Dog Island Lighthouse lights the eastern approaches of Foveaux Strait about 5 kilometres from the entrance to Bluff Harbour.
Radio callsign: ZMG
Location: 46°39′ S, 168°25′ E
Elevation: 46 metres above sea level
Construction: white stone tower
Tower height: 36 metres
Light configuration: 35 watt rotating beacon
Light flash character: white light flashing once every 10 seconds
Power source: batteries charged by solar panels
Range: 19 nautical miles (35 kilometres)
First lit: 1865
Dog Island Lighthouse was built to warn mariners of the flat, rocky island that is only a couple of metres above sea level.
The tower was built from stone quarried on the island. The peaty subsoil caused the tower to take a slight lean, and over the next 50 years many makeshift repairs were carried out. In 1916 it was reported to be unsafe and the entire tower was encased in a concrete shell.
To make the lighthouse stand out, the tower was painted with black and white stripes, rather than the standard plain white. There are only two other lighthouses in New Zealand with stripes, at Cape Campbell and Cape Palliser.
Dog island light station originally had three keepers and their families. By the time the light was automated this had been reduced to one keeper and his family.
Life at Dog Island could be challenging for keepers with families. The island was too isolated for children to attend school on the mainland each day.
In 1939, the steamer Waikouaiti was wrecked on Dog Island. The light wasn’t visible at the time due to heavy fog. [Apparently there was no foghorn at Dog Island – Ed.]
Stephen Mead, son of lightkeeper Don Mead, recalls that during the 1950s:
Whenever Dad was baking bread we all used to go down to the back beach opposite the wreck and gather up coal that had washed ashore. This was really good steaming coal and burned a lot hotter and cleaner than normal coal. Only trouble was it soon burned out the fire grate in the ministry-supplied coal range.
In the early years supplies were sent out on the government supply ship every three months. The last keeper and his family had an easier time getting supplies. After a landing strip was built on the island, supplies were delivered fortnightly.
Dog Island was equipped with radiotelephone in 1941, enabling communication with Awarua Radio.