Queensland Places – Booby Island Lighthouse

The Booby Island Light is located near the tip of Cape York, to the west of Prince of Wales Island and overlooking the Endeavour Strait.  The Light marks the western entrance to the navigation channel through the Torres Strait and has guided shipping passing through the area for more than a century.

Completed in 1890, its construction marked the end of more than thirty years of lobbying for a light as well as discussions and arguments about its design and cost.  The shipping channel had always been dangerous, but with the steady growth in shipping from around 1860, as well as the establishment of a channel west of Prince of Wales Island, the need for a Light became urgent.  As a response to this consistent lobbying and argument, the first formal recommendation for a Light in this area was made by the Queensland Government Port Master, Commander George Poynter Heath in 1862.

The discussions continued back and forth for some time, however tenders were eventually called in 1889, with John and Jacob Rooney of Mayborough being successful.  The Rooneys had substantial experience in this category of construction, having also built Sandy Cape Light, Cape Bowling Green Light, Cowan Cowan Point Light, Cape Capricorn Light as well as Lady Elliot Island Light.  Booby Island lighthouse was to cost some 6,500 pounds with the Light first being exhibited on 24 June 1890.

The Lighthouse stands at approximately eighteen metres in height, of conical shape and is constructed of timber clad with corrugated iron.  Its red domed roof is made of sheet copper.  The light beam is visible for around twenty nautical miles.  Booby Island was fully automated in 1992 after more than a century of manual and semi-manual operation.

Booby Island Lighthouse, ca. 1918

Booby Island Lighthouse, ca. 1918

This image, dating from 1918, shows the lighthouse some twenty-eight years after it was first built.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland