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Clarence Headland Lighthouse – Standing Tall and Elegant

Clarence Headland Lighthouse - tall and elegant

Clarence Headland Lighthouse – tall and elegant

The Clarence Point lighthouse stands tall and elegant on Pilot Hill, Clarence Headland, Yamba New South Wales. It overlooks Turners Beach to the north (see panorama below), a disused quarry to the east and Yamba Beach to the south. The quarry provides an interesting insight into the Clarence Headland Geology, which is discussed at the end of this blog.

We arrived at Clarence Headland, Yamba on the way home from a week’s tour of the  Waterfall Way and New England National Park east of Armidale, New South Wales. Terrific waterfalls and wonderful forests which will be the subjects of future blogs. Point Lookout in the New England National Park was a lichen spotter’s wonderland.

Lighthouse History

The current lighthouse had a very basic beginning as a kerosene light on a platform, which was upgraded in 1866 to a small hut with a bench for a large kerosene lamp. The hut had shutters, which were opened to show the light.

An upgrade to a more functional, concrete lighthouse occurred in 1880. The new 7 metre high lighthouse was of a design similar to those at Richmond River, Fingal Head, Rowdy Head and Tracking Point, all in New South Wales. In 1920 the light source was converted to acetylene, the lighthouse was automated and demanned. The new light extended 6 nautical miles.

Later, an upgrade to the 1880 lighthouse was deemed necessary for two reasons: the building of the art deco Pacific Hotel in 1934 partly obscured the lighthouse and the site was being considered for the new Yamba water tower. The new 18 Metre concrete lighthouse was built in 1955 and stands today tall and elegant on Pilot’s Hill. The 1880 lighthouse was demolished in 1956. The acetylene light from the 1880 lighthouse served initially as the light source for the new structure. It was later upgraded to a battery powered 12 volt 75 watt halogen lamp with an increased a range of 16 nautical miles (30klm).

Panorama of Turner's beach

Panorama of Turner’s beach from Pilot ‘ Hill

Access

Access to the lighthouse is possible either by steps from the Turners Beach car park or by road up Wooli Street then Pilot Street from Yamba. Cars can be parked on both sides of Pilot Street.

The area surrounding the lighthouse is a spacious grassy park with good views of the lighthouse, Tuner’s beach and Yamba beach. Back over the road from the lighthouse are the old houses for the lighthouse keeper and pilots, one behind the other. A volunteer-built replica of the 1880 concrete lighthouse situated on the original site accompanies these. The replica has the 1880 acetylene lamp mechanism and is the home of the local community radio station TLC 100.3 FM.

Clarence Headland Geology

The rocks of Pilots Hill and the headland and are predominantly sandstone, but others such as conglomerate, siltstone and shale also occur. They are sedimentary rocks laid down about 200-250 million years ago. The rocks of Pilots Hill were quarried from 1862 to supply rock for the southern Clarence River entrance breakwater.  After quarrying finished this area served as a rock swimming pool (1953-1968).

To the east and immediately below the lighthouse is the abandoned quarry that now has car parking facilities and toilets servicing Tuners Beach. The rock formation on the ocean side is easily and safely climbed to reach an extensive rock platform showing a variety of sedimentary rocks and weathering patterns. The car park provides an opportunity to stand back and get an overall appreciation of the rock formations.

Looking at Pilot’s Hill the rock faces are very recently exposed to the elements by quarrying activity and are relatively unweathered with sharp angles. There is a narrow band about one third down from the top and this layer is fairly horizontal indicating that the beds do not appear to have been subject to any significant folding.  Above this layer the sandstone is orange/brown in contrast to the dark grey layer below.

Rocks exposed by quarrying on Pilot's Hill

Rocks exposed by quarrying on Pilot’s Hill

Looking towards the sea the rocks are very weathered by water and wind, indicating that they have been exposed to the elements over a long period and that a natural gap may have existed between them and Pilot’s Hill before the quarry began. In an old photograph of the quarry this rock platform is shown with the boulders on top of the platform in their present positions.

Panorama of Clarence Headland Rocks

Panorama of Clarence Headland Rocks

Weathering

All the rock beds show clear signs of fragmentation or division into blocks. The cracks are filled with red, ferruginous minerals, which are harder than the surrounding sandstone. These ferruginous bands are resistant to weathering and stand proud of the softer sandstone (Boxwork weathering).

On the rock platform the softer sandstone is weathered by the action of salt water and wind-borne sand particles. The salt chrystalises as the water evaporates forcing sand grains in the rock apart. Wind-blown particles swirling around enlarge holes in the rocks (Honeycom weathering).

The Rock Platform

Before ascending the rock platform note the Boxwork weathering on the rock face – it runs vertically and horizontally. Below the fine-grained grey upper layer is a brownish coarser-grained bed, which has gravel inclusions (conglomerate). The last shot in the gallery shows some of the boulders on the rock platform and an easy access route onto the plafom.

On top of the rock platform there is an array of coarse and fine-grained sandstone with many different deposition patterns. These patterns indicate deposition at different water velocities – coarser grains at higher water velocities and fine-grained in water that has become still in pools (siltstones looking like pillows). In one area the sandstone appears as swirls. Take some time to examine the platform deposition variations – a good exercise for children.

In some areas the sandstone weathering forms holes of varying sizes (Honeycom weathering). There are indications that some of the holes were initiated by dislocation of pebbles embedded in the sandstone. The holes were later expanded by the action of salt water and sand-laden wind. Photographs show the initial pebble dislodgement phase and the later expansion caused by wind and water.

Boulders are scattered across the rock platform. Wind and water has fashioned some attractive sculptures.

The rock platform is elevated well above the sea indicating it would not suffer regular inundations by waves. Wave action and its effects can seen on the exposed rock platforms and rock faces below.

Yamba Accommodation

We stayed in the Calypso Holiday Park in a comfortable and spacious waterside cabin overlooking the Clarence River. Good fishing was just a few paces from our cabin and there are good beaches close by.

The Calypso Holiday Park is in Yamba within walking distance of the town centre. Yamba is a pleasant town with excellent cafes and seafood restaurants. We would recommend pausing for a stay there if travelling on the Pacific Highway.

The waterside cabins have roomy verandahs, which are excellent for relaxing with a glass of red while watching the sunset. After two glasses of wine we acquired a warm glow to mach the sunset.

Sunset over the Clarence River

Sunset over the Clarence River

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