“Turning, she looked across the
bay, and there, sure enough,
coming regularly across the
waves first two quick strokes
and then one long steady stroke,
was the light of the Lighthouse.
It had been lit.”
― Virginia Woolf
As a poet, photographer and philosopher, I had to jolt myself while looking at my photos of the Norah Head Lighthouse. Force myself to remember that lighthouses were actually constructed to serve a practical, potentially lifesaving purpose. They weren’t just plonked on top of dramatic, rugged headlands in splendid isolation for me to explore and express my creativity. Moreover, during this time of covid, social distancing and even lock down, this lighthouse doesn’t exist just so I can project our collective sense of isolation onto this “concrete tower painted white” (as it was described when it was opened in 1903).
“A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef.”
Navjot Singh Sidhu
However, these practical realities still haven’t stopped me from delving deep into my imagination and my soul, to marvel at the dramatic beauty of its glowing whiteness backdropped by the azure blue sea on a charmed sunny day.
It also didn’t stop me from confronting the realities of the here and now. The front door of the lighthouse, which could well have been there for over 115 years, has now been slapped with a Covid notice, and the lighthouse is closed for tours. Welcome to 2020.
Of course, I couldn’t help wondering how the lighthouse feels about being all locked up, and whether the ghost within is enjoying its solitude, or perhaps it’s craving human forms? Not that I really believe in ghosts. However, if you’re going to talk about a lighthouse, especially one which has witnessed shipwrecks and the tragic loss of life, it’s okay to let your imagination wander. You can put on your storytelling hat, and nothing really needs to make a lot of sense or stand up in a court of law.
I first came to the Norah Head Lighthouse when I was a little girl about six years old when we were staying nearby at The Entrance. Being so young, I didn’t have strong memories of it. However, when I was 13, I returned to Norah Head to attend a friend’s slumber party. I immediately recognized the lighthouse. Lighthouses are like that. They stay with you forever. Leave a lasting impression.
I attended two birthday slumber parties at Norah Head for my friend, and they still retain their magic after all these years. At that age, you rarely go away with anyone but your own immediate family. However, there we were just our group of friends, and without that sense of omnipresent parental supervision either. I remember snorkelling in the rockpool and seeing little fish. I also remember having my friend’s birthday cake up in the sand dunes, and sliding down the sand dunes on large green garbage bags. It was so very simple, and yet so much fun.
However, when I went back to Norah Head with my kids about 10 years ago, the sand dunes were nowhere to be found. Indeed, when I inquired about them at a local shop, they were quite a mystery. You see, the dunes had been rejuvenated and by this stage, were hidden beneath six foot paperbark trees and thick vegetation. Although this was good for the environment, I have to admit I was rather disappointed. I wanted to slide down those dunes again and take my kids with me. Moreover, I particularly didn’t want to be that old, that I’d developed my own tales about “life back in the olden days”.
Anyway, getting back to the lighthouse, I’m not going to delve too deeply into its construction and design of the Norah Head Lighthouse. All of that’s only a quick Google search away. However, I wanted to share this little story I came across from Christmas 1945 where a journalist explored what it was like to spend Christmas at the Norah Head Lighthouse:
Lighthouse Wasn’t Lonely
Although Norah Head lighthouse is in a comparatively isolated position, about 20 miles south of Newcastle, its staff had anything but a lonely Christmas. The head keeper’s wife (Mrs. J. H. Fisher), who said: “It couldn’t be lonely here-it’s absolutely beautiful,” entertained a party of guests from Sydney. A number of fishermen and holiday-makers are camped on the head land and fishing catches are reported to be good. Supplies brought in from the small village of Norahville, 20 minutes’ walk from the light house, ensured a typical Christmas dinner for the lighthouse staff. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 26 December 1945, page 2
I also thought you’d enjoy this aerial perspective from 1953, even if it is in black & white:
While the lighthouse itself is a stunning attraction, the dramatic views from the headland are amazing and stretch in all directions. I was particularly captivated by the waves smashing onto the rock platform down below, more than reinforcing the need for a lighthouse here, at least historically speaking. This photo gives you a good idea of the forces down below:
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour around Norah Head Lighthouse. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on a blogshare called Thursday Doors, but I thought my trip to the Norah Head Lighthouse made for a good contribution.
Hosted by Norm Frampton, “Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). “