Position: 36.833284°S 174.831127°E
Characteristics: Fl WR 8s, Fl(3) WR 8s
Range: 14 nm (white), 11 nm (red)
Structure: timber legs, hexagonal wooden cottage
The Bean Rock light is possibly New Zealand’s best-known lighthouse as it provides an important waypoint indicator for mariners navigating approaches to Auckland, the country’s busiest harbour. Colonial marine engineer James Balfour himself designed it as a harbour light for Auckland. The 1871 name of the light came from Lieutenant Bean, who assisted in a harbour survey in 1840 as master of HMS Herald.
The lights of Bean Rock and Ponui Passage (now Sandspit Passage) were always considered twins, improving the safety of navigation between Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Bean Rock light entered service on 24 July 1871, changing from a manned oil-burning light to an unwatched acetylene gas light in 1912. Thus, it became the first de-manned station and the spartan living quarters were never used again. The Auckland telephone system never reached the light, but in keeper Anderson’s time his children used to flash signals by torchlight using the new Morse code from their house in Devonport. Twenty-four years later electrification of the light raised the candlepower fivefold to 6000 candela and thereafter Auckland Harbour Board owned and maintained the light.
In 1985 the board realised that the lower supporting legs of the tower as well as parts of the old dwelling needed extensive maintenance. The entrepreneurial Ian Meilsop won the contract in 1985 to carry out the complex and precise removal ashore of the kauri cottage tower for complete renovation. He replaced the decayed above-water kauri legs with new ones of Australian hardwood and he replaced the lower ones with steel pipes filled with 150 tonnes of concrete.
Bean Rock Lighthouse, built on Te Toka a Kapetawa rocks, situated about three quarters of a mile from the North Head toward the direction of Kohimarama, commanded a position to the entrance of the Waitemata harbour. The rocks were low lying and posed a hazard to shipping. It was felt that a light placed on them would be distinctly visible all over the Rangitoto Channel, part of the Waitemata Harbour and both channels eastward.
As these rocks were sea wave – washed it was important in design, that the lighthouse foundations would be secure and that the lighthouse itself would withstand adverse weathers.
Mr. James Stewart, Civil Engineer and Inspector of Steamboats, with Captain Burgess took three lines of section to establish the required position and depth of the piles.
They chose to design a hexagonal- shaped lighthouse based on the concept of a beehive cell – chosen for a shape that would be strong in adverse winds and weather, better utilization of limited space and more cost effective to build. The design placed the hexagonal wooden lighthouse dwelling on the upper of three horizontal platforms, upon a floor of concrete 2 inches.
The roof, covered in galvanized iron with guttering was designed to project outward forming a verandah around all eight sides. Inside the lighthouse, the design provided for a dwelling room, a bedroom, storeroom and lighthouse storeroom. Provision was also in the design for those essentials of daily living. A four-hundred-gallon tank to hold fresh water in the lighthouse storeroom and water closet supplied by a cistern and sea water force pump – this under the store.
Seven cast iron pillars with foot flanges were to be rested on the rock and not let into it. The Daily Southern Cross reported on what was seen as an ingenious method by Stewart and said to be a first for in New Zealand concreting in this manner to place these pillars in the concrete foundations while preventing tide action upon them during the process
The lantern, also hexagonal in shape was about 20 feet above the lighthouse dwelling and about 50 feet above high-water level. Dove & Co were the accepted tender for the lighting apparatus made by Messrs. Chance Brothers, Birmingham.