A few years ago, I picked up a book from a campground book exchange. I find it funny that I seem to pick out books that are often set in Australia. The Light Between Two Oceans is set at an remote lighthouse at the tip of Australia’s southwest coast. The story describes the isolated life of the lightkeeper and his wife and the dark secret they keep when she adopts a child found in a small boat that arrives at the lighthouse accompanied by a dead parent. The wife, who had suffered many miscarriages, is compelled to keep the child as her own, in spite of the serious ethical dilemma this situation poses to her husband.
We drove from Margaret a River to Cape Leeuwin to see Australia’s tallest lighthouse. Built on land’s end, it lights the way to the difficult part of the coast where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet – the light between 2 Oceans. The currents here are very strong, with waves looking like they originate from some underwater reef. We looked at the Indian Ocean side for a long while and came to the conclusion that it was just the clashing of the currents that was causing such turmoil in the water.
On the Pacific Ocean side, there is a peaceful bay where whales come to calf and raise their young before moving back south into colder waters. The waters are still cold to my touch, but the sandy coves were very inviting.
The lighthouse once had 4 cottages made of stone with large verandas. The light had to be maintained around the clock and therefore 3 different keepers were required to work a daily 8 hour shift. The fourth cabin was used by the relief lightkeeper at one time, until it was determined that a fourth was not really needed. Because of the isolation of the job, the lightkeepers had their families living with them.
It is said that one lightkeeper’s wife lost a child during pregnancy as she stood on a table to change a bulb and fell, causing damage to herself and her unborn child. She went into a depression and some say her spirit may have haunted one of the cabins. This story, minus the haunting, is about the only similarity between the book and the real life events and emplacement of Cape Leeuwin.
Leon and I took a self guided walking tour of the lighthouse and stopped to take many pictures. It was a beautiful and constantly windy tip of land, with strong breakers on one side, and a quieter sandy cove on the other. The residences of the lightkeepers had been altered to protect them from the elements; one of the houses had been removed as it was not required for the fourth lightkeeper, and one cottage had been converted into a cafe and gift shop. This building had a glass front veranda but the inside on the veranda ceiling and the outer stone walls revealed the original appearance of the structure.
After a cup of tea and a sweet, we drove up and down the road back to the town of Augusta, stopped to walk on the sandy coves and rock outcrops, visiting the old waterwheel on the Indian Ocean side and checking out the Settler’s village. The day was sunny and warm, the ocean beaches were inviting.
The water wheel is wood but seems to be on a concrete base. It’s actually just the calcified lime that covers the whole bottom on it.
We also found the new state of the art marina which was quiet. It still has plenty of room for boats to harbour there. We saw a few fishing boats and some young tourists seemed to have found an eel hiding under water among large boulders.
We stayed in Augusta that night. The hotel I had booked was a lovely surprise. From our balcony we had a view of a lake bay and the ocean. The inn was actually a hostel where we were able to bbq a nice dinner and meet other guests at the dining table.
We had a wonderful sleep and woke up to a rainy day, our first on this trip.