1942: Fire destroys Puysegur Point lighthouse

Evening Post, 10 February 1942, p 6


The original Puysegur Point lighthouse
The lighthouse which has been destroyed by fire at Puysegur Point

(P.A.) INVERCARGILL, Feb. 9. The Puysegur Point lighthouse, on the southwest coast of the South Island, 80 miles from Bluff, was burned to the ground on Sunday afternoon after the keeper on duty had been attacked and knocked unconscious. The assailant, taking with him a rifle and ammunition belonging to the lighthouse, escaped to an island three quarters of a mile away, but he is now marooned there.

A report has been received by the police in Invercargill that the assailant, who is said to be a prospector, attacked the man on duty in the lighthouse, knocked him out, smashed the radio, set fire to the lighthouse, and then made off with a .303 rifle and five cartridges kept handy for shooting deer for fresh meat. He took his boat and rowed across to the island.

When the lighthouse-keeper recovered he summoned a companion, and they rowed after the prospector and took his boat away, leaving him marooned. The two men returned to the mainland, made temporary repairs to the radio, and communicated with the authorities.

Sergeant J Coutts, Bluff, and Detective T Smith and five constables left Bluff at 11 o’clock last night on the trawler Toiler, and arrived at Puysegur Point at 9 o’clock this morning.

The man who is alleged to have committed the crimes is known to the police. He has been prospecting on the island to which he escaped for about six or seven months and was in the habit of making trips regularly to the lighthouse to collect stores left there by the lighthouse ship. The head lighthouse-keeper, Mr G Brown, has been on leave since Friday.

The three men stationed at the lighthouse are Messrs TG Smith, EBN Miller, wireless operator, and G Smith. The lighthouse was a wooden tower 50 feet high. Because of the blackout on the coast the lamp has not been burning for the past year. It was intended to build a new lighthouse at Puysegur and materials for its erection and electric lighting equipment have been assembled at Bluff and Puysegur Point.

Puysegur Point is at the entrance to Preservation Inlet and is usually the first land sighted by passengers from Melbourne to Bluff. Mails arrive every fortnight by boat from Riverton.