Burnett Heads Historical Lighthouse AU0004

Lat. 24° 45.6' S, Long. 152° 24.7' E


Germany beat Australia 51 to 49 and although it sounds like a sports score it was actually the number of lighthouses transmitting in the 2009 International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend




illw01 Burnett Heads Historical Lighthouse












The Burnett Heads Historical Lighthouse was one of a record number of 424 lighthouses and lightships worldwide to go on-air over the weekend of 15/16 August.

Once again the Bundaberg Amateur Radio Club set up a portable station adjacent to the lighthouse and competed throughout the day and into the early evening. Club members contacted 24 lighthouses which encircle Australia and New Zealand.

From historic lighthouses like Macquarie Light in Sydney which was Australia’s first, to rugged lonely sentinels like Cape Leeuwin in WA which stands on the most Southern Westerly tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

We spoke to East Cape Light, the most easterly point on New Zealand’s North Island and to Waipapa Point Lighthouse, near Invercargill on the South Island.

We continued to chat with very keen members from the Auckland club who were also working Bean Rock Light and Rangitoto Lighthouse and had gone out in boats to be maritime mobile for the day.

As signals strength changed throughout the day the club members could hear new lighthouses and would track them to get the best signal to make a contact.

The signals from Tasmania were particularly strong so contacts ranged from Table Cape Lighthouse near Devonport on the north west coast to Low Head, at the mouth of the Tamar River; To Cape Bruny Lighthouse in Hobart, built in the 1800s by convict labour and on to Pot Boil Channel lighthouse on Flinders Island.

We found a lighthouse in South Australia at Cape Jaffa, and then in NSW Point Perpendicular, on 75m high cliffs at Jervis Bay, near Nowra;
Norah Head Lighthouse, between The Entrance and Budgewoi. This light is one of the last built in the classical James Barnet style when lighthouses were not just about safety but also about architectural excellence.

We reached Crowdy Head, at the mouth of the manning river in an area known as Crowdy Bay National park and Smoky Cape, an unusual octagonal tower near Coffs Harbour and Hat Head national park.

There were six contacts in Victoria; lighthouses which stand guard around the entrance to Port Philip bay like Split point & Point Lonsdale, on the Geelong side of the entrance near Queenscliff and Eastern Light McCrae, on the Eastern side.

We also found Cape Schanck Lighthouse, built to counter the ongoing coastal shipping disasters between Western Port and Port Phillip Bay in early 1800’s. Then it was on to Cape Otway, on Victoria's western coast, where the Southern Ocean meets Bass Strait. And an old favourite, the unusually recycled Williamstown Lighthouse and time-ball, which was first a lighthouse, then a time-ball tower, then a lighthouse again.

Closer to home in Queensland there was the Old Caloundra Lighthouse, the Cape Cleveland in Townsville and the Grassy Hill Lighthouse near Cooktown.

The Event

So now the record stands at 424, not a bad effort considering it all started with Mike Dalrymple (GM4SUC) and other members of Ayr Amateur Radio Group from Scotland. They wanted to share their enjoyment of Lighthouses and hit upon this goodwill event as a way to preserve and develop them.

It's not strictly a contest but the Ayr group remains committed to the organizing of the event on behalf of the world-wide radio amateur community each year.

For the history of the event please see this page.

The ILLW is always held on the 3rd full weekend in August starting at 0001 UTC (that's 10am local Bundaberg time) on Saturday and finishing at 2359 UTC on Sunday (that's Monday morning in case you're still with us).

The event does seem to touch people in a way that makes them want to remember the past and the intrepid men & women who built and manned the lighthouses.

There is now an International Lighthouse Day - on Sunday 16th August. Organised by the International Association of Lighthouse Keepers the day is recognised by many Government's world-wide in an effort to have lighthouses open to the public on the day.

So why to we do it?

We do it to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, to promote amateur radio, to foster International goodwill and along the way to have fun and enjoy the friendly rivalry with nearby Wide Bay Clubs.

There are no prizes or certificates and participation is free and each club station decides how they will operate, how long they'll participate and what modes and bands they will transmit on.  We also don't have to be on the air during the entire event - just as much or as little as each Club decides.

There are some rules about 'what is a lighthouse' and how are we attached to it. As many are still in operation the last thing the authorities need is for a dozen excited club members to be clambering all over their lighthouse so the rules say you can be on, in or adjacent to the light! That means next to or as close as possible... just because you can see a lighthouse doesn't mean you can claim you are the lighthouse.

Each year we are given permission by the Burnett Heads Progress Association who preserve and maintain the historical timber light to open the lighthouse and attach our antenna to the top for the duration of the event. It's too small for us to be inside it so we set up a portable station under tarps as near as we can or use the community hall nearby.

This grand old lighthouse built in 1873 was relocated to the park in the 1971 so we have a lot of visitors during the day. Some are tourists, other locals out riding their bikes or walking their dogs and many stop by to see our Field-day type set-up.


As we set up dipole or long wire antennas and a vertical as well and generally operate on 7.1Mhz (40 metre band) during the day, switching to 3.5Mhz (80metre band) and night falls. We spend our time scanning about to see which signals are propagating our way on the day.

It's an interesting spectacle to watch the signal strength diminish on one band as a cold front moves in, only to get signals booming in from another direction. It's a fun activity if you like to hunt around for radio contacts.

Identification Numbers

The ILLW organisers have compiled a list of lights known to be accessible or which participated in previous events and each has an identifying number. It's not intended to be a definitive list of every lighthouse in existence but the list thus far is here.

The Burnett Heads Historical Lighthouse number is AU0004. We use this number when we make contact with another lighthouse and we check the list of entries and see where they are, and they can do the same to gain some idea of just how far we're transmitting.

After the event we send out greeting cards, called QSL cards to all the stations we reached, and they respond by sending theirs. The photographs of lighthouses worldwide becomes a walk through time and technology and it's interesting to see some of the harsh conditions our fellow hams had to endure to get to those remote lights and make contact.

Here are a couple of links if you'd like some statistics and data on the past ILLW events.

The list of 2009 Lighthouse entries

Statistics for the past few years

Reports from 2008 entrants

Facts about the Burnett Heads Historical Lighthouse:

Built in 1873

Construction: Timber

Manned by keepers from 1873 to 1932

Automated to run on Acetylene Gas in 1932

Decommissioned in 1971 and moved 1km to the park in Burnett Heads

Replaced by the New concrete Burnett Heads Lighthouse in 1971


Below are some photographs of our 2009 set up & previous years field-day under tarps


illw1 illw2So that's how he got that antenna up ! illw3
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o1 02 03
04 05 More photos to come next year
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