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A Christmas postcard from North Reef

Tuesday 24 December 2019

To mark the summer solstice, I would like to show you a special light­house postcard with a seasonal greeting.

The postcard shows the North Reef lighthouse that guides ships passing along the Great Barrier Reef, about 120 km from Glad­stone. It is a remote spot.

The lighthouse was built in the 1870s on a little patch of sand on the planar reef. The tower stands on a concrete-filled iron caisson sunk down to a coral foundation. Under the effects of wind and tide the sandy island migrated away from the lighthouse, which was left surrounded by water; over the last 140 years the sand patch has continued to migrate, and the lighthouse now stands in the middle of the sand again. There are few photographs that record the sand’s comings and goings.

Over many years the civil engineer Dr Michael Gourlay of the University of Queensland has studied the reefs and cays of the Great Barrier Reef. He has recently published a paper that includes an account of North Reef.

image of the front of a postcard

My newly-acquired postcard shows a view of the lighthouse from a position in the middle of the sand island, as it was around 1937​—​this is not a view I had seen before.

Like the other North Reef postcard in my collection, this is a real photo postcard printed on Kodak Austral paper. The photo might have been taken by Les Moore, who wrote the Christmas message to some­body else called Peter in 1937.

image of the back of a postcard

The back of the postcard, with Les Moore’s message.

I don’t know much about Les Moore, and even less about the recipient of the postcard. In the list of Queensland lightkeepers in the book The light­house keepers* is the name L Moore, with a commencement date of 1914. The signature on the postcard includes the letters HK, which probably stand for Head Keeper, an indication that Les was, at that time, in charge of the North Reef station, where he would have had two assistant lightkeepers.

Somebody, perhaps Les Moore himself, owned a camera that produced the 3½ × 5½ inch negative that was contact printed onto Kodak Austral postcard stock.

Catalogue illustration

Illustration of a Kodak 3A postcard format camera from a 1925 catalogue. Did Les Moore have a camera like this?

* Stuart Buchanan, The lighthouse keepers (Samford: Coral Coast Publications, 1994). The list of Queensland lightkeepers was compliled by Stuart’s late wife Shirley.

filed under Collecting + Lighthouses

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