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Lighting the way in Portland Exhibition

The iconic lighthouses of Portland and the surrounding coastline are celebrated in a new exhibition at Portland's Maritime Discovery Centre from 6 August 2011.

The "Guiding Lights" exhibition explores the lighthouses from Cape Banks near Carpenter Rocks in South Australia along the coast to the lighthouses of Warrnambool.

Treacherous seas, uncharted reefs, storms and sea mists together with poor navigation equipment and simple human error saw many ships wrecked and lives lost along Victoria's coast.

With the increase in the number of ships as a result of expanded free settlement in the 1840s, and the influx of assisted immigrants and others seeking their fortunes in the gold fields in the 1850s, the authorities recognised the need for a safer passage.

Lighthouses were established at Cape Northumberland (Port MacDonnell) in 1858, and at Griffiths Island (Port Fairy), Warrnambool and Portland, in 1859. Cape Banks lighthouse was built in 1883, and Cape Nelson lighthouse opened the following year.

The exhibition includes many photographs, copies of original lighthouse and lighthouse keepers' quarters plans, excerpts from a lighthouse keeper's journal, and a collection of lighthouse circulars sent from the Department of Ports and Harbours to all Victorian lighthouse keepers.

Also included are a number of objects relating to the Cape Nelson Lightstation, and a lantern and container from Portland's first lighthouse on Observatory Hill.

Items in the exhibition have been sourced through the Portland Family History Group, Portland Historical Society, Port Fairy Historical Society, Warrnambool Historical Society, Flagstaff Hill (Warrnambool), Parks Victoria, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, State Library of Victoria picture Collection, the Les Hill Photographic Collection (Mt Gambier Library), Corangamite Regional Library Corporation, the Glenelg Shire Cultural Collection and private collections.

The museum is in Lee Breakwater Road, Portland (see map) and is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 9.00am to 5.00pm.

Picture: Cape Nelson Lighthouse 1884.
Engraving by A.H. Fullwood from the Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection

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