lighthouses, a team effort has been underway to restore the original bronze vents from the lighthouses’ lantern rooms.

The lantern rooms for both lighthouses were manufactured in the 1880s by Chance Brothers in England and were entirely pre-assembled in the manufacturer’s Birmingham workshops. From the complex, glazed panels of the huge rotating lens mechanism right down to the cast iron wall panels and vents, each part was stamped with a number, ready for disassembly, transport and reassembly in Australia.

Each wall panel had one large and one small vent – 30 in total at Maatsuyker and 24 at Cape Bruny, which has a slightly smaller lantern room.

Parks and Wildlife Service historic heritage officer Peter Rigozzi said the adjustable lantern room vents were an essential feature in the operation of the early kerosene lantern, allowing the lighthouse keeper to precisely balance the flow of air to the lamp, according to the wind conditions on the day.

“Keeping the vents polished, oiled and in good working order would have been an important part of the daily routine. The advent of electric lighting meant the vents became less important and many were painted over. A few were removed and those that remained mostly became jammed,” said Mr Rigozzi.

Preparatory work on the Maatsuyker lantern room vents was undertaken by volunteers from the Friends of Maatsuyker Island group, with guidance from professional lighthouse maintenance specialist Mark Sherriff.

The skilled and tedious task of stripping layers of paint from the Cape Bruny vents, cleaning them up and returning them to full operation was undertaken by materials conservator Michael Staples, who has now started work on the damaged vents from Maatsuyker.

Manufacture of five missing vents has just been completed by Mark Palaszewski of Apco Engineering. This involved undertaking a spectrometer analysis of an original vent to determine the exact composition of the alloy, allowing Mark to source identical bronze stock. He then accurately measured the vents and used state-of-the-art, computer-controlled machinery to match the superb workmanship of the original fitters and turners.

The vents will be reinstalled at Cape Bruny and Maatsuyker in time for International Lighthouse Day on 19 August 2018.