The lighthouse itself was
created using the granite on the island. Granite was a valuable building material in the late 1800s, and as well
as being used to build the lighthouse, it was also shipped to Sydney and used in
some of the extensions of the General Post Office. Rubble from the quarrying on
Montague Island was used to build a wharf on the island.
Located in a sheltered cove some 500 m south of the present day jetty, the
rubble landing stage was used to offload supplies. This system saw the
lightstations whaleboat rowed over the rubble wharf at high tide to be unloaded
later when the water level fell. It operated through until 1896, when a timber
wharf was built to provide a more conventional landing platform.
The granite-strewn track between the lighthouse and Old Jetty Bay was a
perilous pathway in the the late 1800s. In 1894, one of the lightkeepers,
Charles Townsend, died when the horse pulling the cart he was driving along this
track bolted. The cartwheel struck a granite boulder on the track edge and
Townsend was thrown into the air to land stomach first across the side of the
cart-tray. He died soon after from injuries he received in the fall and was
buried on the island.
The early lightkeepers lived an isolated lifestyle, dependent on boats and
the rudimentary signalling systems for contact with the mainland. Keepers and
their families had to be self-sufficient and depended on livestock such as
chickens, milking cows, goats and rabbits, as well as the produce from their
garden. Seabird eggs were also harvested from the island.
Trips to the island by locals and tourists for picnicking, fishing and
shooting were very popular until the 1953, when the island became a reserve
under National Trust protection. During the 1890s, there were several large
public excursions to the island of up to 200 people at a time (Pacey, 1991).
When a black marlin was caught off Montague Island in 1993, big game fishing
began in Australia. During the 1930s, it is believed that several fishing shacks
existed on the western shore, although no evidence remains of these today.
The first recorded scientific visit to the island was by amateur
ornithologist A. F. Basset Hull in 1907, with other visits following. Members of
the National Trust became regualar visitors from the 1950s onwards as were
visits by CSIRO scientists, working in a private capacity, from the early 1960s.
The Royal Australian Navy operated a defence facility on the island during
the Second World War, but details of its purpose have yet to be revealed.
Montague Island Nature Reserve, Plan of Management
NSW National Parks
and Wildlife Service
and Montague Island Conservation Plan (Feary and Constable, 1992)