THE DEAL ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE AND LIGHTSTATION
KENT GROUP NATIONAL PARK
Deal Island is the largest of the three main islands which comprise the Kent Group of Islands and is situated in Bass Strait approximately 80 km south-east of Wilson's Promontory, Victoria. In 2001 this group of islands was declared Tasmania's newest and most remote national park - The Kent Group National Park and Marine Park. The Deal Island Lightstation is entered on the Federal Heritage Register and the Register of the National Estate. The Deal Island Lighthouse is entered on the Register of the National Estate.
Deal is the largest of the islands which make up the Kent Group being approximately 6 kilometres long and approximately 4.5 kilometres wide at its broadest part. The other main islands of the group are Dover and Erith Islands which lie to the west of Deal Island and separated from Deal Island by Murray Pass.
Deal Island is one of a chain of Bass Strait islands between Tasmania and the mainland. Bass Strait lies between the north-west tip of Tasmania, King Island and Cape Otway on the west and the north-east tip of Tasmania, Flinders Island and Wilson's Promontory on the east. Tasmania was probably first separated from mainland Australia about 35 million years ago, but since that time there have been several episodes during which there has been a land connection. In ecological terms, the current form of the strait is of relatively recent origin, most probably between 12,000 and 13,500 years ago and certainly during the period of human occupation. Before that episode of flooding, most of Bass Strait was a plain where the major river systems of the Yarra and Barwon from the north joined the Tamar and Mersey from the south then emptied into the sea somewhere between King Island and Cape Otway. The Kent Group is formed by the tops of granitic mountains and is joined to Flinders Island by an undersea sand ridge which indicates that it was one of the last places to be isolated by the flooding of the strait.
The Deal Island Lighthouse which beamed its first light in 1848, and its Lightstation, is the oldest and most complete set of lightstation buildings in Australia. The Lighthouse is the most elevated lighthouse in the southern hemisphere. The Lighthouse which began operation in 1848 is one of the most historically significant lights in Australia. Since it began operating, there has always been a problem with the reliability of the Deal Island Light due to the effects of fog and low cloud. Accordingly, the Department of Transport installed unattended electric lights on South West and North East Islands of The Kent Group in 1987 and the main light on Deal Island was no longer required.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority discontinued the Deal Island Light in 1992. The spectacular site for the lighthouse was the reason for both its construction and its replacement.
During the 1798 voyage of the schooner "Francis" from Sydney to Preservation Island (Furneaux Group) to rescue survivors of the wreck of the "Sydney Cove", Matthew Flinders made the first recorded sighting of The Kent Group.
Lieutenant Matthew Flinders and Dr George Bass returned in 1799 aboard the "Nautilus" to successfully circumnavigate Van Diemen's Land, thus opening up Bass Strait as a major shipping route for sailing vessels travelling across the Indian Ocean bound for Sydney Cove.
Sailing ships entering Bass Strait from the west were required to "thread the eye of the needle" between King Island and Cape Otway. The eastern portal of Bass Strait had its own dangers, strewn with granite rocks and islands. In the 1840's the navigation of Bass Strait was made less treacherous by the construction of lighthouses on Swan and Goose Islands, Deal Island and Cape Otway.
Since the declaration of The Kent Group National Park and Marine Park in 2001, the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service have managed a Volunteer Caretaker Program on the island.
Volunteer caretakers live in the old Lightkeeper's quarters on the island for a three month term before handing over to a relieving set of caretakers. Caretakers maintain a permanent presence on the island and carry out maintenance programs as well as deterring vandalism and theft from the lightstation.
Volunteer work groups also travel to Deal Island to undertake approved projects and provide invaluable "man hours" and individual skills in the areas of building maintenance, weed eradication, track clearing, scrub clearing to maintain firebreaks, etc.
The Friends of Deal Island work to raise funding for authorised, priority projects on Deal Island. Recent funding has enabled work on building restoration, upgrades in the house used by volunteers, weed management and eradication, laying of a commemorative plaque at the 1943 air crash site, fencing, and replacement of water tanks. Funding has allowed the upgrade of equipment and machinery on the island as well as transport to and from Deal Island.
The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service fullly fund and manage the Volunteer Caretaker Program.